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Q&A: Pope's height, bombogenesis

The pope's height

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How tall is Pope Francis? Is he bilingual?

We thought this might be a relatively simple question to answer. After all, Pope Francis is one of the most famous people in the world, right? How can anything about him not be known?

Well, we combed two extensive profiles of the pope, one in Time magazine and one in the New Yorker, plus articles in publications around the world. We queried the Vatican press office, the Vatican library, the archbishop's office in Buenos Aires and the Associated Press in Rome. We also checked with the Loyola library's Rome campus, the Papal Nunciature in Washington, D.C., and the Catholic Bishop's Conference.

But we could not find a single authoritative reference to his height.

We saw a reference to him in one profile as being "large," and we know he worked as a bouncer for a time when he was a student in Buenos Aires. So he isn't a little man. And in photos taken alongside the former pope, Benedict, Francis appears to be at least a couple inches taller. Benedict is reportedly 5-7.

Finally, two celebrity websites, the Internet Movie Database and Celebrity Heights, both list the pope at 5-9.

So while we can't answer your question in absolute terms, we think we're in the right ballpark when we say Pope Francis is about 5-9 or so.

The language portion of the question was simpler. Reliable reports indicate the pope speaks Spanish, Latin, Italian and German fluently, and knows some English, French, Ukrainian and Portuguese. He can also speak a bit of the Piedmontese dialect, which is the language of about a million people in northwest Italy.

Today's weather word

So earlier in January we heard all about the polar vortex. Last week it was bombogenesis. What is that?

The weather word of the week got a mention by a Philadelphia meteorologist, John Bolaris, as he described the snowstorm that was about to descend on his city on Tuesday, and then it started making the rounds.

While it isn't an official meteorological term, says the American Meteorological Society, the word is commonly used by forecasters, according to research done by the Weather Channel's Stu Ostro.

What does it mean? Bolaris told NPR it's simply a "rapidly intensifying storm." said bombogenesis "typically occurs between a cold continental air mass and warm ocean waters or between a cold polar air mass and a much warmer air mass."

When those masses are mixed, they form an "extratropical surface cyclone" — or a "bomb" of a storm. Extratropical cyclones have cold air at their core and can form over land or water, according to the Weather Underground.

Compiled from Times and wire reports. To submit a question, email

Q&A: Pope's height, bombogenesis 01/23/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 24, 2014 1:49pm]
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