Word of the Month: Areal

David Zapatka

Friend and bridge player Roman Martin brought this month’s word of the month to me at a recent bridge game; areal. He noticed it used in reporting and thought it was interesting, as it was being used differently than the word “aerial.” Like last month’s word, this word has only come into prevalent use in recent times.

Areal  ar-eal ’er-e-el ‘a-re-el adjective. The word “areal” is the adjective version of the noun “area.” The word “areal” refers to an area, which is an expanse of space or a region of land. Etymology is from Latin, aeralis, meaning level ground or open space. First known use of the word “areal” is circa 1670s.

“Areal” is not to be confused with “aerial” which means of or relating to the air. If a view existed from the air of a large expanse of land, it would be an aerial view or in other words, a view of the area from the air. Neither of these should be confused with “Ariel,” the main character of Disney’s 1989 movie The Little Mermaid (The name Ariel is Hebrew in origin and means “Lion of God”) nor with Areal, Rio de Janeiro, a municipality in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. Like the word “aerial,” the name “Ariel” is related to air. An early meaning of the noun “aerial” was “a creature or spirit of the air.” Long before the 1989 Disney movie in which Ariel is the name of a mermaid, writers were using the name for supernatural creatures. The sprite in Shakespeare’s The Tempest is named Ariel. Milton made his Ariel into an evil angel. Alexander Pope’s mock epic The Rape of the Lock is narrated by a playful spirit named Ariel.

The National Weather Service adopted the new term, “Areal Flood Warning” in addition to their commonly-used term “Flash Flood Warning” several years ago.

A flash flood warning is issued for flooding that normally occurs within six hours of heavy or intense rainfall. This results in small creeks and streams quickly rising out of their banks. Dangerous flooding in areas near these creeks and streams, as well as low-lying flood prone areas, develops very quickly and is a significant threat to life and/or property.

An areal flood warning is normally issued for flooding that develops more gradually, usually from prolonged and persistent moderate to heavy rainfall. This results in a gradual ponding or buildup of water in low-lying, flood-prone areas, as well as small creeks and streams. The flooding normally occurs more than six hours after the rainfall begins and may cover a large area. However, even though this type of flooding develops more slowly than flash flooding, it can still be a threat to life and property.

Have you ever had an aerial view of areal flooding after a rain storm? Please submit any thoughts on this month’s column or any word you may like to share along with your insights and comments to [email protected]