Attack of the Cyclones

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 2 2010 7:00 AM

Attack of the Cyclones

Last week, I woke up in the middle of the night to winds raging outside. I figured they were chinooks -- strong, brief winds common this time of year near the mountains -- and went back to sleep.

Well, they weren't chinooks. They were from this:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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midwest_storm2010

[Click to coriolinate.]

Holy isobaric imbalance! What a monster!

This was the storm that tore across the US last week as seen by NASA's GOES Earth-observing satellite. It spawned tornadoes, high winds, and all manners of mischief over more than 30 states. It wasn't technically a hurricane -- it's actually an extratropical cyclone -- but it had the lowest recorded pressure ever seen in the US:

At 5:13 p.m. CDT, the weather station in Bigfork, Minnesota recorded 955.2 millibars (28.21 inches of pressure). Pressure is one indicator of a storm’s strength, and this measurement corresponds to the pressure seen in a Category 3 hurricane.

Yikes. There are also videos of the storm's development on the NASA page, just in case you think the Earth was tailor-made for us humans to live comfortably and complacently.

Incidentally, if there is some sort of metaphor between this storm marching across the country and today's elections, I invite you to make the connection on your own.

Image credit: Jesse Allen, NASA GOES Project Science Office



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