…but not THE Bomb

October 27, 2010 · 6 comments

Editor’s note: Having just posted on the record-setting central U.S. bomb below, it’s only fair to hear immediately from the other side (of the continent) about who has the biggest, baddest storms. Only in meteorology do you get both pros and cons in a story about bombs….

by Cliff Mass, Univ. of Washington

reposted from the Cliff Mass Weather Blog

There has been a lot of media attention regarding the storm in the Midwest with claims it was the strongest (lowest pressure) non-tropical storm in U.S history. DON’T BELIEVE IT FOR A MOMENT. This is classic eastern U.S. media myopia….we have had the deepest and most violent storms!

So here is the story. The media is raving about this storm in the Midwest in which the lowest pressure reported was 28.20 inches or 954.8 mb at Bigfork Airport in Minnesota. This is the lowest pressure ever observed in Minnesota! Here is a surface analysis of the storm at its height.

Now this storm has very low pressure but the pressure gradients (pressure changes with distance) are not that impressive and pressure gradient drive winds. Thus, the winds were really not that exceptional.

But we can top that without breaking a sweat. Now take a relatively recent storm around here in the Pacific Northwest: December 12, 1995. During that event the sea level pressure at Buoy 46041 , 52 miles west of Aberdeen, Washington, got to 28.31 inches (958.8 mb) and certainly that did not sample the center of the storm. Since the storm was farther offshore the pressure would to had to have been considerably less. The estimate of local storm uber-expert Wolf Read was the pressure had dropped at least to 953 mb (see track map below).

There are other examples I could cite. The great January 1880 storm was probably much deeper as well and I bet I could find others. And I haven’t even mentioned the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, which clearly was the most powerful extratropical cyclone in U.S. history. Furthermore, our storms generally have larger pressure gradients and thus more extreme winds.

The media is going nuts about a storm that had maximum gusts of 81 mph. Big deal. Our storms regularly have winds over 100 mph and sometimes over 125 mph

If you want to read detailed accounts of major Northwest windstorms, check out the WONDERFUL web pages created by Wolf Read available on the Washington State Climatologist website. Hours of good reading there.

And Bri Dotson and I recently published a paper on our storms.

Now I know how these tricky east-coasters work. They will say that our storms are generally over water during their early lives and don’t count. Don’t let them get away with this. Their fabled “Nor’easters” –which they count–spend plenty of time of water. And don’t forget the Great Lakes! And why did they call one of their storms “The Perfect Storm” when many of ours far outrank it by any mark?