[Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash] [Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash]

by Perry Samson, Climate and Space Science and Engineering, University of Michigan

On July 4th last year, in an attempt to entertain my two grandchildren, I set off what I felt was a modest display of fireworks in our front yard. A monitor that measures the concentration of particles (PM2.5) in the air was mounted there and my colleague, Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, noticed that the concentrations being recorded were remarkably high that evening. This led us to review hourly concentrations of PM2.5 that night across the United States, collected both by state agencies and an independent network available from PurpleAir.org.  Results showed widespread increases in particulate concentrations that evening, with increases varying across the country.

Nationally, about 80% of all sites saw a doubling of particulate matter during the evening of July 4, 2017 with several sites producing exceedances of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 150 µg/m3 3-hour standard. These results were presented at the AMS Annual Meeting in January in a talk entitled “Oh Say Can You Breathe.”

Average hourly particle concentration increases from background levels seen in 2017 for multiple sites across the United States.
Average hourly particle concentration increases from background levels seen in 2017 for multiple sites across the United States.

Moreover, the increase in PM2.5 seen in 2017 is consistent with other years. The increase in PM2.5 from background levels was compiled for the eight-year period 2010-2017. Over that time over 25% of measurement sites in the United States reported a rise of at least 35 µg/m3 with about 5% reporting a rise of greater than 100 µg/m3.

Percent of all measurement sites reporting an hourly increase in PM2.5 from background conditions exceeding both 35 µg/m3 and 100 µg/m3.
Percent of all measurement sites reporting an hourly increase in PM2.5 from background conditions exceeding both 35 µg/m3 and 100 µg/m3.

These results are compelling as they point out how, for at least one evening a year, we are willing to subject ourselves (and even our grandchildren) to high concentrations of particulate matter. According to the EPA, concentrations above 150 µg/m3 are considered “Unhealthy” and can cause widespread coughing and other increased respiratory effects.

While it is unlikely that there will be much political will to legislate against fireworks displays in the United States, these results should be of interest to people suffering from asthma who may want to protect themselves from outdoor air during this year’s July 4th celebrations.

As for me, and despite evidence of risk, I’m doubling down on the fireworks this year to REALLY impress the kids.

I just moved the PM2.5 monitor away from my home.

[Photo by Sang Huynh on Unsplash] [Photo by Sang Huynh on Unsplash]

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Two tragedies last week were reminders of a continuing and underrated weather hazard: people continue to leave children in their parked automobiles, where the heat is ever escalating. The victims in the separate incidents in Oregon and California on June 20 and 21 were both under two years of age.

An average of 37 children each year die from hyperthermia while left alone in automobiles, largely due to persisting misconceptions about the heat dangers of the interior of a car.

For many years now, Jan Null, an AMS Certified Consulting Meteorologist in northern California, has been fighting these misconceptions about the heat danger of leaving children in cars. In addition to his studies, presented at AMS conferences  (e.g., watch one here), Null operates a web site of statistics on child hyperthermia in cars.

Perhaps the first big misconception Null refuted is that conditions outside need to be blisteringly hot. Ordinary warm days are dangerous, too. The outdoor temperatures in last week’s deaths were 80°F and 81°F.

This point has been thoroughly documented in studies by Null as well as others, and was reviewed and refined in a paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, by Andrew Grundstein, John Down, and Vernon Meentemeyer.

These studies show that temperatures climb surprisingly fast in the car’s interior. Here’s a table from Grundstein et al.:


It’s also a misconception to think that adults are a good judge of what conditions are tolerable. Null reminds people that children are physically much more responsive to conditions—they heat up two or three times faster than adults.

Because leaving children unattended in cars is illegal in some states, one might think these deaths are a case of bad parents making bad decisions. Yet less than one in five of these hyperthermia deaths is because a parent intentionally left the child in the car to, say, run errands. Null’s statistics show that about 400 (54%) of the 760+ heat stroke deaths since 1998 occur when caregivers forget a child is in the car. Almost 30% of the deaths occur when children climb unattended into the cars by themselves and get locked in.

But perhaps the most insidious misconception is that unfit—or forgetful or distracted or hurried or overworked—parents are the most susceptible to being forgetful about such an important matter.

In an AMS presentation, the University of Georgia’s Castle Williams revealed the perceptions that lead to such mental mistakes. Many parents and caregivers don’t believe that they are capable of leaving a child in a car by mistake. As a result, these parents considered it very unlikely that their child might suffer hyperthermia in a car, even as they recognized that the consequences would be severe. They believed that certain demographics–poor, single, working parents–would be more prone to such mistakes. This mismatch in perception of risk and awareness of consequences creates a communication challenge.

“All parents are at risk for this issue. It can happen to anyone,” Williams noted. (The results from his interviews with parents were later published in the the journal, Injury Prevention). “None of the demographic variables show any kind of relationship of having an increased risk of this occurring.”

How to combat the deadly misconceptions about kids in hot cars? According to Williams, “New messaging should focus on increasing perceived susceptibility to emphasize that every parent and caregiver is equally susceptible to forgetting their child in a hot car.”

Organizations such as Safe Kids Worldwide have begun stepping up efforts to inform people of the risks. And Williams’s study shows parents are paying attention to news reports of incidents on TV and in social media. Perhaps the misconceptions can be dispelled soon.


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Thanks to Markeya Thomas of Climate Signals and Climate Nexus for posting about her video on Twitter for Juneteenth yesterday.

Her interview is with two of “Weather’s Hidden Figures,” the still disturbingly small number of African-American meteorologists—barely 2% of  the AMS membership. Professors Greg Jenkins of Penn State University and Deanna Hence of the University of Illinois speak eloquently on what it means to strive to make  a big impact while being part of a small minority.

Both Jenkins and Hence talk about how they have been interested in weather since they were kids—sounds familiar!—as well as how opportunities to follow specific interests in human well-being triggered their passion for weather and climate-related research. For Jenkins it was realizing the potential of his climate science in helping solve agricultural security and other urgent needs in Africa.

Hence, on the other hand, had harbored interests in medicine, and found a way to keep a health impacts slant a part of her severe weather expertise:

One thing that really deeply impacted me was actually with Hurricane Katrina. I was on the research flights into that storm back in 2005, and so that particular juxtaposition of scientifically having this amazing dataset we’re collecting—[a] perfectly timed and executed field campaign—and then having to watch thousands of people die as a result. That juxtaposition…I think that’s what really cemented [the impact focus] for me.

But it takes more than interest to make it in a not-always welcoming scientific world. Says Jenkins:

I’ve been in this field for more than two decades, and being stubborn and following what you feel is important when there aren’t necessarily a lot of examples. But having that mentorship has really been important for developing strategies and tactics when you’re facing resistance. I think that’s something we have to teach younger people, that yeah, you might run into resistance, but what’s your strategy for dealing with that? Keep your cool. Press forward. Keep your goals in mind.

Hence underscored the difficulty of establishing her personal voice and commitments as an early career scientist:

I’ve…been trying to both promote, and live by example, that you can pursue social engagement, social justice, community engagement, and your science at the same time. It’s not been an easy path, and I’ve definitely had many people dissuade me from it. We’ll see how it works out for my career! So far, for me, it’s what keeps me happy and wanting to do science.

Watch the video or read Markeya’s own write-up on Medium.


It’s been more than 8 months. Since Maria. Irma before. And Harvey before that. For many who endured them, it was yesterday. And here we are at the start of another hurricane season.

2018-NOAA-hurricane-numbersWhat can we expect? It is nearly indisputable that there will be hurricanes. NOAA’s forecast issued last week calls for 5-9 of them this year. Will they strike land? Science can’t yet say whether any hurricanes and tropical storms will or won’t later this season. It depends on atmospheric steering currents in the Atlantic basin and how they set up this year, particularly during the heart of the six-month season—from August through October.

But new research is looking beyond this season, beyond many seasons, and is discovering a different type of hurricane season less than 80 years from now, as Earth’s climate warms.

The new study published in the Journal of Climate finds that near-future hurricanes will be wetter and stronger, and they likely will move slower than before, increasing the risk of serious landfall flooding.

Scientists analyzed more than 20 recent hurricanes to determine how they might change near the end of this century, assuming an increase in global temperatures. One such hurricane—Ike from 2010, which inundated coastal Texas, killing more than 100 people and obliterating the popular Bolivar Peninsula barrier island north of Galveston, would have 13 percent stronger winds, move 17 percent slower, and be 34 percent wetter in a warmer world.

Others might move faster and be slightly weaker. But none of the storms reanimated in the future became drier.

“Our research suggests that future hurricanes could drop significantly more rain,” says NCAR scientist Ethan Gutmann, who led the study. Hurricane Harvey unloaded three to four feet of rain in a wide swath from Victoria, Texas, across the Houston area and into Port Arthur in extreme eastern Texas, breaking records and causing devastating flooding, and demonstrating “just how dangerous that can be,” Gutmann says.

That danger is being magnified as coastal populations continue to exponentially grow. “The potential influence of climate change on hurricanes has significant implications for public safety and the economy,” NCAR stated in a release about the new research. The study showed that “the number of strong hurricanes, as a percent of total hurricanes each year, may increase,” Ed Bensman, an NSF program director in the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, says. “With increased development along coastlines, that has important implications for future storm damage.”

NSF supported the study, which viewed future hurricanes for the first time collectively at high resolution. Past studies looking at how hurricanes may change in a warmer climate have relied on climate model projections that are determined on a global scale and with temporal resolution of decades to centuries. Their resolution is too low to “see” future hurricanes. Weather models, on the other hand, can see them, but they aren’t used to see long-term because of the high costs of running them.

With the new research, scientists made use of an enormous NCAR dataset and ran the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model at a high resolution (4 kilometers, or about 2.5 miles) focused on the lower 48 United States for two 13-year periods. The first determined the weather as it happened between 2000 and 2013 and the second simulated the same weather but with a climate 5° C (9° F) hotter and subsequently wetter that was warmed near the end of this century by unabated greenhouse gas emissions.

Comparing 22 historic Atlantic hurricanes to the same number of future hurricanes with very similar tracks found a collective 6 percent increase in top wind speeds, but a 24 percent increase in average rain rates. The future storms moved 9 percent slower than in the past.

Individually, each hurricane was unique, some changing one way and others differently. All were rainier. And while other studies have suggested that increases in atmospheric stability and wind shear may lower the total number of annual hurricanes and tropical storms, “from this study we get an idea of what we can expect from the storms that do form,” Gutmann says, and they are likely to be more intense.

2018-Hurricane-namesThere isn’t a way to tell yet what this year’s hurricanes will be like. But it’s another year into our warming world, and this is yet another study pointing to ominous changes with hurricanes in our future.


In a “post-truth” world of contemporary politics and culture, “it’s easy to assume that science is really in trouble and everything is bad,” said Jane Lubchenco in her James R. Mahoney Memorial Lecture in Washington, D.C., last month.

In fact, science does have its image problems: most people don’t interact with science and don’t know scientists. A recent study showed that only 30% of Americans can even name one living scientist—and the most commonly cited name on that list last year, Stephen Hawking, no longer qualifies.

But the annual Mahoney lecture, hosted in part by AMS and NOAA, is now online, and you can see for yourself that even with a hard-hitting topic of “Science in a Post-Truth World,” Lubchenco was full of hope and practical advice about engagement, and ultimately about working toward a new paradigm of “embedding” scientists in society.

First of all, the vital signs of science are good. Public trust in scientific leaders has been stable for decades, even as it has plummeted for bankers and politicians. A majority believe science has been beneficial for society.

Lubchenco, a marine ecologist and now Distinguished University Professor at Oregon State University, has solid reason to think we can build on such durable trust. She has a history of commitment to communicating about science, as a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and later as the NOAA Administrator. She’s been involved in efforts to help scientists communicate better—for example as a co-founder of COMPASS, a group that among other things provides a handy online workbook for scientists engaging the public.

In part Lubchenco argues for better understanding of the rift between scientists and the public. She cites inequities and “powerful vested interests promulgating a self-serving, anti-science agenda.” She also notes the decline of media business models that has led to citizens individually choosing their sources of information. Meanwhile, people also tune out scientists who seem to have ulterior motives, or are all “doom and gloom.”

Lubchenco says part of the solution is simply putting a real human face on science. The fact that people don’t know scientists means we have “an incredible opportunity. We need more scientists who are seen as scientists by the general public.”

Lubchenco argued that this doen’t mean every scientist is suited to being a celebrity or even a regular public messenger. Research shows that people are considered trustworthy when they are competent—but they also need to be “warm.” Teachers and nurses rated highly in both; professors and scientists rated highly in competence, but were seen as “cold.”

“Part of that is the way scientists are trained to talk to people,” said Lubchenco. It’s the downside of a facts-only, no-stories scientific culture. Lubchenco urges good analogies and metaphors and above all, making a connection with audiences.  “Finding common ground and creating a shared value experience enables you to then pursue things that might be particularly contentious.”

While Lubchenco offered many tips on better communication—understanding audience, keeping messages simple, offering hope, showing value and successes—she went deeper, arguing that scientists need to be “physically and psychologically integrated” with society. She urged scientists to show who they are by working with society. One avenue is to enlist citizen scientists as well as a broader public in observing and other projects.

Lubchenco also wanted her audience to see beyond the dichotomy of applied and basic science—that we need more of the middle way of “use-inspired science” that has immediate relevance as well as prospects for advancing basic knowledge.

What are impediments? Science itself needs to reward its people who are good at outreach, Lubchenco said. They need training and recognition for it. They need to get involved, including running for political office. “I don’t think all scientists should be engaging… but they should all support their colleagues that do.”

There may already be progress in this direction, Lubchenco noted, moving first from an “ivory tower” model of science to a post-World War II “social contract” with the public, producing great benefits. “Now, I think we’re seeing another innovation from social contract to science embedded in and serving society—maybe.”

If people generally don’t know any living scientists, there’s one whose recent example can be an inspiration for Lubchenco’s vision of science more fully “embedded” in society: That would be the late Jim Mahoney, the NOAA Deputy Administrator, AMS president, and public health scientist whose memory this annual lecture honors. Said Lubchenco,

Science is indeed facing some major challenges. Maybe it’s not quite as bad as we thought, but we have unparalleled opportunities to serve society better and this is only going to happen if scientists take the bull by the horns and step up and make things happen.

I’d like to think we can do this in a way that is inspired by Jim’s example in confronting challenging times and figuring out how to navigate those. I would suggest that maybe if he were here, he would say, “It’s time for us to take back the narrative.” It’s time to write a new chapter in the relationship between science and society and for us collectively to have a quantum leap in relevance.”


by Jordan Stillman, AMS Community Coordinator

After a successful soft launch to AMS board and committee members this past winter, the AMS will be opening up our new online platform, AMS Community, to all AMS members as a new member benefit this May.

The goal of the AMS Community is to enhance communication and improve member engagement. We want to give our members a place to network, communicate, and collaborate, where members can reach out to their colleagues and peers to discuss what’s really important to them, from actual challenges they’re facing in their work to greater issues affecting the weather, water, and climate community. We envision a space where members can troubleshoot problems, solicit advice, seek feedback, and share with one another, creating a vast and thriving pool of communal knowledge.

Those involved in the Community will be the first to know about new AMS resources, like webinars, podcasts, briefings, conferences, and centennial activities. Simultaneously, the Community will also provide improved methods and transparency for connecting with AMS staff and allow volunteers and staff to make members aware of the various opportunities for greater engagement (for example, in policy issues, in local or regional educational opportunities, in statements, in committees, and so on). Already, this new tool is allowing for improved communication among boards and committees and will leave room for even more possibilities with the full member launch.

An intuitive platform, AMS Community includes an easy-to-use discussion board, resource library, and a comprehensive member directory as well as the administrator ability to post announcements and events for the use of all membership. Community members can be tagged with the @mentions functionality (just like Twitter!), participate in discussions, and upload and download useful documents, files, and other handy resources. All active AMS members will automatically be subscribed to the AMS Community and begin receiving notifications once we launch, allowing them to immediately engage with their colleagues at any time, from any location. No need to wait until the next conference!

Keith Seitter described the AMS Community in his January 2018 letter in BAMS, and he sums it up perfectly: “As powerful as this new technology can be, it is really just a tool to connect people. And that is what AMS has always been about—fostering connections among members to serve the broader community and support our science and services. We are all very excited to take those connections—and with them our members’ success—to new levels.”


Severe but highly variable wind damage to homes & infrastructure is a hallmark of intense tropical cyclones. Until recently there was only speculation that such damage, which appears in short swaths, was the work of tornadoes. Now, there’s first-ever proof that tornadoes and other small-scale phenomena did indeed enhance the winds and damage in Hurricane Harvey last August.

Fine-scale Doppler On Wheels (DOW) radar imagery collected from inside the eyewall of Hurricane Harvey (Left: radar reflectivity, Right: Doppler velocity). The ring of convection comprising the eyewall is highly perturbed by four MVs (labeled A-D). From inside the eye, the wind perturbations caused by the MVs are especially visible. DOW location is yellow dot. Black rectangle is zoomed-in area shown in separate figure illustrating tornado-scale vortices. Fine-scale DOW radar imagery from inside the eyewall of Hurricane Harvey (Left: radar reflectivity, Right: Doppler velocity). The ring of convection comprising the eyewall is highly perturbed by four MVs (labeled A-D). From inside the eye, the wind perturbations caused by the MVs are especially visible. DOW location is the yellow dot. Black rectangle is zoomed-in area shown in figure below illustrating tornado-scale vortices.


Doppler of Wheels (DOW) radar in the eye of Harvey revealed mesovortices (MVs) rotating swiftly around the inner eyewall, and embedded in them and documented for the first time were small tornado-scale-vortices (TSVs) less than a half-mile wide spinning within the larger wind field of the hurricane. The discovery was reported in March in a paper published in Monthly Weather Review.

The rotation of the TSVs is weaker than typical supercell tornadoes, but because these circulating winds are embedded in an already extreme eyewall, they ramp up the wind speed and create greatly enhanced damage potential, says the study’s lead author Joshua Wurman of the Center for Severe Weather Research. In Harvey, major hurricane winds of about 120 mph ramped up to 130-140 mph or more and resulted in streaks of severe damage not evident elsewhere from the eyewall winds.

“Wind gusts at the DOW site were measured up to 145 mph, likely caused by a TSV, and 30% of the vehicles parked near the DOW were lofted,” Wurman wrote in a summary of the paper to appear in a forthcoming issue of the Bulletin of the AMS. A Jeep and two SUVs were picked up by the wind and landed atop debris from the destroyed building in which they were housed. He said the swaths of intense damage corresponded to the tracks of the eyewall TSVs.

Doppler velocity data reveals single and paired TSVs (demarked schematically with black circles) translating rapidly southward in Harvey’s northwestern eyewall embedded in strong northerly flow (black arrow). These TSVs, moving southward at up to 120 mph, were associated with very intense winds measured up to 145 mph, lofted vehicles, and swaths of the most intense building damage.
Doppler velocity data reveals single and paired TSVs (black circles) translating southward in Harvey’s northwestern eyewall embedded in strong northerly flow (black arrow). These TSVs, moving southward at up to 120 mph, were associated with very intense winds measured up to 145 mph, lofted vehicles, and swaths of the most intense building damage.


Wurman and co-author Karen Kosiba, also with CSWR, will present their research findings from Hurricane Harvey as well as newly identified evidence of at least one Harvey-like TSV in Hurricane Irma over Florida at the 33rd AMS Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology next week in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The conference will feature a number of other presentations on the devastating hurricanes of 2017, in multiple sessions (Session 1, Session 2, Session 3, Session 4).

Intense wind gusts, likely caused by tornado-scale vortices in Harvey’s eyewall, lofted SUV-type vehicles (red arrows; green arrows point to unlofted vehicles). Wind gusts as intense as 145 mph were measured by a DOW-mounted anemometer 350 m downstream from these lofted vehicles. Intense wind gusts, likely caused by TSVs in Harvey’s eyewall, lofted SUV-type vehicles (red arrows; green arrows point to unlofted vehicles). Wind gusts as intense as 145 mph were measured by a DOW-mounted anemometer 350 m downstream from these lofted vehicles.


Wurman notes that it’s unclear whether the new wind whirls are more numerous in intense or rapidly strengthening hurricanes. But adds that the enhanced damage was palpable, and with an increase in powerful hurricanes possible due to rising global air and ocean temperatures, it’s important to learn more about them, he says.

“Potential climate change may result in more frequent intense and/or rapidly intensifying hurricanes, thus understanding and forecasting the causes of hurricane wind damage is a high priority.”

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Mentoring365 and You!

March 28, 2018 · 0 comments

by Tanja Fransen, AMS Councilor and Mentoring Program Ad-Hoc Committee Chair

AMS has a wealth of talent and we’d love to see more of our members signed up for the Mentoring 365 program as mentees, mentors–maybe both!  We should never stop learning. When I started in college and early in my career, I hadn’t even heard of the term mentor, let alone thought of myself as a mentee.  Looking back now, there are so many people who I can count as someone who had a positive influence in my decisions and the path my career took. Coaches, mentors, professors, classmates, co-workers, bosses, supervisors, leaders: they all had a hand in shaping my career because they invested their time in me.  Who are you investing your time in?  Who is investing their time in you?


About ten years ago, through various leadership programs, I learned more about formal mentoring, and I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why doesn’t everyone have a mentor?”  It’s a logical step for anyone who is excited about their careers and looking for guidance. Everyone can benefit from having a non-coworker or non-supervisor to talk with, who will be honest with them, encourage them, celebrate their successes, and help them get to the next levels in their careers.  I’ve participated in several formalized programs, and it always puts a smile on my face to see these mentees doing well.  One of the most amazing moments for me was having a mentee whose son was murdered while we were working together.  We went from my mentoring someone in sciences and government, to learning one of the most amazing lessons about grace and forgiveness, and I’ll never forget that experience.  Not all benefits are apparent when you start a program!

When I was nominated to run for the council of the AMS, it was an obvious niche that was needed. I made it one of my priorities to bring a formal program to all of our AMS members.  With the help of others within AMS who also had our people as their passion, including Matt Parker, Keith Seitter, Wendy Marie Thomas, Wendy Abshire, Maureen McCann, and Donna Charlevoix, we were able to connect AMS with the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Mentoring365 program through a signed MOU.  AMS members can join this program as either a mentee, a mentor or both.  You also have access to mentors across the geophysical sciences, including members of the AGU, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG), Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG), and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS).

I’ve met the most amazing people thanks to AMS, from the enthusiastic students, to the eager early career professionals to the mid- and late-career professionals who have the most amazing resumes and curricula vitae!  Let’s tap into all of that energy out there and build Mentoring 365 for the benefit of all!  Join today!



Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 16, now GOES-East, became operational in December and this eye in the sky is capturing stunning color weather imagery daily. Today, it’s the third nor’easter in two weeks explosively developing into a blizzard off the Northeast Coast.

GOES-16 GeoColor image of the March 13, 2018 blizzard wrapping up off the New England coast. Image from 10:47 a.m. EDT. Click here for a loop of the storm. GOES-16 GeoColor image of the March 13, 2018 blizzard wrapping up off the New England coast. Image from 10:47 a.m. EDT. Click here for a loop of the storm.


Following on the heels of the deadly and damaging storm of March 2, which cranked out onshore wind gusts of nearly 100 mph flooding the eastern New England coastline while dropping more than three feet of snow inland, and last week’s barrage of heavy wet snow that knocked out power to more than a million customers, today’s storm is delivering blizzard conditions to eastern New England, with the potential to bury the region with as much as two feet of late-season snow.

And it’s hitting on an auspicious date. Twenty-five years ago today the infamous Superstorm of 1993 (March 13-14) exploded into the history books with crippling snowfall and ferocious winds from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast, and with severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and deadly storm surge in Florida.

The massive comma-shaped cloud of the Superstorm of March 13-14, 1993, envelopes the entire eastern United States. Click here for an animation of this "Storm of the Century." The massive comma-shaped cloud of the Superstorm of March 13-14, 1993, envelopes the entire eastern United States. Click here for an animation of this “Storm of the Century.”


GOES H, which launched on February 26, 1987, and became operational as GOES-7 captured the image of the Superstorm above.

Also known as the “Storm of the Century,” it set record-low barometric pressures across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states and ranks among the costliest and deadliest storms of the twentieth century, killing hundreds of people. Jeff Halverson of NASA reports in a Washington Post article the five most remarkable attributes of the Storm of the Century, including that in 2017 dollars the storm cost $10 billion.

The NWS office in Wilmington, North Carolina has an online report of the Superstorm, including its meteorological history, animated satellite imagery, observations, weather maps, links to local newspaper stories, personal accounts, photos, video, and links to technical reports on the storm.

Three papers were published in BAMS just two years following the epic storm. One was an overview of the meteorology of the storm, another looked at forecasting the storm from an operational perspective, while the third looks at what computer models of the day were seeing beforehand.

Similar to today’s blizzard, and arguably even better for such a huge event, the Superstorm of 1993 was well forecast; as many as 5-6 days in advance computer models of the day depicted it run-after-run.

What’s different today is the crisp imagery of weather systems in the Eastern United States from the most advanced GOES satellite in orbit so far. GOES-East employs an Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) that is state-of-the-art, enabling visible and infrared imagery as well as the generation of many high-level products. A paper published in BAMS in 2017 takes a closer look at the ABI on the GOES-R series, highlighting and discussing the expected improvements of each of its attributes.


It’s like the word du jour. Or, more accurately, THE word du storm.

It seemed like every time this winter that a big East Coast storm—a significant nor’easter—looked impending in computer models, the media hype machine cranked out the word “Bomb.” Or “bomb cyclone.”

And here it is again:

Destructive Nor’easter Emerging; Expected to ‘Bomb Out’” weather.com trumpeted Thursday morning about Friday’s storm.

Bomb Cyclone: MA Town Orders Voluntary Evacuations” the Falmouth Patch splashed on its online front page. (Ponder that additional hype for a moment: order “voluntary evacuations.”)

Another ‘bomb cyclone’ — with a huge flood risk — is aiming for the Northeast” buzzed CNN.

Bomb cyclone. As in meteorological bomb. Short for bombogenesis. Not a fiery explosion, but rather an explosive—as in extremely rapid—deepening or lowering of atmospheric pressure in the center of the storm. A drop of at least 24 mb in 24 hours. That ramps up big winds.

This time, though, the term may be apropos. And not just meteorologically.

While the pressure in tomorrow’s nor’easter is expected to plunge from about 1006 mb to 975 mb—31 mb—from Thursday night to Friday night, meeting the definition of bombogenesis, it’s the formidable eruption of hazardous weather—high winds, heavy rain and snow, and coastal flooding, potentially major to even severe coastal flooding, the NWS in Boston says—that will define this particular storm.

The storm will generate high winds from the mid-Atlantic to eastern New England, gusting 50-60 mph in many areas and possibly to 75 mph hurricane force in southeast New England and on eastern Long Island. For a long time, as strong high pressure over Greenland (that incidentally has brought stunningly warm air to the Arctic) slows the storm’s departure.

These northeast winds will persist through three high tide cycles, some of the highest tides of the month, contributing to minor to major coastal flooding from Maryland to Maine, as detailed in a blog post by the Weather Underground. And with 2-3 feet of storm surge combined with 20-30 foot waves just offshore and tides Accuweather says are already running 2-4 feet above normal, there’s a small chance that flooding at the coast could be severe and widespread—”a very dangerous situation that may require evacuations,” the NWS in Boston stated in its 5 a.m. Thursday Area Forecast Discussion.

Add to that 2-4 inches of rain likely to worsen snowmelt flooding across much of Southern New England and more than a foot of heavy, wet snow in the higher elevations of the Northeast, and Friday’s nor’easter looks set to do some damage. Power outages from the winds and snow are likely.

We’ve posted about meteorological bombs before, here and here. This time, this nor’easter might just live up to the hype.