The Sciences

Attack of the Cyclones

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitNov 2, 2010 4:00 PM


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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:

[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

Related posts: - Hurricane Earl... from space - Hurricane double whammy - Sandswept world - Is it cold in here or is it just me?

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