Meteorological Images of 2018

My 13th annual! I thought this year would be the easiest one yet, with GOES-16 having become fully operational just before the start of the year, but turns out that makes it even more difficult! There are now so many great images. Literally every hour of every day, mesmerizing loops, esp. the high-resolution rapid-scan ones, show the wondrous fluidity of the atmosphere. And in turn on any given day on meteorologists’ Twitter feeds and on satellite websites (and radar apps), some of which are represented below, you can find spectacular imagery. Much appreciation to all of them.

So by necessity for this, like in the past, I’ve focused on not just what looks cool — though there’s plenty of that — but a combo of that and which weather events of the year were most notorious. The year in review through the eyes of weather technology. As previously, it would be overwhelming to try to include (or now, even be aware of!) every noteworthy image/event, and since I reside in and most often forecast for the United States, the majority are for there or nearby, while also including a few international ones. As it is, this is looong as usual. But so much interesting imagery, so hard to trim! (And see NOAA’s CIRA/RAMMB loops of the day for lots of other stuff!)

The animated GIFs were generally produced to meet Twitter’s 15MB limit, and to help with load times here, though the larger ones may nevertheless take a while depending on your connection speed, and so as to not be prohibitively large some had to be optimized with the image quality or size reduced.

Like last year, I’ve not “buried the lede,” instead putting my choices for top images of the year up top, but if you keep scrolling down you’ll be in weather geek heaven. 🙂

Lastly, these again are meteorological graphics rather than photographs or videos, which are a whole other realm. But I do need to mention one vid: The entire stunning sequence of the violent wind & storm surge in the eyewall of Hurricane Michael at Mexico Beach, via a camera deployed by Mark Sudduth, capturing the extraordinary power of weather: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3ofAJSqpLM. That is what a 919 millibar hurricane, the central pressure still dropping rapidly at landfall, looks like.

Speaking of which…

Images of the year

For 2018, the three catastrophic U.S. tropical cyclone landfalls.

In chronological order:

Hurricane Florence (right), and the eerie resemblance to Hurricane Harvey the previous year (left), with their stall and prolonged battering by rainbands after moving inland and the wind subsiding but not the moisture inflow.

The Weather Channel

The center of Hurricane Michael crossing the coastline, which can be seen through the eye after mesovortex low clouds had just cleared out. And to illustrate the change in weather satellite technology, the resolution (of still images only) which was available in 1969 for Camille, the only other sub-920 millibar hurricane on record to make landfall on the Gulf Coast.

The Weather Channel (Michael) / NOAA (Camille)

Landfall of Typhoon Yutu in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, zooming in from the symmetry of the whole structure and core to the vivid eye on infrared satellite imagery.

UW-Madison SSEC

Faces

Still hasn’t been anything since quite as remarkable as the Hurricane Matthew skull, but again this year some freaky stuff.

Such as…

The core of ex-Hurricane Beryl:


NASA Earth Science Branch

The eye of Hurricane Michael as it crossed I-10 in the Florida panhandle.

Gibson Ridge

Not actually two eyes meteorologically, but looks like a pair in Hurricane Florence while it was out over the Atlantic.

UW-Madison SSEC

An eerie pair of eyes and a mouth in the core of this cyclone in March.

NASA Earth Science Branch

Angry bird west of South America.

NASA Earth Science Branch

A coiled sea snake monster in the northwest Pacific.

UW-Madison SSEC

And as my wife Leah noticed in the last frame of this at the end of the rapid intensification of Hurricane Willa, one of those hurricane structure faces:

The Weather Channel

Now for the monthly review…

January

Extreme bombogenesis over the northwest Atlantic.

NOAA

Cyclone structure in the northeast Pacific.

UW-Madison SSEC

February

A perfect von Kármán vortex in the eastern Pacific.

NASA via Dakota Smith

Cowabunga dude! West of South America.

NASA Earth Science Branch

The context of that wave.

CIRA/RAMMB

In tropical cyclone analyses, it’s important to smooth out the small-scale wobbles (typically trochoidal motion) to assess whether an apparent turn is actually that or not. But at the last minute, wobbles matter. This one helped bring the devastating eyewall of Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita into Tonga.

UW-Madison SSEC

In eastern North Carolina with this ridge, the previous earliest such 500 millibar heights in the period of record hadn’t been observed until June.

NASA Earth Science Branch

March

The “foureasters” (four nor’easters) >>>>

CIRA/RAMMB

Core structure of the first one, illustrating the lift and mesoscale complexity to the north and west of the center (water vapor color scale inverted).

UW-Madison SSEC

And the whole structure.

UW-Madison SSEC

April

A big cyclone in the eastern U.S. and Canada as the storminess continued into April, this one connected to another one over the North Atlantic.

NASA WORLDVIEW

May

The month started with tornadoes in the central Plains on the first day. This outcome could have been much worse, the tornadic circulation just missing the town of Tescott, Kansas.

Gibson Ridge

That same day to the west in Colorado, whoa look at the 3-D rotation on GOES-16!

Bill Line, National Weather Service

This looked like a subtropical cyclone early in the month, however the strong circulation was aloft not at the surface.

NASA Earth Science Branch

This circulation did extend to the surface, was of subtropical storm strength, and Alberto got even better organized after moving inland, the core spinning north all the way to the Canadian border!

NSSL

Moisture from around Alberto helped fuel another disastrous flash flood in Ellicott City, Maryland.

NASA Earth Science Branch

Watch this cell pop up near DC ahead of the line of severe thunderstorms, then the line eats it.

Gibson Ridge

And this remarkably sharp V-shaped back edge the next day.

Gibson Ridge

Not only did pyrocumulus emanate from the smoke plume with a wildfire in the Texas panhandle, it became a supercell thunderstorm. (2-D & 3-D views thereof.)

NOAA
Gibson Ridge

June

AA flight 1897 flew directly into this hailstorm.

Gibson Ridge radar; flight location data via FlightAware

Severe hail in and near Dallas, Texas followed a storm split.

Gibson Ridge

Not only do all these thunderstorms, clusters and outflow boundaries collide & merge, but a supercell is absorbed and helps create a larger-scale rotation!

NOAA

And in this very stormy month, this wild MCS (mesoscale convective system).

NEXLAB – College of DuPage

Lightning data showed two MCSs moving in opposite directions — what an electric collision!

CIRA/RAMMB

Holy rotating updraft, Batman — another one on GOES-16! This one was in North Dakota.

NEXLAB – College of DuPage

One of the big weather-related stories of the year was wildfires, and there are many other satellite images of the smoke available, but that supercell-generating one and this one are the most remarkable to me. This smoke plume from a fire near the Wyoming/Colorado border streamed far east, toward an exploding storm cluster as the sun set on visible satellite imagery.

NOAA

July

Yes, this was in July not January, near Greenland.

NASA Earth Science Branch

In that theme of the North Atlantic not knowing which season it wanted to be, an ex-hurricane shortly after a snowstorm in Newfoundland.

NASA Earth Science Branch

Chris had formed and became this solid and strong a hurricane at a relatively far north latitude for tropical cyclones to do that.

NEXLAB – College of DuPage

Warm-core (Chris) and cold-core cyclonic circulations, connected.

NASA Earth Science Branch

The atmosphere was very swirly in the northeast Gulf and near the coast of the Carolinas… an omen of things to come?

NASA Earth Science Branch

The rapid intensification of Maria in the northwest Pacific. (The name was retired from the Atlantic list after 2017, but was still used as a typhoon name in 2018.)

UW-Madison SSEC

A tragedy at Table Rock, Missouri, despite this prior radar & warning.

Gibson Ridge radar, National Weather Service warning

Crazy back-building MCS along the Louisiana coast.

NEXLAB – College of DuPage

Another weather WOW!

National Weather Service Memphis

August

Hail core that hit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs.

Gibson Ridge

Persistent Lane, which produced extreme rainfall on the windward side of the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Weather Channel

Sunrise on Hurricane Lane.

CIRA/RAMMB

The eye of Typhoon Soulik.

UW-Madison SSEC

September

A close-up look at the relentless bands of Florence’s torrential rain pounding the coast of North Carolina.

The Weather Channel

The upper-level outflow — the storm’s “exhaust” — which kept Florence solid before and after landfall as its movement slowed.

The Weather Channel

You don’t see an eyewall replacement from smaller to larger on regular (as opposed to microwave) satellite imagery any more clearly than this, in Typhoon Trami.

The Weather Channel

October

The entire sequence of transition from a broad CAG (Central American Gyre) to a tight tropical cyclone (Hurricane Michael).

The Weather Channel

When I woke up in the middle of the night (hard for a meteorologist to sleep soundly with a strong hurricane approaching land), I looked at the latest satellite imagery, saw this, and my heart sank.

NEXLAB – College of DuPage

The donut of destruction at landfall.

Gibson Ridge

Another look at the landfall of the most intense landfalling hurricane on record on this part of the Gulf Coast, much less in October.

NASA Earth Science Branch

The pattern which enabled this to happen. Not only the steering flow but also the warm ridge in which Michael was embedded, insulating it from the intrusions of less optimum atmospheric conditions which typically make it hard for hurricanes approaching the Gulf Coast at that time of year to maintain extreme intensity.

NASA Earth Science Branch

Meanwhile, bizarre Leslie which kept going and going…

The Weather Channel

…and then over western Europe a portion of its circulation aloft ended up doing a Fujiwhara dance with a remnant of Michael.

The Weather Channel

November

Ummm… This cyclone’s core took on the appearance of a tropical or at least subtropical cyclone. Which is not uncommon. Except this was near the coast of Alaska.

NOAA (radar), NASA WORLDVIEW (satellite)

The core of this one was totally non-tropical, but fascinating meteorologically nonetheless.

The Weather Channel

Meteorology 101: A textbook baroclinic leaf.

CIRA/RAMMB

More meteorology! A long rope cloud.

The Weather Channel

And even more! Cold (the low-level northwest flow) + moisture (upper-level cirrus the forerunner thereof) = snow. Plenty of it with an early-season snowstorm in the interior Northeast.

The Weather Channel

And convective meteorology! Not all tornadoes are produced by discrete supercells. One other process which can do it is via a QLCS, or quasi-linear convective system. The “quasi” refers to irregularities in the linearity of the thunderstorms. This was quite an irregularity, ultimately taking on the shape of the tropical storm symbol. Prior to that was a 40-mile tornado path length in Tennessee, quite long for one produced via a QLCS.

Gibson Ridge

On the flip side of tornado mechanisms was this small cell which was quite shallow for producing a twister (at the red dot on the radar map).

Gibson Ridge

December

Speaking of tornado anomalies, rotation with one near Seattle, rare in Washington in December.

Gibson Ridge

Much larger-scale rotation, and a deep one, with a cyclonic circulation throughout the entire depth of the troposphere, part of an active southern jet stream pattern this month.

NASA Earth Science Branch

As that slowly departed to the east, it revealed a small spot of snow cover to the west where the atmosphere had been just cold enough for that.

NEXLAB – College of DuPage

On the backside of another swirl, with the storm that brought extreme snowfall for so early in the season in the southern Appalachians/Piedmont, waves propagating northward through the low clouds.

NEXLAB – College of DuPage

Check this out on radar >>

@NashWX & RadarScope

And finally, near the end of the year, after the initial eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano which resulted in the terrible tsunami, it kept going and going.

UW-Madison SSEC CIMSS

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