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Meteorological Images of 2017

My 12th annual edition.

(Previous: 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016.)

As in all the other years, I’ve chosen the images (from those I was able to capture at the time, as many are not easily available via archive later) based on their visual aesthetics, meteorological interest, and/or impact of the weather phenomena. Most are on my side of the world from the eastern Pacific across North America and the tropical Atlantic, plus some elsewhere, and even two which are literally out of this world. A couple of the animated GIFs are particularly small in dimension and optimized to meet file size limits for embedding.

There are a lot of images included this year, thanks in part to the launch of the GOES-R/GOES-16/GOES-East satellite and no thanks to the extremity of the Atlantic hurricane season. So many, in fact, that rather than intentionally “burying the lede” at the end as in previous years, I’ve put my choices for the top images of the year up top, and for the first time went with a Top 20 (not ranked within that).

Then scores of others follow, the stories of the year told through weather geek eyes. And that means marveling at the fascinating science of meteorology and extraordinary power of the atmosphere — while also contemplating what those forces are capable of and how much suffering they have brought.

Top 20 images of 2017

Hurricane Harvey


Jared Smith; h/t Shea Gibson

111 hour radar loop from the landfall near Rockport till the rain finally started to diminish in Beaumont – Port Arthur.


Record tropical cyclone rainfall in the U.S.

Jordan Tessler for Capital Weather Gang

Hurricane Irma

Detail of Irma thermal structures from the European Space Agency Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite 12um brightness temperature.

Pressure drop in Barbuda.

Irma’s devastating track across the northeast Caribbean islands.

The Weather Channel / Michael Butler

Hurricane Maria

As the eyewall hit Dominica.

UW-Madison SSEC

Double donuts of destruction — the inner and outer eyewalls — as Maria approached St. Croix and Puerto Rico.

Gibson Ridge

Wild gyration of the inner eyewall, after the outer eyewall interacts with St. Croix (islands highlighted).


Hurricane Ophelia

From south of two non-tropical cyclones, to picking up dust from Africa and smoke from fires in Spain and Portugal, to hitting Ireland and the UK. A 3-month high-resolution video of the whole Atlantic basin during the peak of hurricane season from which this was taken is available via https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/details.cgi?aid=12772.


Structure after undergoing extratropical transition:

UW-Madison SSEC


Transformation during three days in November from a cold cutoff low with a sprawling chaotic structure to one typical of a medicane with convection wrapped tightly around the center.

Satellite images ©EUMETSAT; my annotation


Strong (>400 meter departure from average), warm ridge of high pressure aloft, which was a key to everything from an atmospheric river north all the way to Alaska with extreme snowfall rates there, to unusually warm weather for December up to the Arctic in northwest Canada and Alaska, to an exceptionally long-duration Santa Ana fueling the fires, to accumulating snow in south Texas in early December before Boston or Albany.

UW-Madison SSEC, December 7; my annotation (red H instead of traditional blue, to represent ridge’s warmth)

Southern snow

Exceptional for any time, much less so early in the season.

NOAA data, my mapping

Smoke & cirrus

Smoke from the SoCal fires, cirrus with the STJ (subtropical jet).


South Pole illuminated

Approximately a month from its summer solstice.


Solar eclipse

And surface cooling, stabilization and suppression of cumulus clouds.

College of DuPage

Solar flare

GOES-16 (formerly GOES-R and now GOES-East) looks at the sun too.


Jupiter owl eyes

NASA — SwRI — MSSS — Gerald Eichstädt — Seán Doran © CC NC SA

Supercell simulation

High-resolution video and other simulations available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLkghfvE0Rk.

Leigh Orf (http://orf.media/)


A section for them, as while nothing quite at the level of 2016’s image of the year, 2017 brought a number of other freaky faces…

Tropical Depression Four

Eyes, long nose, and hairy body.



Within the structure of eyewall/eye mesovortices at landfall.



IR color curves from UW-Madison SSEC, CIRA/RAMMB, WSV3


UW-Madison SSEC




Face looking east at the end of this sequence of radar velocities with the blast of damaging wind that came across eastern Massachusetts on Christmas morning as a cyclone rapidly intensified.


Tornado outbreaks

Were a couple of them in January, one early and one later in the month, the latter being one of the biggest winter tornado outbreaks on record. While not producing the strongest or deadliest twisters, there was an unusually large number produced by this line of thunderstorms (as opposed to individual discrete supercells) associated with an MCV (mesoscale convective vortex).

Gibson Ridge


2 consecutive meteorological bombs

Larger one and its smaller sibling.

UW-Madison SSEC

Northwest fringe snow band

A particularly vivid example of one near the NW edge of a snowstorm.

Gibson Ridge

Cinnamon swirl cyclone

Would you like a cup of coffee with your cinnamon bun?

NASA Earth Science Branch

Massive cyclone

Which produced widespread powerful winds across the Great Lakes region.

NERC Satellite Receiving Station, Dundee University, Scotland

MCV, derecho, outflow boundary

The MCV in the northeast part of the image produced a derecho (convective windstorm); a long outflow boundary was left in its wake back across Georgia into Alabama.

Gibson Ridge

Tornado shape

The satellite image of this thunderstorm zone resembled the shape of a tornado.

College of DuPage

Tropical cyclone wannabe

What was that swirling up along the Washington coast?!



Another tropical cyclone wannabe

A swirl “making landfall” on the North Carolina coast.


It merged with a mid-upper level low and the result was flash flooding in Raleigh, N.C.

UW-Madison SSEC

Anticyclonic tornado

While anticyclonic circulations (blowing clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere) exist with only a very small percentage of tornadoes, they aren’t rare per se. But ones such as this with a path as long as seven miles are.

Gibson Ridge

Extreme rainfall

The development of wet convection along a stalled front.

College of DuPage

Radar estimated rainfall from the rounds of training torrential thunderstorms which produced disastrous flooding.



7000 CAPE

Another explosion of thunderstorms along a long narrow zone resembling the one above. It involved a release of CAPE (convective available potential energy) in excess of 7000 joules per kilogram, an extreme value. Rather than rainfall being the primary impact, this time it was widespread damaging winds.

College of DuPage

Dryline eruption on GOES-16

We already had high resolution (both spatial and temporal) loops like this, from the Himawari-8 satellite on the other side of the world, but in spring 2017 thanks to GOES-16 we for the first time had them during the spring convective season in the Great Plains of the United States, including this one of a classic dryline thunderstorm eruption.

College of DuPage

Denver hailstorm eruption on radar

Estimated to be the most expensive in Colorado history.

Gibson Ridge

West coast severe & swirl

While the Pacific Northwest does get thunderstorms, it’s not every day that there are a couple dozen reports of severe wind and hail, as was the case this afternoon in early May after morning fog burned off. And off the Cali coast near the Oregon border, I spy a low cloud swirl!

College of DuPage



The first hurricane seen by GOES-16, in the eastern Pacific.


Wavy stuff

Over & near the Great Lakes:


In the process of cyclone development southeast of Nantucket:

NASA Earth Science Branch

Alberta tornado

Meteorological context of a spectacularly photogenic tornado.

UW-Madison SSEC

Tropical Storm Bret

A tropical storm forming in the deep tropical Atlantic in June in an area with a lack of hostile wind shear was an omen for what was to come during the 2017 hurricane season…


Tropical Storm Cindy

Had its beginnings as a CAG (Central American Gyre), producing deadly floods there, then evolved into a large hybrid over the Gulf of Mexico, was named, and finally tightened up into more of a tropical cyclone structure right before landfall — but with two apparent centers.



Crazy wavy

More wavy stuff, this time what appears to be undular bores overlapping and interacting with each other.

Manitoba storm

Stunning structure with this supercell.

Dave Carlsen (via https://twitter.com/StormStructure/status/882771028786728960)

Tropical Storm Emily

A tight core formed and produced a sustained tropical storm force wind at Sarasota, with gusts offshore as high as 57 mph


… despite the storm being tangled up with a non-tropical front.


Similar swirls

A remnant MCV over the desert of Arizona resembled a weakening eastern Pacific ex-hurricane moving over colder water, and then there was one of those a few days later (Fernanda, on the right).

NASA Earth Science Branch


Two tropical cyclones in the western Pacific having a classic Fujiwhara interaction.


Depression & dust

Tropical Depression Four with dust from Africa to its east.



Hurricane Gert

Unfortunately, the dry dusty air and short-lived TD4 were less of a sign of the state of the atmosphere than was Bret in June — and Gert in mid-August, quite strong for so far north.



As the last advisory on Gert was issued, Harvey was named. As it later approached this part of the Texas coast, examples of how weather technology has advanced since Celia in 1970, the last one so strong there:

Harvey outflow

The upper-level “exhaust of the engine,” facilitating continuing health of the storm and, with slow movement, the extreme rainfall that was to follow.


Harvey hybrid

Somewhere on the tropical/subtropical/extratropical continuum; officially classified at the time as a tropical storm.


As the month ended, the atmosphere remained highly agitated and cyclonic…

UW-Madison SSEC

And Irma, still far out in the eastern Atlantic, already had that look




Barbuda in the eye (location slightly different in the images due to apparent satellite navigation differences).

UW-Madison SSEC

Stunning symmetry, representative of the hurricane’s extreme intensity:

UW-Madison SSEC

Irma evolved into a large gyre with widespread wind impacts and local severe flooding in Florida, on its way to interacting with mid-latitude influences and downing countless trees in Georgia.



Déjà vu, as Hurricane Jose was in the almost exact same place as Irma was just a few days prior. Fortunately Jose was on a different subsequent track.

UW-Madison SSEC

Jose & bombogenesis

While still classified as a hurricane (tropical), Jose had a similar appearance to that of a meteorological bomb last year in approximately the same location.

NASA Earth Science Branch


Vivid IR colorization, as the hurricane made landfall on Dominica and moved across the Caribbean toward St. Croix and Puerto Rico.


Last radar image

Before the radar site in Puerto Rico was damaged.


Typhoon Lan

Over the western Pacific.

Dan Lindsay

Late October hybrid storms

A complex system which contained remnants of Tropical Storm Philippe blasted New England with damaging winds, on the anniversaries of a couple of other notorious tropical/non-tropical hybrid storms.

Stu Ostro (1991 water vapor image via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO9gIu_Mhfc); NERC Satellite Receiving Station, Dundee University, Scotland


Gulf of Alaska – Aleutians – Bering Sea cyclones




La Niña

Sea surface temperature (SST) departures from average as La Niña developed.


As leery as I am about attribution of ENSO influences, the pattern the past couple months has been influenced at least in part by La Niña. November was characterized by a fast west-to-east flow across North America. The disturbances in this water vapor loop were ironically in the southern branch of the jet stream though (typically active during El Niño). At the end of it, note the contrails over northwest Arkansas.

College of DuPage


Now that’s a vort max!

NASA Earth Science Branch

Southern snow and tornado outbreak similarity

Similar locations, similarly subtle synoptic situations and difficulty in precisely prognosticating well in advance.


As the year ends, frigid air has come down from the Arctic.

As it passed over water, this persistent robust lake-effect band brought record snow to Erie, Pennsylvania.

CIMSS; full-resolution video at http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/goes/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/171225-26_goes16_infrared_KERI_les_event_anim.mp4

Here a sharp difference on infrared satellite imagery showed up between not-as-cold low cloud tops to the west and cold ground to the east, eroding with the sun’s warmth and as cirrus arrives.

College of DuPage (h/t Greg Postel; NWS)

Context of the cold

Climate Reanalyzer, Climate Change Institute, University of Maine

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