Meteorological Images of 2019

My 14th annual compilation of highlights of the past 12 months — and in recent years, with the next-generation weather satellites, it continues to get harder not easier! I can’t keep up with everything much less include it all here. There’s now amazing, widely available imagery every day showing the fluidity of the atmosphere. It would also be overwhelming to try to include every significant weather event. So as in the past, I’ve tried to represent a reasonable combo of those, visually compelling imagery (satellite and otherwise), and meteorologically interesting stuff.

To repeat the usual other disclaimers, these do not include photographs or videos, which would open up a whole other realm; since I reside in and most often forecast for the United States, the majority are for there or nearby, while also including international ones; the animated GIFs were generally produced to meet Twitter’s 15MB limit, yet cumulatively may take a while to load, and some had to be optimized with the image quality or size reduced. Source attribution is either embedded in the image via text/logo or in the caption. This year rather than grouping by month I’ve done so by phenomena — tropical cyclones, extratropical cyclones, thunderstorms & tornadoes, clouds, space, cold/heat/fires, and faces — though within each section they’re generally in chronological order, with a few exceptions for thematic flow.

With that as a preface, the awe of weather in 2019…

Image(s) of the year

Basically, anything involving catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, including the banner image above, a few within the tropical cyclone section below, and this mesmerizing storm-centered satellite tracking, from formation though the eastern Caribbean deflection (did interaction with St. Lucia play a role?), to the northern Bahamas, Outer Banks, and finally Canadian Maritimes. 

Tropical cyclones

The cloud break line in Pola in the Southern Hemisphere in February.

Mesovortices in the eyes of strong tropical cyclones are common, but Typhoon Wutip was of uncommon intensity for February.

NOAA

Why is this inland swirl over Atlanta in the tropical cyclone section? 

Because it was a chapter in the odd evolution of Hurricane Barry, originating from a thunderstorm system over Kansas & Missouri on the 4th of July, then returning around there nearly two weeks later while dissipating and merging with a non-tropical front before exiting off the Mid-Atlantic coast.

NOAA

Then came Dorian. My heart sank when I saw what the structure had become as it made a beeline toward the northernmost Bahamas.

NEXLAB – College of DuPage

Eyewall lightning.

NOAA RAMMB/CIRA

Hour after hour after hour of relentless battering. 

Where would it go after the Bahamas? There was suspense and uncertainty (and even controversy from another kind of image of the year). While some of these ensemble member tracks overshot too far east, the suite of “spaghetti” was of early value in presenting an alternative scenario of a turn first rather than crossing Florida.

Just this short distance difference in tracks translated to the huge difference in impact between a billion dollars damage in Florida from Matthew and only a brush there from Dorian.

Gibson Ridge

Looking at radar it appeared the center of circulation may have passed offshore of Cape Hatteras, thus by definition not a landfall. However upon close inspection of visible and IR satellite imagery (and supported by aircraft recon and surface observations) the actual center — not a side mesovortex — did just barely clip the tip of the Outer Banks.

The eye of Dorian passed right over buoys.

Another look at the history of Dorian, from nary a cumulonimbus cloud to Category 5 to the extratropical remnant near Greenland & Iceland. 

Within a couple weeks the center of Humberto was exactly where Dorian’s had been — but fortunately as a much weaker storm and not moving in the same direction.

Humberto went on to have quite a structure.

And speaking of structure, Lorenzo.

After being a strong hurricane, Erick weakened as it got closer to Hawaii. That cirrus outflow tho.

Typhoon Hagibis eyewall replacement from small to large (each image is at the same satellite map scale).

In November a well-developed medicane hit Algeria.

Typhoon Halong’s rapid intensification.

And speaking of rapid intensification, that of Ambali in the southwest Indian Ocean in December — and its quick weakening. This entire sequence is 24 hours.

Extratropical cyclones

Quite the active start to the year in the Pacific.

Including this one.

NOAA

Two swirls doing a Fujiwhara dance off the East Coast in February.

One of them on radar.

Another interesting swirl on the North Carolina coast the next month.

Gibson Ridge

And yet another one the month after that, with evidence of a sting jet. 

Gibson Ridge

Triplets.

NOAA

This meteorological bomb (central pressure drop of at least 24 millibars in 24 hours) was in an uncommon place for that: Colorado. In fact it produced an unofficial, preliminary state record for lowest pressure on record there outside of a tornado. The storm also resulted in major flooding in Nebraska and other states.

Later in the year, flying along with the jet stream to bombogenesis at the OR/CA coast, another atypical location for it.

Cold cumulus circulating over the Pacific around that November cyclone.

After Hagibis (see tropical section above) hit Japan and then became extratropical.

NOAA

This superposition of two jet streams led to a stronger one, and the rapid development of a 972 millibar cyclone downstream over New England. 

Low pressure stacked up in the atmosphere during an autumn storm.

NOAA

For the December holiday season, a strawberry cinnamon roll. This one was wet and soggy though, producing excessive rainfall in the Fort Lauderdale area.

Thunderstorms & tornadoes

This supercell was within a large area of storms, yet not really within the line to the west nor in the zone of many discrete cells to the east. But it became very intense and tragic at Beauregard, Alabama on March 3. And while these days there are new radar tools to identify tornadoes, this one had a vivid debris ball on the regular reflectivity images.

Gibson Ridge [all radars in this section unless otherwise noted]

Storm structure at that time.

As confirmed by the National Weather Service, after that one another long-track tornado (yellow track on map) paralleled the previous one (red track) for a while, including less than an hour later passing approximately one mile from where the first produced EF4 damage (at red dot on radar).

In May in Ohio, another tornado at almost the same location a half hour later.

You don’t see supercells like this every day in southeast Pennsylvania.

Nor a hailstorm like this in Staten Island. 

A string of low-topped supercells in the Midwest.

Too much water fell from the sky onto the Arkansas River watershed.

Tornado which swiped Lawrence, Kansas.

Wild cell mergers and outflow in west Texas.

Satellite imagery thereof.

Wave propagating out from a storm cluster over Illinois and Indiana.

The last two weeks in May.

An MCS (mesoscale convective system) which had a shape on infrared satellite imagery remarkably resembling that of a supercell on radar.

An MCS series in June all the way from Colorado to the Atlantic Ocean.

Merger of MCSs into a swirl in July.

A severe MCS coming out of the Dakotas weakened but a new one developed.

That new, derecho-producing MCS was really boiling.

Lightning near the North Pole in August.

#Hector

A December tornado outbreak with, as is typical at this time of year, lots of shear (both speed and directional) and just enough instability.

A tornado warning was issued in SoCal Christmas night.

RadarScope

And a tornado was confirmed — but not with the primary swirl! On radar that had an appearance more like an MCV (mesoscale convective vortex) than a supercell; a small version of the latter rotating around the larger circulation produced the tornado (at the red dot).

Clouds

The new GOES-17 satellite gave us a spectacular look at clouds around Hawaii.

NOAA

While von Kármán vortexes are common off the Pacific coast downwind of islands, not often do you see an interaction with waves like this!

Jet stream cirrus racing over stratocumulus including streamers coming off the bays following a November cold front.

Trippy wavy clouds flowing north of the Mexico-U.S. border.

Space

Solar flare (wait for it!), detected by the GOES-16 weather satellite.

Meteor, also via the weather satellite.

Incredibly, twice this year the shadow of a solar eclipse passed by an intense tropical cyclone — a total eclipse and Hurricane Barbara in the eastern Pacific on July 2, and an annular one and Typhoon Phanfone (Philippines name Ursula) over the South China Sea the day after Christmas.

Cold, heat & fires

Quite the persistent tropopause polar vortex (TPV) circulated within the tropospheric circumpolar vortex. (There are multiple kinds of polar vortexes.)

Day after day after day after day after day after day of the hot ridge centered over the southeast U.S. in early autumn.

Faces

I’ve been intrigued by meteorological features which look like faces not only since the Hurricane Matthew skull but going all the way back to the one in Hurricane Wilma in 2005!

And a bunch more of ’em this year…

NASA Earth Science Branch
UW-Madison SSEC via @crankywxguy

Dog?

NOAA

Alien?

Karen.

First and last frames of this loop of Lorenzo.

Another one in Lorenzo.

And more.

Nestor.

Sea snake monster eyeing Pola.

I see more than one face in this complex system moving into the Gulf of Alaska a few days ago.

And yes, was even an eerie face in the eye of Dorian.

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