Canada and US Hit by Huge ‘Weather Bomb’

By Brad Johnson
Cross-posted from The Wonk Room
October 27, 2010

Visible satellite image of the October 26, 2010 superstorm
taken at 5:32pm EDT. At the time, Bigfork, Minnesota was
reporting the lowest pressure ever recorded in a U.S.
 non-coastal storm, 955 mb. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Fueled by fossil fuel pollution, an unprecedented, freak “land hurricane” swept through the continental United States, leaving a path of devastation from Saskatchewan to Texas — while the Republican Party has been taken over by a hurricane of science denial.

Our destabilized climate system, supercharged with billions of tons of manmade global warming pollution, is unlike anything in the historical record. “Welcome to the Land of 10,000 Weather Extremes,” Minnesota meteorologist Paul Douglas gasped. “The storm is huge,” Peter Kimbell, emergency preparedness meteorologist for Environment Canada, said. “Much of North America is being affected by this storm. It’s covering millions of square kilometers.” Even the right-wing Anthony Watts called this storm — centered in Wisconsin — a “subtropical/tropically oriented monster.” Douglas found intensity of the “weather bomb” something “hard to fathom”:

Yesterday a rapidly intensifying storm, a “bomb”, spun up directly over the MN Arrowhead, around mid afternoon a central pressure of 953 millibars was observed near Orr. That’s 28.14? of mercury. Bigfork, MN reported 955 mb, about 28.22? of mercury. The final (official) number may be closer to 28.20-28.22?, but at some point the number becomes academic. What is pretty much certain is that Tuesday’s incredible storm marks a new record for the lowest atmospheric pressure ever observed over the continental USA. That’s a lower air pressure than most hurricanes, which is hard to fathom.

The storm front — also dubbed the “Chiclone” for the bizarreness of having a cyclone-like system over Chicago — drew its power from a sharp temperature contrast between record warmth in the southeastern United States and average cold in the north. Thus this record stormfront, though it exhibited hurricane-like power, is unlike actual hurricanes that derive their power directly from heat trapped in the ocean.

Update: Wunderground puts the stormfront into more historical context; there have been comparable storms along the Atlantic coast, but never in the Midwest. They also remind us that a less-powerful storm in January shattered low-pressure records in the Southwest.

Click here to read more. And for a more in-depth post on this storm, read Joe Romm’s article at yesterday:

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