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Earth’s Most Intense Thunderstorms


Jane Louise

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Posted
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms :D
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos

NASA Satellite Finds the World’s Most Intense Thunderstorms

A summer thunderstorm often provides much-needed rainfall and heat wave relief, but others bring large hail, destructive winds, and tornadoes. Now with the help of NASA satellite data, scientists from the University of Utah and elsewhere are gaining insight into the distribution of such storms around much of the world.

By using data from the NASA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, researchers identified the regions on Earth that experience the most intense thunderstorms. Their study was published in the August 2006 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

The strongest storms were found to occur east of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, where warm, humid air often collides with cooler, drier air, similar to storms that form east of the Rockies in the United States. Some of the most violent thunderstorms in the world are found in the part of the central United States known as “tornado alley,†where storms with large hail, destructive winds and tornadoes strike every year.

Surprisingly, some semi-arid regions have powerful storms, including the southern fringes of the Sahara, northern Australia, and parts of the Indian subcontinent. In contrast, rainy areas such as western Amazonia and Southeast Asia experience frequent storms, but relatively few are severe. Northern Pakistan, Bangladesh, and parts of Central Africa also experience intense thunderstorms.

“TRMM has given us the ability to extend local knowledge about storms to a near-global reach,†said lead author Edward Zipser, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. “In addition to containing the only precipitation radar in space, TRMM’s other instruments provide a powerful overlap of data that is extremely useful for studying storms.â€

The researchers examined global thunderstorm data supplied by TRMM from 1998-2004. To determine an individual storm’s intensity, they specifically examined the height of radar echoes, radiation temperature, and lightning flash rate, each measured by separate TRMM instruments.

The study also confirmed previous findings. For example, the locations of the heaviest rainfall on Earth — usually in tropical oceans and along certain mountain slopes — rarely coincide with the regions of most intense storms. They also found that the strongest storms tend to occur over land, rather than over oceans. The intense storms that do develop over oceans usually occur in areas near land that favor storm motion from land to ocean. Examples include tropical oceans west of Central America and West Africa, and subtropical oceans east of the southeastern United States, South America, Australia and Africa. Many regions of the world also have a seasonal preference for strong storms, including spring and summer for the south-central United States, June-August in the Sahel, and March-May over the Ganges Plain and Bangladesh.

Studying storms with satellite data began in the 1960s when researchers discovered that colder cloud top temperatures were linked to more intense storms. But later, scientists found that many storms of average intensity also reach very high altitudes, where colder temperatures are found. For a more accurate, quantitative description of a storm, radar, microwave, and lightning data are also needed to study a thunderstorm’s inner structure.

“Prior to TRMM, we could only study individual storms that were captured by a ground-based radar or lightning network,†said co-author Daniel Cecil, University of Alabama-Huntsville, Huntsville, Ala. “Those instruments are not available in many places and trying to find an interesting storm that was simultaneously observed by a satellite required remarkable luck, but TRMM has been supplying a variety of measurements from individual storms around the world for nearly nine years now.â€

The instruments on TRMM provide data and precision that other satellites cannot. Its precipitation radar is unique because it measures the properties of a storm with high vertical resolution, helping scientists to identify the stronger rising air currents, or updrafts, in a thunderstorm. TRMM also has a lightning sensor, which identifies both cloud-to-ground and in-cloud lightning, and its microwave imager gives detailed information on the ice content within a storm, also related to the speed of updrafts.

While each TRMM instrument measures different aspects of a storm, the researchers found that the data from each usually matched quite well, agreeing on the location and distribution of the strongest storms.

“The results from this study help to quantify the differences in the type and intensity of thunderstorms that occur in different climate regimes around the world,†said Cecil. “The effects on the atmosphere of an intense, monstrous thunderstorm over Argentina or Oklahoma contrasts greatly with the effects from a more ordinary storm over the Amazon basin.â€

In the future, and as the dataset from TRMM continues to increase, these observations will be used to test whether computer models used for climate prediction and weather forecasting are accurately capturing the details of thunderstorms. If not, scientists will have the details necessary to build better, more realistic models that will aid meteorologists in providing more accurate forecasts.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) is a joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and is designed to monitor and study tropical rainfall.

Mike Bettwy

Goddard Space Flight Center

http://unews.utah.ed...-thunderstorms/

What part of the world have you ever experienced intense storms? Of course I know the UK experiences nothing as powerful as the ones in the states and other countries but I'm sure there's somebody who may have a tale to tell of exciting storms whilst on holiday abroad. :-D

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Posted
  • Location: BRISTOL
  • Location: BRISTOL

Just the 1 for me the supercell i witnessed in Toronto Canada,I think i mentioned it in the thunderstorm stories section of the forum,never forget it it was AWESOME! :)

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Posted
  • Location: North Liverpool & Huertas Bajas de Cabra Cordoba S
  • Weather Preferences: Any extreme weather conditions
  • Location: North Liverpool & Huertas Bajas de Cabra Cordoba S

I've experienced several in the States, mainly Florida but the best was in SE Texas. I was directly under it, the rain was so heavy you couldn't stand out in it as it hurt, never seen anything like it, as it was daytime the lightening was not that spectacular but the thunder was deafening, the ground literaly shook with the noise. Fantastic!

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Posted
  • Location: The North Kent countryside
  • Weather Preferences: Hot summers, snowy winters and thunderstorms!
  • Location: The North Kent countryside

I'll type mine up later as I am short of time.

But it's surprising that if the most intense seem to form in Argentina there aren't more videos on the internet of it. I believe the DRC still holds the record for most thunderstorms. I would love to go an the catatumbo lightening (in my profile picture).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catatumbo_lightning

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Posted
  • Location: The North Kent countryside
  • Weather Preferences: Hot summers, snowy winters and thunderstorms!
  • Location: The North Kent countryside

Probably in terms of intensity either Bangkok or Bulgaria.

In Bangkok the policeman told us to get inside and from his broken English we worked out he was saying it was a very dangerous storm. It sure was lightening was hitting all over the place and very close to us and the noise was absolutely deafening. Rain like I have never seen before or since, almost like someone tipping a bathtub full of water on you. The thunder was so loud it shook the floor and your body. During what seemed like a brief respite we ran to our hotel and watched the storm from inside our room overlooking the city. Absolutely crazy. Lightening every 3 seconds at least. We noticed the English language newspaper the next day (I assume one for ex pats and British residents) said that several people had been killed and a dozen building had caught fire.

and copied from the other thread:

It was August 1997 in Bulgaria. This was 2 weeks after a huge MCS had hit SE England and lasted all night, the account of which I have written earlier in this thread. We were in the mountains and at that time of year thunderstorms are common. We had opted to go on a walking tour that lasted half a day and we saw some great scebery and wildlife, including a few bears. Our guide was almost psychic, he was that good at telling the weather. We'd reached a peak of a mountain and he was surveying the horizon. It was quite obvious that in the distance a big storm was building, you could literally see the anvils rising and it looked bad.

He told us we had to make our way back quickly to the hotel as 'this is a big one'. He told us it would reach the hotel in about 30 minutes and if we went back now we'd get back just in time. We were all disappointed as we were enjoying the hike but he was adamant tis was not a safe storm to be in. We were all compliant and made a hurried return. I remember talking to him on the way down and he was saying up there storms can develop within minutes with no warning or indication whatsoever. When we were about 5 minutes from the hotel we could hear huge booms approaching. We got back to our hotel room and stood out on the balcony overlooking the mountains and sure enough to the exact minute the storm hit. First came a strong wind, then heavy rain and huge hail. Thunder boomed around the mountain valleys so loud we had to shout to be heard and lightning was forking everywhere and was non stop. There was a tower on one of the mountain peaks which was an observation tower as well as a transmission tower and it got hit several times. My Mum grabbed the camera and just clicked randomnly to try and get a photo. Somehow she did get one hitting this tower and I will try and find it.

The storm was so strong we could see tree branches breaking. We just stood on the balcony fascinated by this storm and glad we had got back in time. It carried on until dinnertime (about 3 hours) although the first half hour was the most intense. After the storm we walked outside and a few trees had fallen and branches were strewn all over the place. There were concerns for people who had been hiking in the mountains, but they had sheltered in a cafe at the top of the mountain.

It was very eerie afterwards, dead still. We crossed paths with our guide later that evening and he told us it was a supercell (in far more words than that) and we were very lucky to have got back in time. I don't think there was a tornado but there was definite rotation and the tree damage would suggest so as well as the hail and 'feel' of the storm. It was one of those times when the enormity of the storm makes you feel so insignificant.

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Posted
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms :D
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos

Thank you all for sharing your reports. :) Sounds spectacular and quite scary. I suppose you could say the storms we observe in the UK are never anything like the storms observed abroad.

The best storms I can recall here in England have always been the spanish plume types which as of late has been a rarity but when they did occur they certainly gave a good show and a couple were even quite frightening!

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Posted
  • Location: The North Kent countryside
  • Weather Preferences: Hot summers, snowy winters and thunderstorms!
  • Location: The North Kent countryside

The best storms I can recall here in England have always been the spanish plume types which as of late has been a rarity but when they did occur they certainly gave a good show and a couple were even quite frightening!

Quite right Jane. I've documented some of my Spanish Plume memories in the thunderstorm memories thread. I have thunderstorm diaries from when I was younger and during the nineties there was barely a year that went by where we didn;t have at least 3 big Spanish Plume events in the summer. Proper all nighters that you could lie in bed watching out the window.

Those were the days *sigh*

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Posted
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms :D
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos

Quite right Jane. I've documented some of my Spanish Plume memories in the thunderstorm memories thread. I have thunderstorm diaries from when I was younger and during the nineties there was barely a year that went by where we didn;t have at least 3 big Spanish Plume events in the summer. Proper all nighters that you could lie in bed watching out the window.

Those were the days *sigh*

Hi Lauren, :)

I wish I had of kept diaries like you did. Why oh why can't we have those Spanish Plumes again :( I used to sit up all night , glued to the radars and biting my nails frantically willing them up my way Lol. Yes, those were the days! :lazy:

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Posted
  • Location: The North Kent countryside
  • Weather Preferences: Hot summers, snowy winters and thunderstorms!
  • Location: The North Kent countryside

Hi Lauren, :)

I wish I had of kept diaries like you did. Why oh why can't we have those Spanish Plumes again :( I used to sit up all night , glued to the radars and biting my nails frantically willing them up my way Lol. Yes, those were the days! :lazy:

A friend of mine is doing his PHD and him and a couple of others researchers are looking to why there has been quite a sudden drop in UK thunderstorm activity. Could be interesting.

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Posted
  • Location: Carlisle, Cumbria
  • Weather Preferences: Atlantic storms, severe gales, blowing snow and frost :)
  • Location: Carlisle, Cumbria

Interesting read Lauren, thank you :good:

The T storms experienced abroad always seem much worse than here in the UK, I rememeber being in Greece when I was younger with my family and we had an almighty storm which caused rapid flash flooding and turned roads into river torrents. We were all scared to death, trying to get back to the hotel walking through a foot or so of water and severe lightening and gusty winds! It was a mess the next day, I remember all the sun loungers and umbrellas were blown into the pool or smashed up.

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Posted
  • Location: Liphook
  • Location: Liphook

I'm not surprised to see the Ibdian sub-continent get mentioned, I've heard about some beastly tornadoes in that part of the world, indeed it probably even betters the American plains in terms of intensity from waht I've heard its ust obviously the USA is vastly more built up and easier to travel across then Bangladesh.

Also some parts of Africa don't shock me either, having seen some of the brutal looking MCS complexes that roll off Africa between May-November its not a shock, indeed some go on to help develop low pressure systems which go on to become hurricanes down the line.

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Posted
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms :D
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos

A friend of mine is doing his PHD and him and a couple of others researchers are looking to why there has been quite a sudden drop in UK thunderstorm activity. Could be interesting.

Oh do keep us updated I'm certainly interested in the whereabouts of our long-lost storms. At the moment they seem to prefer the NE lol.

Certainly will be interesting on all accounts! :)

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Posted
  • Location: BRISTOL
  • Location: BRISTOL

I would love to go to Miami,i recently saw some vids of storms hitting Miami Beach and was like wow thats amazing,I also came across a site that showed storms forecast nearly all day everyday for the whole week and into the next,not that it will ever happen but if i won the lotto im definitely moving there!

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Posted
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms :D
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos

Some of the most powerful thunderstorms over the United States occur in the Midwest and the Southern states. These storms can produce large hail and powerful tornadoes. Thunderstorms are relatively uncommon along much of the West Coast of the United States, but they occur with greater frequency in the inland areas, particularly the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys of California. In spring and summer, they occur nearly daily in certain areas of the Rocky Mountains as part of the North American Monsoon regime. In the Northeast, storms take on similar characteristics and patterns as the Midwest, only less frequently and severely. During the summer, air-mass thunderstorms are an almost daily occurrence over central and southern parts of Florida.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderstorm

I would love to go to Miami,i recently saw some vids of storms hitting Miami Beach and was like wow thats amazing,I also came across a site that showed storms forecast nearly all day everyday for the whole week and into the next,not that it will ever happen but if i won the lotto im definitely moving there!

Lol if that's the case I'll move there with you! :winky:

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Posted
  • Location: The North Kent countryside
  • Weather Preferences: Hot summers, snowy winters and thunderstorms!
  • Location: The North Kent countryside

Lol if that's the case I'll move there with you! :winky:

Then Gloucesterhsire would suddenly start getting massive storms and Miami would dry up!

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Posted
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms :D
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos

Then Gloucesterhsire would suddenly start getting massive storms and Miami would dry up!

That'll be typical :blush: Just imagine if I went on the Netweather storm chase! :whistling: (I will say no more) Lol

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Posted
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms :D
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos

Meteorologists estimate that, at any given moment, some 1,800 thunderstorms are in progress over Earth's surface, and about 18 million a year around the world. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 to 125,000 thunderstorms occur in the United States each year. Of that total anywhere from 10 to 20 percent may be severe. The National Weather Service considers a thunderstorm severe if it produces hail at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter, winds of 58 mph or stronger, or a tornado. From 1996 to 2001, a total of 134,005 severe thunderstorms were recorded (not associated with tornadoes), an average of 19,144 annually. The frequency with which these giant generators of local weather occur, along with the quantity of energy they release and the variety of forms this energy can take, make thunderstorms great destroyers of life and property.

Of the thousands of thunderstorms that strike the United States each year, only about 10–15% produce potentially dangerous hailstones. Hail-producing thunderstorms are most frequently found in eastern Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming (the city of Cheyenne, Wyoming, observes the most hailstorm days per year, about 8–10); such storms also develop in the western plains, the Midwest, and the Ohio Valley.

Damage estimates from hailstorms alone reach up to nearly a billion dollars annually in the United States. The most costly single U.S. hailstorm struck on July 11, 1990, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and resulted in damages of $625 million. Golf-ball- and baseball-size hailstones pelted thousands of roofs, vehicles, windows, and other property.

Hail also causes injuries, but rarely death. In fact, during the twentieth century, only three deaths were reportedly due to hail—one was a farmer in Lubbock, Texas, in 1930; an infant in Fort Collins, Colorado, July 30, 1979, and a 19-year old man struck by softball-size hail in Lake Worth, TX, on March 28, 2000. Injuries are also sparse, but more common. In the last full year of statistical hail data (2001) there were 32 hail injuries reported in the United States.

http://www.weatherexplained.com/Vol-1/Thunderstorms.html

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