Share

Large Storm Swirling Off Antarctica Illustrates Frequent Turbulence of Southern Ocean

By Sean Breslin
Published: March 6, 2014

This photo captured by a satellite on March 5, 2014 shows the big storm swirling at the bottom of the world. (Dundee SRS)

The Atlantic Ocean is normally a breeding ground for hurricanes that threaten the United States during the summer months, but a couple thousand miles to the south, storms in the Southern Ocean can be even more perilous.

One such storm was captured by satellites Wednesday, spinning over the open ocean north of Antarctica. In the Southern Hemisphere, it's the end of summer, and storms of this size and magnitude occur frequently in the Southern Ocean, according to weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman.

(PHOTOS: Explore the World's Deepest Blue Hole)

"Deep, intense storms are typical of the Southern Ocean, thanks to the intense temperature contrast between Antarctica and the ocean," said Erdman. "Average wind speeds are the strongest anywhere on Earth."

These storm systems are often hundreds or even thousands of miles wide , and central pressures bottom out at extremely low levels. Erdman said the European forecast model initialized a central pressure between 941 and 943 millibars in its center for this storm Wednesday, a similar level to a storm system that pounded Europe during Christmas 2013. In that storm, at least five people were killed, hundreds of thousands lost power and many travelers spent Christmas Day stranded at European airports, unable to fly through the stormy weather.

(MORE: The 5 Snowiest American Cities 2013-14)

According to Weather Underground's Christopher Burt, a French expedition based in Port Martin, Antarctica measured an average 24-hour wind speed of 108 mph on March 21-22, 1951, a record high for anywhere in the world.

Below is another image of the monster storm that better shows where on the map these storms often occur.

EUMETSAT Photo

Photo captured by EUMETSAT

MORE: Blood Falls of Antarctica

Blood Falls seeps from the end of the Taylor Glacier into Lake Bonney. The tent at left provides a sense of scale for just how big the phenomenon is. (Peter Rejcek/National Science Foundation)


Featured Blogs

Hottest Summers, Coldest Winters for Contiguous U.S.: A Few Years Loom Large

By Christopher C. Burt
May 28, 2015

Keeping track of all-time warmest/coldest daily maximum temperatures and all-time warmest/coldest months on record for any given site is a fairly easy task. However, very few NWS sites provide data concerning what their respective coldest climatological winters (December-February) or hottest climatological summers (June-August) have been. Researching 300 sites in the contiguous U.S. I have put together this summary for such. Below are the methods I used and some of the results, which proved quite interesting.

Tropical Storm Andres Forms in the Northeast Pacific; Not a Threat to Mexico

By Dr. Jeff Masters
May 28, 2015

The Northeast Pacific's first named storm of 2015 is here. Tropical Storm Andres formed at 11 am EDT on Thursday, in the waters about 690 miles southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico. The first named storm of the Northeast Pacific hurricane season usually forms by June 10, so we are nearly two weeks ahead of climatology.

Please check out the new homepage and tell us what you think!

By Shaun Tanner
April 2, 2015

The development team here at Weather Underground has been hard at work producing a new homepage! Please take a look at the sneak peek and tell us what you think!

Meteorological images of the year - 2014

By Stu Ostro
December 30, 2014

My 9th annual edition.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.