A weather mystery solved!

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:28 PM GMT on November 27, 2006

I asked for some help earlier this month to solve the mystery of where the photos below of a hail-damaged aircraft came from. Thanks to email replies I received from Chris Trott, Patty Jones, Ennien Ashbrook, and the pilot, Richard Barrieau, the mystery has been solved! The airplane was a Boeing 727-200 jet flown by Capital Cargo International Airlines (aircraft registration N708A). It took off from Calgary, Canada, and was enroute to Minneapolis the night of August 10, 2006, when it encountered large hail as it climbed from 30,000 feet to 35,000 feet in a thunderstorm over Alberta. An upper-level disturbance, in concert with a warm, moist air mass, combined to produce a large area of severe thunderstorms, including the one that damaged the unfortunate airplane. The hail damaged the airplane's windshield, nose cone, cowling on the two engines, leading edge of the right wing, lenses, and right side lights. An in-flight emergency was declared, and the the aircraft returned safely to Calgary International Airport. The landing was routine, as the pilot's windshield was undamaged and the weather was clear in Calgary. In an email I received from the pilot, he ruefully informed me that August 10 was his birthday. I think next year he should ask for the day off!

According to some of the mechanics that worked on the aircraft, the damage was mostly cosmetic. Replacement of the nose cone, windshield, cowling on the two engines and the leading edge of the right wing, plus the damaged lenses and lights only took a few days, and the plane has been back in service since September. Some erroneous information on the Internet stated that the airplane was a total loss, and that two crew members quit after they walked off the airplane; that was not the case.

The size of the hailstones the airplane hit is impossible to judge, as none of the stones penetrated the windshield and gave themselves up for examination! As the First Officer commented in a blog entry, "there was no way to measure the size of the hail much less compare it to sporting equipment." So, we'll never know if the plane hit golf ball, tennis ball, softball, or beachball sized hail.

We do know that at the ground, the thunderstorm produced at least golf ball sized hail. According to an email I received from Ennien Ashbrook, "the storm caused record damage to several communities between Red Deer and Calgary. In a couple of heavily-hit rural communities, the entire west walls of houses were completely destroyed, not even the interior drywall left standing. Damage-causing hailstorms are common here, but this one was a real record-breaker."

Hail damage to commercial passenger aircraft is rare, as modern aircraft radar and air traffic control procedures are adept at helping aircraft avoid hail-producing thunderstorms. If anyone has photos or accounts of damaging hail that has affected a commercial jet aircraft, I'd be interested to try to discover the most severe hail damage ever suffered by a commercial aircraft. Send suggestions via email or in the comments section of the blog.
One such incident occurred when hail damaged a Brazilian Airbus jet in March of this year (see photos posted by the MetSul Meteorologia Weather Center). This website also mentions two other cases of hail damage to commercial aircraft--a hailstorm over Germany that left a hole the size of a football in an Airbus plane which had more than 200 passengers on board enroute to England, and an Easyjet 737 that had an emergency landing in Geneva in 2003 after hail did extensive damage to the nose and wings of the plane.

Tropical Storm Durian
In the Western Pacific, residents of the Philippine Islands are anxiously watching Tropical Storm Durian, which is on track to hit the main island of Luzon later this week. The storm is currently suffering from reduced outflow aloft thanks to the influence of a trough to the northwest. However, the influence of this trough is expected to wane over the next 24 hours, and Durian is expected to intensify into a major typhoon. If it hits the Philippines as a major typhoon, it would be the fourth such storm to hit the islands in the past two months.

Jeff Masters

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80. Skyepony (Mod)
11:59 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
I checked the raw T# when I was through here a few hours ago, it was a 3.9 then.
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78. hurricane23
6:55 PM EST on November 28, 2006
Pinhole eye...

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77. Skyepony (Mod)
11:43 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
I figured it wouldn't take long... the latest MIMIC shows the pinhole nicely. It's been hauling barely N of due west.
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76. hurricane23
6:48 PM EST on November 28, 2006
Here on the FNMOC site you can clearly make out the pinhole on Durian currently at 75kts...

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74. stormchasher
6:42 PM EST on November 28, 2006
Link heres the center.
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73. 1900hurricane
5:42 PM CST on November 28, 2006
Here comes the arctic express!

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72. hurricane23
6:36 PM EST on November 28, 2006
I meant on satellite imagery....
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70. hurricane23
6:33 PM EST on November 28, 2006
Its going to be daylight in the next couple of hours and iam sure the visibles images from durian will show an eye trying to clear out.

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69. hurricane23
5:23 PM EST on November 28, 2006
Luzon needs to complete preparations as this intensifying typhoon is coming right for them.

Forcast Track
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68. hurricane23
5:15 PM EST on November 28, 2006
Indeed Skyepony i believe in the next couple of hours durian is going to have a very impressive CDO...

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66. Skyepony (Mod)
9:19 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
Here's about the last 12hrs on MIMIC. Lacking just some on rhe east side to have a solid eye wall.
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65. hurricane23
4:20 PM EST on November 28, 2006
Looks like Durian might be takeing a more southern track!

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64. stormchasher
3:46 PM EST on November 28, 2006
Its getting stronger!! now its 85mph.
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63. hurricane23
3:32 PM EST on November 28, 2006
Skyepony Right now this typhoon is under 5kts of shear which may allow futher intensification.I say its 50/50 if durian recurves but the NOGAPS has it making landfall.

Here another view at the current forcast track...

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62. redrobin
7:40 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
Nov 20, 8:02 PM EST

Blast From the Past - 1635 Hurricane

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The winds whipped up to 130 mph, snapping pine trees like pick-up sticks and blowing houses into oblivion. A surge of water, 21 feet high at its crest, engulfing victims as they desperately scurried for higher ground.

The merciless storm, pounding the coast for hours with torrential sheets of rain, was like nothing ever seen before. One observer predicted the damage would linger for decades.

This wasn't New Orleans in August 2005. This was New England in August 1635, battered by what was later dubbed "The Great Colonial Hurricane" - the first major storm suffered by colonial North American settlers, just 14 years after the initial Thanksgiving celebration in Plymouth Colony.

The Puritans, after landing at Plymouth Rock, endured disease, brutal winters and battles with the natives. But their biggest test roared up the coast from the south, an unprecedented and terrifying tempest that convinced rattled residents the apocalypse was imminent.

And why not? The transplanted Europeans knew almost nothing of hurricanes, an entirely foreign phenomenon. Their fears of approaching death were reinforced when a lunar eclipse followed the natural disaster.

Once the weather cleared and the sun rose again, the few thousand residents of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies were left to rebuild and recover from a hurricane as powerful as 1938's killer Long Island Express. The 20th century hurricane killed 700 people, including 600 in New England, and left 63,000 homeless.

"The settlers easily could have packed up and gone home," said Nicholas K. Coch, a professor of geology at Queens College and one of the nation's foremost hurricane experts. "It was an extraordinary event, a major hurricane, and nearly knocked out British culture in America."

Last year, Coch used information that he collected from detailed colonial journals to reconstruct the great hurricane. The 371-year-old data was brought to Brian Jarvinen at the National Hurricane Center, where it was interpreted using the SLOSH (Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes) computer model.

The result: The hurricane likely tracked farther west than was thought, passing over uninhabited easternmost Long Island before moving north into New England. Once clear of the colonies, it veered off into the Atlantic.

Previously, researchers had believed the hurricane missed Long Island - which always annoyed Coch.

"We started out doing this as a lark, and it turned out to be a very interesting piece of science," said Coch. "This information can be applied to any hurricane in the north. I think that's neat."

Coch said the pioneers from across the Atlantic likely endured a Category 3 hurricane, moving faster than 30 mph, with maximum winds of 130 mph and a very high storm surge - 21 feet at Buzzards Bay and 14 feet at Providence. Reports at the time said 17 American Indians were drowned, while others scaled trees to find refuge.

The storm was moving about three times as fast as the typical southern hurricane, and arrived in full bluster. Although it struck nearly four centuries ago, very specific details about the first recorded hurricane in North America were provided by the local leaders' writings.

"The documentation was better than any hurricane until the mid-1800s," said Coch. "That's a story in itself."

John Winthrop, head of the Massachusetts Bay group, recalled in his Aug. 16, 1635, entry that the winds were kicking up a full week before the hurricane.

Once it did arrive, the hurricane "blew with such violence, with abundance of rain, that it blew down many hundreds of trees, overthrew some houses, and drove the ships from their anchors," Winthrop wrote. He detailed the deaths of eight American Indians sucked under the rising water while "flying from their wigwams."

William Bradford, the leader of the Plymouth group, offered a similarly florid recounting.

"Such a mighty storm of wind and rain as none living in these parts, either English or Indian, ever saw," he wrote. "It blew down sundry houses and uncovered others ... It blew down many hundred thousands of trees, turning up the stronger by the roots and breaking the higher pine trees off in the middle."

The local crops, along with the forests and many local structures like the Aptucxet trading house on the southwest side of Cape Cod, suffered major damage. Bradford, in his account, predicted signs of the damage would endure into the next century.

So brutal was the storm that 50 years later, Increase Mather wrote simply, "I have not heard of any storm more dismal than the great hurricane which was in August 1635." His father, the Rev. Richard Mather, was aboard one of the ships nearly sunk at sea by the ferocious weather - but he survived, along with about 100 other passengers.

Others were less fortunate.

The Rev. Anthony Thacher, his cousin and their two families were headed by boat on a short swing from Ipswich to Marblehead. The fast-moving storm smashed their craft on the rocks, dooming all aboard except for the preacher and his wife, who somehow survived the storm as 21 others perished.

"Before daylight, it pleased God to send so mighty a storm as the like was never felt in New England since the English came there nor in the memories of any of the Indians," Thacher wrote in a letter home to his brother.

Thacher's Island and Avery's Rock - named for his late cousin Joseph Avery - remain as geographic reminders of the storm and its toll.

Coch said the most interesting news about the hurricane, more than 350 years later, is that storms can often follow the same track. And just a minuscule shift of the storm's movement in the area of North Carolina - "a fraction of a degree" - could send a hurricane up through Providence and right into Boston, the professor said.

"We could have a catastrophic situation with national repercussions," said Coch. "If the track of a future moves 25 miles to the west of the `Colonial Hurricane,' the dangerous right side could pass right over Boston and Providence. That's why we study old hurricanes in the Northeast."

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61. Skyepony (Mod)
6:25 PM GMT on November 28, 2006

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60. Skyepony (Mod)
6:17 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
My guess is we will see a landfall...what ya think 23?
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59. hurricane23
1:15 PM EST on November 28, 2006
Good afternoon,

Just taking a look at what is a power typhoon in the makings with Durian.Current winds are at 65kts with a central pressure of 976mb.

Infrared shot...

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58. Skyepony (Mod)
6:13 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
surface map
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56. Skyepony (Mod)
4:13 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
28/1433 UTC 12.5N 130.7E T4.0/4.0 DURIAN
28/0833 UTC 11.6N 132.2E T4.0/4.0 DURIAN
28/0233 UTC 11.4N 134.1E T3.5/3.5 DURIAN
27/2033 UTC 11.3N 135.7E T3.0/3.0 DURIAN
27/1433 UTC 10.9N 136.6E T3.0/3.0 DURIAN
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55. Skyepony (Mod)
4:07 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
They gave Durian a floater~
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54. Skyepony (Mod)
4:01 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
The Central Atlantic gale~

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53. Gatorgrrrl
2:49 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
physics update:

#4 Hurricanecrab...extra credit for knowing the physics term...
#5 ricderr...partial extra credit.
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49. Gatorgrrrl
2:05 PM GMT on November 28, 2006
Physics question coming right up...give me a minute!!
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48. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
4:42 PM JST on November 28, 2006
The RSMC La Reunion now forecasts 93S to become a "forte tempete tropicale" with between about 45-60 knots sustained winds before landfall near Mozambique.. sounds like a strong "Tropical Storm Anita".
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47. Skyepony (Mod)
3:07 AM GMT on November 28, 2006
Global SST
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46. Skyepony (Mod)
3:06 AM GMT on November 28, 2006
Yeah, that certainly made a comeback over last night.
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45. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
12:02 PM JST on November 28, 2006
Southwest Indian Ocean cyclone is expected in 48 hours. First name of the southwest indian ocean is Anita.
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43. CAPFlyer
2:28 AM GMT on November 28, 2006
We're not. This just isn't the place for it. This is a blog about active tropical systems, not global warming. Take the debate on global warming to your own blog and debate it there.
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38. TyphoonHunter
1:41 AM GMT on November 28, 2006
JMA still going for hit on central Luzon area. They have upped their max intensity forecast to 75kts now (10 min average.)
6:55 PM EST on November 27, 2006
Thanks Michael
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6:23 PM EST on November 27, 2006
Noticed that the link to the JTWC on the WU tropical page is to http://www.npmoc.navy.mil/jtwc.html
but it has been moved to http://metocph.nmci.navy.mil/jtwc.html
I did not see an appropriate WU email address for a heads-up. Can someone forward this? Thanks
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32. hurricane23
6:38 PM EST on November 27, 2006
Upper-level winds are very fast in the central atlantic and significant development of any kind is highly unlikely.

Here is a visible pic of the non-tropical gale...

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31. Skyepony (Mod)
10:40 PM GMT on November 27, 2006
Maybe they mentioned it because their probibility map was getting over excited...
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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