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Meteorological Images of January 2013

By: Stu Ostro , 10:27 PM GMT on February 02, 2013

The first of my monthly meteorological pic picks, following the 2012 annual edition.


Sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) events have, alas, sometimes been sensationalized and misrepresented during recent years in this social media age -- they don't all result in the same extreme outcome weatherwise in a given location -- but the science involved is legit and there have been papers published on the topic for more than 60 years. These graphics, among the coolest (no pun intended) meteorological ones I've ever seen, show the polar vortex in the process of splitting following this winter's SSW.

Lait potential vorticity at the 550K theta level, 12UTC 6 January and 12UTC 8 January, 2013.
Image credit: Andreas Dörnbrack


A clear sky provides a view of the first sunrise in Barrow, Alaska since November 18, more than two months prior.

Image credit: FAA


Alaska was the destination of this very long plume of moisture, not from Hawaii toward the northeast like a typical "Pineapple Express," but instead sweeping north-northwest from near Mexico.

Image credit: University of Washington


While Alaska is in its long dark winter, south of the equator it's now summer, and this intense tropical cyclone had a dramatic appearance on this water vapor satellite image when northwest of Australia. Narelle's strongest part stayed offshore and eventually the cyclone weakened.

Image credit: Naval Research Laboratory Monterey


Another swirl in the Southern Hemisphere had some characteristics of a developing tropical cyclone even though it was completely over land. A couple days after this satellite image, the system as it moved southeast brought flooding rains to Mozambique.

Image credit: NERC Satellite Receiving Station, Dundee University, Scotland


The shading of this satellite image gives a sense of 3-D, and how deep this cyclone was while west of Europe during mid-month.

Image credit: University of Bern


After the deep cyclone in the previous image came another one, larger and stronger, which produced enormous waves. This model forecast showed significant wave heights (average of the top 1/3) of more than 50 feet. I'm not aware of any observations at that particular location, but measurements at a buoy not far away suggested that these predicted wave heights were generally accurate.

Image credit: The Weather Channel


Here's how that cyclone over the North Atlantic appeared on satellite imagery.

Image credit: NASA/GSFC MODIS Rapid Response

Credit for above two images and the next one below: NERC Satellite Receiving Station, Dundee University, Scotland


And a gigantic cyclone over the North Pacific looked similar to the last of the North Atlantic cyclone images above. Both storms had exceptionally low central pressures, which also fell at a rate far exceeding the requirement for being a meteorological bomb.


Here's another one to add to the collection of meteorological faces that I posted recently. Eyes, a nose and a mouth are at the head of the oblong feature on this water vapor satellite image.

Image credit: University of Washington


Just offshore of New England, although it didn't have a true eyewall, the center of the winter storm that TWC named Jove took on the appearance of an eye. To the west cold air streamed in behind the storm and so did lake-effect snowbands off the Great Lakes. Erie, Pennsylvania had its largest snow amount on a calendar day in January in records that go back to the late 1800s.

Image credit: NASA/GSFC MODIS Rapid Response


The day prior, Jove produced bursts of snow (top image) on its southwest flank which resulted in a tragic series of vehicular accidents. After the snow came through, a patchwork of clouds moved in (bottom image).

Image credit: UW-Madison SSEC/CIMSS


At the end of the month, values of specific humidity reached more than 7 standard deviations above average for the time of year within the gray area on this analysis, and as Dr. Masters blogged about, January precipitable water records were broken in a number of locations in the Midwest and Northeast. A few days prior a new January record PW value was set above Tucson, Arizona.

Image credit: NOAA / NWS Salt Lake City


As the humid, warm air surged north and east, it led to this anomalous sight. In midwinter, you'd expect that a line of intense precipitation on radar coming in off of Lake Erie would be one of those lake-effect snowbands like with Jove that can produce whiteout conditions and persist. But this was a line of thunderstorms, and it was sweeping rapidly through.


That extreme moisture along with record high temperatures, explosively unstable air, and strong winds throughout the atmosphere including an exceptionally high-velocity low-level jet led to a supercharged atmosphere, heavy rain & flash flooding, an extraordinarily massive outbreak of severe thunderstorms, one of the largest January tornado outbreaks on record, and an incredibly vivid banding structure on this satellite image shortly before a high-end-EF3 tornado hit Adairsville, Georgia, the convective bands oriented perpendicular to the SSW-NNE line of thunderstorms.

That outbreak's extreme number of severe thunderstorm wind damage reports extended as far north as Indiana and New Jersey, another case of what appears to be a changing seasonal convective climatology.

Image credit: UW-Madison SSEC/CIMSS

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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4. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
10:03 PM GMT on February 04, 2013
stuostro has created a new entry.
3. Stu Ostro , Senior Meteorologist
11:13 PM GMT on February 02, 2013
O no, I neither want to have a typo nor go back a year in my life! :) Thank you, msSyzygy - I have corrected it!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
2. TropicalAnalystwx13
10:42 PM GMT on February 02, 2013
Interesting pics, as usual, Stu.

Thanks for the blog.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1. msSyzygy
10:42 PM GMT on February 02, 2013
Beautiful images...but are they from Jan 2012 or Jan 2013? Title says "2012".

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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About stuostro

Proud to be a weather-obsessed weather geek! \m/ Senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel. If not a meteorologist, would be a DJ ♫

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