• International Sites
  • Manage Alerts
  • Manage All Locations
  • Measurements

WeatherInsights®: The Weather Channel Blog

December 29, 2007
Weather images of 2007
Stu Ostro, Senior Meteorologist

Last year at this time I posted an entry which contained satellite and radar highlights of 2006, so I figured I might as well do another one for 2007 -- the second annual! This time I decided not to restrict the images to radar and satellite, and rather than grouping them by type of weather, they're generally in chronological order ... with one notable exception: the image I've chosen as the most stunning of the year, which is at the end.

There was quite an array of weather this year ... in fact as I went back and reviewed it there were things I had forgotten about ... and devices such as satellites and radar and computers and cameras enabled the meteorological phenomena to be captured visually for the ages. The following is not meant to represent a complete list of every significant weather event everywhere or images thereof, but there's a lot of stuff which will bring back memories. What was most memorable weatherwise for you in 2007?


The year got off to a surreally warm start, with bees buzzing, flowers blooming, and maple sap flowing in early January ...

Below is a photograph that I took (with a cell phone camera, no less!), and thus it represents a personal memory rather than a significant weather event ... but I'll never forget seeing this in January over the Owens Valley in California with the Sierra escarpment in the background ... living in the eastern U.S., I had never observed such a spectacular "flying saucer" (mountain wave) cloud ... and it represents one of the things I was talking about in this recent entry on why meteorology exists ...

On Groundhog Day, a mobile home in Lake Mack, Florida is completely gone following a series of tornadoes which hit that community and others including Lady Lake, contributors to what would go on to be the deadliest year for tornadoes in the U.S. since 1999.

[Click on image for larger version]

The swath of purple represents an eruption of convection over and downwind of Lake Ontario, part of an epic bout of lake-effect snow in early February that ended up producing more than 100" in some places including 141" (!) at Redfield, New York, and mountainous snowbanks into which Mike Seidel frolicked during TWC's coverage.

On the heels of that came a storm (water vapor depiction thereof below) which on Valentine's Day and the days prior brought a variety of very inclement weather to a large area, including New York state again, where up to 42" of snow fell.

Radar images of the devastating Enterprise, Alabama and Eagle Pass, Texas tornadoes in March and April, respectively:

Meanwhile, the tornado season in the Texas panhandle and eastern New Mexico got off to an early start, with Clovis getting hit in late March, and then a few days before the Eagle Pass tornado the radar was lit up including with supercells which produced twisters in Cactus and Tulia.

Below is a satellite loop of the much-hyped mid-April "Patriots' Day Storm." A quick recap: Yes, it was big and bad, and as I said in my lengthy meteorological and philosophical analysis at the time, I don't want to minimize the suffering that occurred ... but public officials, meteorologists, and the media have a responsibility to make and communicate accurate assessments, and even after the storm there were pronouncements such as that it caused the "worst flooding in New Jersey in decades." Well, the official totals are now in, and the $ damage in my home state was ~105 million along with three fatalities and no other injuries reported. The damage there from Hurricane Floyd's flooding in 1999: $545 million, plus 6 deaths and 188 injuries.

This was an inconsequential but eye-catching (not only catching humans' eyes, but appearing to have one of its own!) little doohickey just offshore of Florida in late April ... and, in hindsight, an omen of what was to come during hurricane season. No, it wasn't a particularly bad year for the U.S. compared to the likes of 2004 and 2005, but the southeast U.S. coast and adjacent subtropical Atlantic was a focus of activity including many tropical, subtropical, and non-tropical systems.

Speaking of which ... soon came Andrea, which started as a strong and gigantic non-tropical cyclone which in tandem with a high pressure system to the north created a steep pressure gradient, strong winds, and monstrous waves, such as at this buoy:

It then became a classic subtropical storm, the record earliest in the season that a subtropical or tropical storm has directly affected the U.S.

And then after weakening, its circulation drew in smoke from the wildfires in parched Georgia and Florida:

[Click on image for large version]

The action shifted into southern Canada in late June, as the first tornado in that country to be rated an F5 struck Elie, Manitoba (Canada has not yet adopted the new EF Scale of tornado intensity) ...

[Click on image for larger version and copyright info]

Then ... the next day, severe thunderstorms erupted in southern Canada again including a cyclic tornadic supercell which moved from Saskatchewan into Manitoba ... and courtesy of Reed Timmer, here is a spectacular tornado video, which can be enjoyed because at the time the twister was in a very rural area and not hurting anyone or destroying property. You can see the tornado grow in size; darken and become dramatically contrasted with the backlight, reminiscent of the photogenic Dimmitt, Texas tornado in 1995; and then evolve into gyrating multiple vortices which become amazingly well-defined at 5:05 of the video.

Here are a couple of unusual sights. No, not because the close-up of the inner core of the tropical cyclone is so vivid -- although this one is particularly 3-D-ish, this sort of amazing-looking structure is often seen courtesy of high-resolution MODIS imagery when tropical cyclones become very intense. Nor is the second image out of the ordinary -- it's a type known as a microwave image which meteorologists utilize nowadays.

What was unusual is that the Category 5 intensity in the first image was over the Arabian Sea, and at the time of the second one, Gonu was still of hurricane strength as it headed into the Gulf of Oman.

It might not have rained for 40 days and 40 nights in a row last spring and summer, but folks in the central U.S. sure needed an ark at times. This was the 90-day precipitation total as of late July, and the rains kept on comin' for awhile after that.

At one point Iowa got blasted repeatedly by "northwest flow" thunderstorms, one of which produced this gigantic hailstone:

While the weather was stormy there in July, it was sizzling in Montana, and the heat transfered to many other states as August progressed.

This isn't something you see every day: a tornado-producing thunderstorm at sunrise in New York City! It occurred as the heat tried to surge into the Northeast, and the EF-2 twister was Brooklyn's strongest in the historical record.

What the hey? A tropical cyclone reintensifying over Oklahoma? Yep, that's Erin on August 19, contributing more heavy rainfall to the beleaguered heartland ... and producing sustained winds of tropical storm strength and gusts to hurricane force!

A couple days later on the Yucatan peninsula, Dean became the first Atlantic basin landfalling Category 5 since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Then Felix came onshore in Nicaragua, making 2007 the first year on record in which two Atlantic basin hurricanes officially made landfall as Category 5s within the same season.

This model forecast which showed Gabrielle developing, becoming a hurricane, and slamming into New York City helped some forecasters to get wiggy. The storm ended up limping onshore in North Carolina with minimal impact.

What's so notable about this one? Doesn't it show convection over the Gulf of Mexico having gone kaput?

Yes, and that's why I included it! Because despite there being nary a raindrop or puff of wind that evening, by the following evening the radar looked like this, a tipoff that what had quickly become a tropical depression and then tropical storm had the potential to further intensify, which it did, into a compact hurricane (Humberto) before making landfall later at night.

Two weeks later, deja vu in the Gulf of Mexico: another hurricane (Lorenzo) developing with astonishing rapidity, but with an equally remarkable size (tiny, which contributed to how fast the cyclone intensified, as small circulations can spin up or down quickly). Here's the surface map from when Lorenzo became a hurricane, showing nearly calm winds not far away from the center! Nevertheless, Lorenzo was potent enough to produce wind damage, flooding, mudslides, and six fatalities in Mexico.

The blue colors indicate that by late September La Nina was developing, leading to the usual sensationalism. Never mind that all the stuff depicted so far in this entry had already happened before La Nina!

Whether during El Nino, neutral conditions, or La Nina, each of which was present consecutively, it didn't matter -- 2007 was a wild year. The next example: the largest October tornado outbreak on record, and one which was unusually far north for that month. Here is a map showing where all the severe weather struck, and a radar image with three rotating thunderstorms lined up in a row (red/green "couplets") in Kentucky during the peak of the outbreak.

A week later, a particularly vicious Santa Ana windstorm with wind gusts as high as 100+ mph fanned the flames of a wildfire catastrophe in SoCal and even started fires by way of blowing down live wires.

The view from above and a commonplace scene from ground level:

Noel topped Felix as the Atlantic basin tropical cyclone causing the most fatalities, and only a couple of others including Katrina have been deadlier since Mitch nearly a decade ago. Here is Noel producing tragically heavy rainfall, flooding, and mudslides in Hispaniola.

Noel interacted with a large high pressure system to its north to produce a brisk and very persistent onshore flow in Florida. I'm sure some folks in the Sunshine State would want me to point out that the effects, on the heels of other events this year, weren't this bad everywhere on its east coast, but where Jim Cantore was the erosion was severe, and in general beach erosion in the Southeast was significant during '07.

Noel wasn't done yet; although officially non-tropical at this time, it sure looked as if it still had some "tropical characteristics," and the storm packed quite a punch in Cape Cod and Nova Scotia.

The cartoon which a viewer sent Steve Lyons and which helped lead to me doing a little wiggin' out of my own ... about hurricane seasonal outlooks:

The worst fatality count of the year from a single weather event -- more than 3000 -- was from Sidr. Of all the images available of the tropical cyclone, I find this one to be the most chilling. It shows the low-lying area of Bangladesh about to be struck, and it's almost as if the wisps of shadowy cirrus clouds high overhead are fingers of death advertising the cyclone's arrival.

The final month of the year came, and so did a storm that was exceptional even by Pacific Northwest standards because of its intensity, duration, and how far off the coast the low pressure center was during the height of the storm. This upper air analysis is representative of the huge "deep tropospheric gyre" which begat the onslaught and was south of a ridge of high pressure aloft of record December strength over northern Alaska and the Arctic Ocean.

Shortly thereafter: a historic ice storm. These are just a few of countless trees weighed down by the freezing rain in the central U.S. -- the same part of the country that experienced too much non-freezing rain earlier in the year.

Hmmm ... is that Olga regenerating into a tropical storm before making landfall in Florida in mid-December? Methinks so.

And, finally, the image which upon first seeing I stared at, speechless, and wondered whether what I thought I was seeing I was really seeing. Yes, it turned out, I was. Here's a view of the whole supercell and then a zoom on the portion to which I'm referring.

[Click here for full-sized version.]

Although radar images can depict signatures that indicate the likelihood a tornado is occurring, conventional (as opposed to portable) Doppler radar generally does not "see" the actual tornado, but in this case it did because the twister that annihilated Greensburg, Kansas was so large in size and its circulation contained so much debris. Pieces of people's shattered homes and businesses, whirled into the sky by the tornado which was so strong that it got the first EF-5 rating on the stringent Enhanced Fujita Scale, contributed to the high "reflectivities" which show up as purple in the donut of destruction.

So as the year draws to a close and we head into '08 and wonder what the weather will bring next year, let's keep in our thoughts the folks in Greensburg and elsewhere who are recovering from the events of 2007 ... while at the same time we marvel at what the atmosphere is capable of and the images it and modern technology can create.



(Some were embedded within the images but here is a complete list.)

The Weather Channel (radar, satellite, other graphics)
NOAA (satellite, tornado damage photo, other graphics)
NASA Earth Science Office and MODIS (satellite)
Naval Research Laboratory (satellite)
UCAR/NCAR (radar, satellite)
GRLevelX (radar)
WeatherTAP (radar)
Bob Hart, Florida State University (model forecast)
Craig Maire II (hailstone photo)
Kobbe Farwick (wildfire photo)
Sonia Sansonetti (ice storm photo)
Justin Hobson, Wikipedia (tornado photo)
Reed Timmer, TornadoVideos.net and YouTube (tornado video)
Gary Brookins, Richmond Times-Dispatch (cartoon)

Posted at 1:45 am ET
Comments on this entry (13)
i remember watching TWC the night of the Greensburg tornado. they kept warning on that tonado at leat half an hour. i'll never forget the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when they said that the tornado wiped uot 95 percent of the town.deep down i knew it was going to be rated EF-4 or EF-5. unfortunately, my second guess EF-5 was the raitng of that storm.seeing news images of the town was shocking, because of the degree of destruction.
Posted by lilapsophile | January 5, 2008
I very distinctly remember that EF2 that blew Queens County this past summer. An EF2 in NYC? Shortly thereafter some of the most fervent GW critics became less incredulous of its plausibility. Approximately a month prior to that event, about 40 miles east of the EF2 location, I had my own run in with an EF1 tornado while on my way to work. There was little destruction, however, it did succeed in making most people, including myself about 3 hours late due to the flooded roads and overwhelmed municipal workers. I've never seen it rain so hard; and more importantly, so quickly. And in regards to that ominous, dreadful doppler radar image of the EF5: I'd assume unusually little conviction was needed by the Kansas weather forecasters to convey the true seriousness of that storm to the local public. If tornado's continue to show up on doppler radar so vividly, perhaps Dr. Forbes will be without a job, as even a regular Joe could have been keen channel surfing, and happened upon that radar image with enough common sense to say, "look hunny, that's a big ternada." Relax Dr. Forbes, you can wipe the sweat from your forehead. I'm kidding and plus I know your job is much more complicated than just analyzing doppler radar images. Let's just hope these images remain extremely unusual in the year of 2008. My one weather prediction for North America for the year of 2008 is one word: VOLATILE.
Posted by Anonymous | January 3, 2008
that cloud over the mountains does look like a tornado. i do like that cloud, shawn! :) Speaking of tornadoes, did you check out the tornado video on this blog? that was awesome, too!;)that huge twister was all by itself in a field, which made it awesome, because, unlike the manchester,SD, video, there weren't any houses destroyed in this video. it was just that Ginormous tornado.:)
Posted by lilapsophile | January 3, 2008
Thanks, Stu. Much appreciated.
Posted by Chris N | January 2, 2008
Happy New Year everyone.
Posted by Jon | January 2, 2008
the tornado that caused the damage in greensberg kansas was so incredible that i looked at the radar image on your website that it looked like a mini hurricane but on land
Posted by timothy | January 1, 2008
I remember the heat wave of August. Basically, I flew from hot and humid Montgomery to hot and dry Phoenix in July. When I came home August 8th, it was surprisingly hot and humid in Phoenix, but it was 100 times worse after I got back to Montgomery. In fact, one part of the area where I had to come through lost power that night, but my house still had power. Man, 2007 was a crazy weather year!
Posted by Shirley A. Burton | January 1, 2008
A facinating look at the weather events of the past year. Thanks, Stu. What will 2008 have in store??????/
Posted by jgood | December 31, 2007
I like Sierra_cloud_rev.jpg, that thing looks like a tornado. Of course I would like that one and I bet LIL does too :-D Happy NEW YEAR everyone and be safe! -Shawn wxtopic.com/forum
Posted by WxTopic.com | December 31, 2007
Stu, Excellent year's wrapup! A wx junkie's classic year -- extreme snowfall to ripping supercells. Awesome tornado video! One day that will be me!
Posted by Allen | December 31, 2007
whew! that twister was HUGE!!!!!!! imagine if a tornado that size was headed in your direction. Scary thought, isn't it? i'll say it again, that thing was HUGE!!!!!
Posted by lilapsophile | December 30, 2007
in case no one has noticed we have another developing tropical system over the atlantic.
Posted by Charles Wachal | December 29, 2007
stu, it was quite the year in terms of wx events. form christmas tornadoes to that lake-effect wallop in new york, to the tornadoes and drought, tropical wx season and fires, this was quite a busy year. i was thinking maybe you guys could make a dvd of this year;s wx events and have the proceeds benefit victims of natural disasters, especially the events mentioned in your blog.
Posted by lilapsophile | December 29, 2007

The Weather Channel Alerts

Get weather alerts by e-mail
and on your mobile phone
  • Severe Weather
  • Extreme Heat
  • Rain
  • Pollen
  • Daily Forecasts, and more!

Get a phone call with severe weather voice alerts. Try Notify! free for a week.


Be prepared, make sure your family is ready to weather the storm.