40th Anniversary of the “Edmund Fitzgerald Storm”

November 10th, 2015 |

NOAA-4 daytime and nighttime Infrared composites [click to enlarge]

NOAA-4 daytime and nighttime Infrared composites [click to enlarge]

Today marks the 40-year anniversary of the powerful Great Lakes storm that was responsible for the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald (which occurred on 10 November 1975). The image composites (above, courtesy of Jean Phillips, Schwerdtfeger Library) were constructed from daytime and nighttime overpasses of the NOAA-4 polar-orbiting satellite, and show the large cloud shield of the storm moving northeastward from the Great Lakes into eastern Canada during the 10-11 November 1975 period. The rapidly-intensifying nature of the storm can seen by comparing the 12 UTC surface analyses on 09 November and 10 November.

Since the first operational geostationary weather satellites (SMS-1 and SMS-2) were relatively new back in 1975, the CIMSS Regional Assimilation System (CRAS) model was utilized to generate synthetic Infrared (IR) satellite images to provide a general idea of what the satellite imagery might have looked like for this intense storm. The 48-hour sequence of synthetic CRAS IR images (below) shows the evolution of the model-derived cloud features at 1-hour intervals.

CRAS model simulated Infrared imagery [click to enlarge]

CRAS model simulated Infrared imagery [click to enlarge]

Additional information about this Edmond Fitzgerald storm can be seen on this website, as well as the NWS Marquette and this journal article.

A strong storm of similar character developed over the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region on 9-11 November 1998. GOES-8 (GOES-East) Infrared (10.7 µm) and Water Vapor (6.7 µm) images of this 1998 storm are shown below (and are also available as YouTube videos). This storm set all-time minimum barometric pressure records for the state of Minnesota, with 962 mb (28.43″) recorded at Albert Lea and Austin in southern Minnesota. On the cold side of the storm, up to 12.5 inches of snow fell at Sioux Falls in southeastern South Dakota. Wind gusts were as high as 64 mph in Minnesota and 94 mph in Wisconsin.

GOES-8 Infrared (10.7 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-8 Infrared (10.7 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-8 Water Vapor (6.7 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-8 Water Vapor (6.7 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

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