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]

Hurricane Kate

November 10th, 2015 |

GOES-13 Visible (0.65 µm) imagery (Click to animate) (Click to enlarge)

GOES-13 Visible Imagery, above, shows Tropical Storm Kate northeast of the Bahamas late in the day on 9 November. The storm is over a region of warm sea surface temperatures, below (imagery from the CIMSS Tropical Weather Site), in an environment of low shear. RapidScat winds show winds between 35 and 40 knots to the northeast of the storm center. The projected path is also shown, paralleling the East Coast before moving out to sea. The path takes the storm north of Bermuda as well.

Sea-surface Temperatures, Wind Shear, and near-surface Winds, 9 November 2015 (Click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP viewed the storm as well, shortly after noon on 9 November. The Visible (0.64 µm), near-infrared (1.61 µm) and 11.35 µm imagery are shown below. The 1.61 imagery shows darker returns over ice clouds because of absorption at that wavelength. The extensive cirrus shield over Kate’s convection (and along the East Coast is association with frontal system) is readily apparent. Water-based clouds, in contrast, are bright white in both the visible and near-infrared channels.

Suomi NPP Visible (0.64 µm), near-infrared (1.61 µm) and infrared (11.45 µm) at 1836 UTC, 9 November 2015 (Click to enlarge) (Click to enlarge)

ASCAT winds from 0230 UTC on 10 November (below) also show strongest winds on the northern and eastern sides of the storm.

METOP Scatterometer winds and GOES-13 Infrared (10.7 µm) at 0230 UTC 10 November 2015 (Click to enlarge)

Kate was upgraded to a minimal Hurricane at 0900 UTC on 11 November.