Giant Storm that Battered Alaska May be Strongest on Record for the North Pacific

By Tom Yulsman | November 8, 2014 4:33 pm

An animation of false color infrared images from the GOES West weather satellite shows the powerful Bering Sea storm swirling across Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. (Images: SSEC/University of Wisconsin, Madison. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

As the monster storm that once was Super Typhoon Nuri swept toward the western Aleutian Islands, bringing hurricane force winds and 50-foot waves, it may have been one for the record books. But luckily, there are no reported injuries or significant damage on the sparsely populated islands.


Source: Ocean Prediction Center

One measure of the strength of a storm is the atmospheric pressure at its center. The lowest pressure ever recorded in a North Pacific storm was 925 millibars, measured in Dutch Harbor in 1977. The pressure at the heart of the current storm is estimated to have bottomed out at 924 mb, which would make it the strongest on record for this part of the world. (Click on the thumbnail at right to see the estimate from NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center.)

Meteorologists don’t have an actual measurement of the storm’s central pressure when it bottomed out because it happened over the open ocean, not over any weather monitoring stations. Even so, there’s no denying the storm’s fury and size.

To get a sense of just how big this storm is, consider this image from a GOES weather satellite, captured today:


A GOES satellite captured this image of the massive storm swirling in the Bering Sea near the western Aleutian Islands on Nov. 8, 2014. (Source: National Weather Service)

The central part of the storm alone is about as big as the entire state of Alaska.

Fishing boats featured on the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch program were reported to be riding out the storm. “We have from three to five boats in the water in full production right now,” Deadliest Catch executive producer David Pritikin is quoted as saying by Discovery News. “Some are racing back to Dutch Harbor, others will be out there fishing through it. They won’t be able to make it back in time, and they have the quota to catch.”

For more details about the storm, including an excellent explanation of how it is expected to help trigger an outbreak of frigid temperatures across the U.S. midsection next week, see Andrew Freedman’s story at Mashable.




ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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