Climate scientists predict an above-average number of hurricanes for 2010 (so far we’re well below normal, but hurricane season isn’t over). Hurricanes, with their 75+ mile per hour winds, torrential rains, and associated tornado activity are frigthening. For Earth.
The recent storms that have brought such devastating floods to China and the Iowa, as well as storms depicted in cinema like Twister, The Perfect Storm, and The Day After Tomorrow–all based upon real events (well, 2 out of 3 anyway)– reveal Nature’s fury at its full force, right? Absolutely! For Earth.
There are, however, places in the Solar System where Earth’s most violent maelstroms would be considered puny, and whose most violent wind would be a gentle breeze. The Great Red Spot of Jupiter, for example, is a hurricane-like storm roughly 2 1/2 times the size of the planet Earth that has been raging with winds up to 400 mph, and was first seen by Galileo. In recent years, Jupiter has developed a second red spot (nicknamed “Little Red”) that began as a “perfect storm” where three jovian storms collided back in 2000, and turned red in 2006.
The jovian planets of the outer Solar System are where one truly can view the full force of Nature’s climatic fury. Recent observations of Saturn reveal superstorms (at right) and mega lightning bolts –even a giant blizzard— that put the terrestrial equivalents to shame.
As we explore planets in other star systems, particularly the “hot Jupiters“, we may find superstorms in their atmospheres so huge and violent that they make those in the jovian planets the Solar System as puny in comparison as the storm of Earth are relative to those on, say, Saturn.