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Blog

Weather forecasting and analysis, space and historic events, climate information

Filtering by Category: Historic Events

8:00 AM | *America's deadliest natural disaster...September 8th, 1900 in Galveston, Texas*

Paul Dorian

At the end of the 19th century, America was beaming with confidence and feeling bigger and stronger than ever before.  The city of Galveston, Texas was booming with a population of 37,000 residents on the east end of Galveston Island which runs about thirty miles in length and anywhere from one and a half to three miles in width. Its position on the harbor of Galveston Bay along the Gulf of Mexico made it the center of trade and the biggest city in Texas in the year 1900.  A quarter of a century earlier, a nearby town was destroyed by a powerful hurricane and this object lesson was heeded by many Galveston residents and talks of a seawall to protect the city were quite prevalent.  However, no seawall was built and sand dunes along the shore were actually cut down to fill low areas in the city, removing what little barrier there was to the Gulf of Mexico.  This proved to be a fatal mistake for the city of Galveston in what nobody could foresee happening to this magical place that seemed destined to become the New York of the Gulf of Mexico.

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8:00 AM | *This kind of solar storm could be devastating in today’s world…the "Carrington Event" of 1859*

Paul Dorian

The sun has been relatively quiet in recent years and the current solar cycle (#24) is actually on pace to be the weakest in over one hundred years. Even weak solar cycles, however, can produce significant solar storms. In fact, it was this same time of year back in 1859 when a super solar storm - now known as the “Carrington Event” - took place during another weak solar cycle (#10).  The event has been named for the British astronomer, Richard Carrington, as he observed from his own private observatory the largest solar flare which caused a major coronal mass ejection (CME) to travel directly toward Earth.  Fortunately, solar storms of this magnitude are quite rare as it would very likely have a much more damaging impact on today’s world than it did in the 19th century.  

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11:00 AM | *79 years later, the tornado scene in the “Wizard of Oz” still a classic*

Paul Dorian

In a movie filled with memorable quotes, one of the shortest and simplest might have been “It’s a Twister!”, but it was part of a tornado scene that is still considered to be a classic nearly eight decades later.  August 25, 1939 was the official release date of the “Wizard of Oz" which was the first movie to depict an authentic looking tornado using improbable “1930’s style” special effects. Through the decades, this all-time classic has inspired movie-goers and “weather weenies” alike with the scene of a twister lifting Dorothy’s home into the sky over rural Kansas farm land.

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8:00 AM | *It was this same time of year in 79 A.D. that Mount Vesuvius erupted and Pompeii, Italy was changed forever*

Paul Dorian

It was shortly after noon on August 24th in the year 79 A.D. and Mount Vesuvius sent a tall cloud of steam and ash high up into the atmosphere.  The ancient Roman town of Pompeii near modern day Naples was soon covered in complete darkness and the thickness of the falling debris increased by about 6 to 8 inches per hour.  The rocks which comprised the debris were up to 3 inches in diameter and fell with a speed of up to 100 miles/hour.  This first phase of the eruption led to casualties primarily caused by roof collapses.  After 12 hours of continuous explosive activity, the second phase of the eruption began and it was characterized by substantial flow of lava down the sloping Mount Vesuvius and this caused additional deaths and destruction.  In fact, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius spewed 1.5 million tons of lava per second into Pompeii and surrounding towns.  In a short period of time, two thousand people were killed, the small towns of Herculaneum, Oplonti and Stabiae were destroyed, and Pompeii was changed forever.

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8:00 AM | *Almost a year has passed since the “Great American Solar Eclipse” and there are some important preliminary findings…another opportunity comes in 2024*

Paul Dorian

It was just about one year ago when America went crazy for the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse on US soil since 1918 and it provided a great opportunity for scientists.  Next week marks the one-year anniversary of what was referred to as “The Great American Solar Eclipse” as on August 21st, 2017, the moon passed between the sun and earth and the result was a 67-mile wide shadow that crossed the country from Oregon-to-South Carolina.  Total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth every year or so, but generally cast their shadows over oceans or remote land masses.  If you missed last year’s total solar eclipse or it turned out to be cloudy in your area then there will be another opportunity in the not-too-distant future during April 2024.

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9:50 AM | *It was during the height of the Cold War and a solar storm nearly sparked a nuclear war*

Paul Dorian

It was during the height of the Cold War and a powerful solar storm could have led to a disastrous military conflict between the US and Soviet Union if not for the early efforts of the US Air Force to monitor solar activity. On May 23rd, 1967, a solar storm took place that was so powerful, it jammed radar and radio communications in polar regions and the US Air Force actually began to prepare aircraft for war thinking the nation’s surveillance radars were being jammed by the Soviet Union. Fortunately, space weather forecasters in the military suspected there might be another cause and they relayed information about the possibility that a solar storm could have been the reason for the disrupted radar and radio communications.  As it turned out, this information was enough to keep the planes on the ground and the US avoided a potential nuclear weapon exchange with the Soviet Union.

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10:20 AM | *The deadly heat wave of July 1936 and perhaps the worst ever in the US*

Paul Dorian

One of the most widespread and destructive heat waves ever recorded in the US took place in the summer of 1936 which fell right in the middle of the hottest and driest decade ever for the nation. The decade of the 1930’s is renowned for the “Great Depression” and the “Dust Bowl”, both of which caused calamitous human suffering in this country.  Not only were huge numbers of crops destroyed by the heat and lack of moisture in the “Dust Bowl” era, but thousands of lives were lost as a result of the heat, drought and economic hardship. Many of the all-time high temperature records that were set in the decade of the 1930’s still stand today.  The heat wave experienced in 1936 began in late June, reached a peak in July, and didn’t really come to an end until September.  This extreme heat wave was particularly deadly; especially, in high population areas where air conditioning was still in the early stages of development.

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8:00 AM | *Hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth took place on July 10th, 1913 in Death Valley, California – a year with many amazing weather events*

Paul Dorian

The high temperature forecast in Death Valley, California for the next couple of days is an impressive 115°F or so, but this is rather pedestrian compared to the all-time record high that occurred on this date one hundred and five years ago.  On July 10th, 1913, the weather observer at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley recorded a high temperature of 134°F. One hundred and five years later, this is still the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth. In addition to this all-time and worldwide high temperature record, the year of 1913 produced numerous other extreme weather events.

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11:00 AM | *A race against time in Alaska to recover the wreckage and human remains from a 1952 military plane crash as an advancing glacier pushes towards a nearby lake*

Paul Dorian

For 60 years, the Colony Glacier of Alaska hid the remains of 52 serviceman in a frozen grave after an Air Force plane crashed into the side of a mountain during bad weather.  The military transport plane was en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage when it crashed into Mount Gannett on November 22nd, 1952 in the Chugach Mountain Range about 40 miles east of Anchorage.  The wreckage of the plane and the remains of the 52 servicemen slid into the glacier next to the mountain. Recovery efforts never got into high gear that year as Alaska’s unforgiving winter came on quickly and by later the following year, the glacier and new deep snow pack had claimed the aircraft and its passengers.  

It was not until 60 years later in June 2012 that the wreckage was spotted about 12 miles from the original crash site by members of the Army National Guard during a routine training mission. Since then crews have returned every summer to try to recover the remains and personal effects during a small window of opportunity of about one month when it is relatively safe to do so on the glacier. This painstaking effort is in a race against time, however, as the relentlessly north-flowing Colony Glacier continues to advance relatively quickly and it won’t be long before the plane wreckage and passenger remains are pushed into nearby Inner Lake George - and perhaps lost forever to history.

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7:00 AM | *Deadly Hurricane Audrey slammed into southwest Louisiana 61 years ago as the strongest June hurricane to ever make landfall in the US*

Paul Dorian

Nowadays, when the people of New Orleans think of devastating hurricanes they think of Katrina, but before 2005, the most notorious storm name in Louisiana was Audrey. Sixty-one years ago today, Hurricane Audrey slammed into the southwest coast of Louisiana and became the earliest major hurricane (category 3) to make landfall in the US.  Hurricane Audrey killed hundreds of people – estimated to be somewhere between 400 and 500 - including many of whom to this day remain unidentified and tragically, about one-third of those were children. The high number of deaths in an era without satellite imagery were attributed to the storm moving ashore earlier and stronger than predicted while most people were sleeping. 

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