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Blog

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

Filtering by Category: Historic Events

2:30 PM | *America’s Deadliest Natural Disaster…the Galveston Hurricane of 1900*

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 PM | *This kind of solar storm could be devastating in today’s world…"The Carrington Event” of 1859*

Paul Dorian

The sun continues to be very quiet and it has been without sunspots this year 69% of the time as we approach what is likely to be one of the deepest solar minimums in a long, long time. In fact, all indications are that the upcoming solar minimum may be even quieter than the last one which was the deepest in nearly a century.  In addition, there are now forecasts that the next solar cycle, #25, will be the weakest in more than 200 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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7:15 AM | *It was this time of year in 79 A.D. that Mount Vesuvius erupted and Pompeii, Italy was changed forever…some amazing new discoveries*

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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7:15 AM | *The 50th anniversary of Hurricane Camille*

Paul Dorian

1969 was a remarkable year and will be long remembered as the year when man first walked on the moon, the Miracle Mets shocked the sports world, and the Woodstock Festival took place in upstate New York.  It will also be remembered as the year when a major hurricane –Hurricane Camille – struck the United States as a category 5 storm and the second most intense tropical cyclone on record (only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane had a lower central pressure at landfall).  Hurricane Camille made landfall in Mississippi and wreaked havoc from the Gulf States to as far inland as the Mid-Atlantic with widespread flooding, record rainfall, and it cost the lives of several hundreds of people along its path of destruction.

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7:15 AM | *There is no "weather" on the moon, but there are extreme differences in temperatures*

Paul Dorian

It’s been 50 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on its surface. There were 5 subsequent Apollo missions that successfully landed humans on the moon and brought them safely back to Earth.  What kind of “weather” did these astronauts need to contend with on the moon? The moon has a very thin atmosphere so it cannot trap heat or insulate the surface.  There is no wind there, no clouds, no rain, no snow and no storms, but there is “day and night” and there are extreme differences in temperatures depending on where the sun is shining.

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12:30 PM | *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 six 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 six 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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7:15 AM | *The deadly heat wave of July 1936 in the middle of the hottest decade ever for 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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7:15 AM | *Deadly Hurricane Audrey slammed into southwest Louisiana 62 years ago as one of the the strongest June hurricanes 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-two 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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7:15 AM | *One of the worst natural disasters Pennsylvania ever faced – 47 years ago*

Paul Dorian

The official Atlantic Basin tropical season was barely underway in June of 1972 when a polar front interacted with an upper-level trough of low pressure over the Yucatan Peninsula.  Within a few days, a tropical depression formed and the system moved slowly eastward and emerged in the western Caribbean Sea by the middle of the month.  The depression began to intensify over the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea and soon became Tropical Storm Agnes – the first named storm of the 1972 tropical season.  Ultimately, Agnes would reach hurricane status, grow to a diameter of about 1000 miles, and become the costliest hurricane at the time to hit the US and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was the prime focus of its wrath.

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7:15 AM | *The most important weather forecast of all-time: D-Day, June 6, 1944*

Paul Dorian

With thousands of lives on the line, there is no doubt that the weather forecast made for the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France during World War II was the most important of all-time and one of the most difficult as well given the lack of sophisticated forecasting tools that we enjoy in today’s world.  The first satellite image was still nearly sixteen years away (TIROS on April 1, 1960) and reliable computer forecast models were still decades away. This Thursday, June 6th, marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and the weather forecast for that historic event makes for quite an interesting story in what turned out to be a pivotal moment in world history.  Years of detailed planning went into the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, but success hinged on one element that no military commander could control — the weather.  Defying his colleagues, Captain James Martin Stagg advised General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower to postpone the invasion of Normandy by one day from June 5th to June 6th because of uncertain weather conditions in a weather forecast that changed the course of World War II and altered world history.

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