The Storm That Ate the Atlantic

January 29, 2016
Monster Spring Storm 2013

Spring 2013 came. So did a blizzard. The spring storm rumbled through North America, and left snow in 44 of 50 states and all of Canada.

Then it rolled into the Atlantic Ocean and became a real monster! By the last day of March, the storm stretches across the entire ocean, from Canada to Spain, Greenland to the Caribbean. It became a storm on steroids.

This giant storm now reaches from Greenland to the Caribbean, Canada to Spain. Source: NASA

The storm is much more powerful as well. The Atlantic is unusually warm and it has been using this energy to grow. Now, its 75mph (120.7 kmh) winds are as strong as a Category 1 hurricane. It is creating waves 42 ft. (13 m.) high.

Here's some insight …

When the Atlantic is hot, it energizes storms two ways.

  • First, heat provides energy and moisture, which helps storms grow.
  • Secondly, it creates a blocking pattern, called the Greenland High, which slows storms down and keeps them from drifting east. (This same blocking pattern in October drove Hurricane Sandy towards New Jersey.) Normally the late March blizzard would have raced across the Atlantic, but the Greenland High pinned it in the North Atlantic.

Ultimately, several more low pressures drifted into the storm strengthening it. Meanwhile it was fed by heat from the south and Arctic air from the north.

The Greenland High blocked the storm, so it gathered more cold fronts and grew!

Think of it as a Frankenstorm—a giant made from the parts of several storms and energized by ocean heat and Arctic wind.

Fortunately, for Europe, scientists expect the storm will fall apart. They predict it will fragment into several fronts before it reaches Portugal later this week. In the end, Europe should only feel a series of minor storms. But for now, there is a monster swirling in the Atlantic.

The spring blizzard that left snow in 44 0f 50 states Source: NOAA

Did you experience the storm? Please share your thoughts.


About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.