Ask Josh: The Perfect Storm

Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick explains how it formed eighteen years ago.

Storm systems come and go.  That's what weather is all about.  Usually we just talk about them for a couple days and then move on to the next one.  But every now and then a storm grows to epic proportions and is talked about for decades to come!

I received an e-mail from one of my blog readers about "The Perfect Storm."  Lisa from Portsmouth, Ohio asks "how did the perfect storm form?"

In October of 1991 a storm stronger than any in recorded history hit the coast off of Gloucester, Massachusetts. This "Perfect Storm", so called because it was three storms combined into one created an almost apocalyptic situation in the Atlantic ocean, where boats encountered waves of 100 feet high!  That's the equivalent of a ten-story building. These storms are some of the strongest and most terrifying manifestations of nature's strength.

There were a lot of events going on at the time, weather-wise. Meteorologically, we had an old hurricane that was beginning to die out in the Atlantic, which was Hurricane Grace. At the same time, there was energy coming across from the Great Lakes and you also had an old frontal system that was around the New England area. Basically what happened is that the energy from these three storms combined over time out in the Atlantic. As time went on, the energy caused the old hurricane to really regenerate itself and it basically became another hurricane.

Hurricane Grace moving north.

What made this storm so extraordinary was the fact that, for one thing, it had been an old hurricane which did regenerate itself, and you also had three things combining meteorologically to form what we now call the 'perfect storm' or the 'no-name storm,' because it wasn't given a name of a hurricane. Sometimes when storms interact, they can flip around each other, one can cause another one to die. The interaction of these two was most interesting, because it actually combined into one and did form one perfect storm.

Old Hurricane Grace merged with front and new energy to form "The Perfect Storm"

The 'Andrea Gail', a long liner belonging to a sword fishing fleet out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, didn't make it home. During the search, some wreckage from the Andrea Gail was found on nearby Sable Island, known for its shipwrecks throughout marine history. Very little else of the ill-fated boat has been found, including the six crew-members who were on it.

In 2000 a movie named "The Perfect Storm" starring George Clooney came out and was a blockbuster.

Thanks for reading and keep those great questions coming and be sure to post your comments below!


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