Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
The new Washington
Post Weather website
Jump to CWG's
Latest Full Forecast
Outside now? Radar, temps
and more: Weather Wall
Follow us on Twitter (@capitalweather) and become a fan on Facebook
Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 05/29/2008

Bulletin: Major Storm Threatens Planet

By Steve Tracton

A tremendously intense and extraordinarily large storm continues to develop, threatening the planet with winds approaching 400 mph, about 2.5 times the 156 mph threshold that would make it a Category 5 hurricane. The storm's dramatic evolution began with the unprecedented merger of three smaller storms. Scientists are baffled as to why the storm turned red, and at a loss when it comes to predicting its future behavior.

But, before you panic and hit the grocery and hardware stores for milk, toilet paper, canned goods, plywood, flashlights, etc., take heart -- this storm is on the planet Jupiter. And that's a good thing, since it would be large enough to envelop the entire Earth, subjecting the world's land, oceans, buildings and people to some of the strongest winds ever observed on any planet in the solar system. The "perfect storm" would rival almost anything the most outrageous of sci-fi flicks could come up with.

Keep reading for more on Jupiter's mysterious storm. For a more down-to-earth look at the weather, see our full forecast through the weekend.

Quasi-true-color view of Jupiter's Little Red Spot, generated using observations from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft and Hubble Space Telescope. Courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/HST

An international team of scientists using data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, along with two Earth-based telescopes, recently confirmed that wind speeds in what is one of the solar system's newest and largest storms, referred to as Jupiter's Little Red Spot (LRS), are as high as about 384 mph. Compared to storms on Earth, it's taken quite a while for the LRS to get its act together. The initial merger of two smaller white storms, which had been observed since the 1930s, took place in 1998. A third white storm was pulled into the mix in 2000.

In late 2005 the new storm turned red and is continuing to develop, just as Jupiter's more well known Great Red Spot (GRS) appears to be diminishing. The best guess is that the storm's redness is the result of winds sucking up and lifting material from deep below Jupiter's cloud tops to high altitudes. There, ultraviolet radiation from the sun somehow produces the reddish hue.

Jupiter's Little Red Spot and Great Red Spot (right) and enlarged view of the LRS (left), as seen by NASA's New Horizon spacecraft. Courtesy NASA.

Why don't astronomers know more about the thermal structure, cloud physics and physical mechanisms responsible for the development and evolution of the GRS and its junior counterpart, the LRS? The most obvious answer is that these phenomena are on a giant gaseous planet over 300 million miles away. But think of it in these terms: We know little more about the inner workings of hurricanes right here on planet Earth.

Meanwhile, if the sci-fi folks aren't impressed with the wrath of the LRS, there's always the massive electrical storm raging on Saturn -- larger than the continental United States -- being observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Order your tickets early -- with lightning bolts1,000 time stronger than lightning on Earth, this one's bound to be next summer's mega blockbuster with crowds lining up days before the movie's debut.

I know I'll be there!

By Steve Tracton  | May 29, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Science, Tracton  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Warming Up ... to a Severe Saturday?
Next: CommuteCast: Delightful Weather Continues


It seems this may be related to "global climate change" on Jupiter. This is quite interesting, condidering the fact that no humans reside on Jupiter.

Posted by: Augusta Jim | May 29, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

make that "considering"

Posted by: Augusta Jim | May 29, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

The headline and opening paragraph were needlessly hyperbolic. I needed to check the calendar to make sure that it wasn't April 1st. If this was an attempt at weather humor it really wasn't funny.

Posted by: More Cowbell | May 29, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I loved the hyperbole.

Posted by: Laura in NWDC | May 29, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Some differing opinions here on the hyperbole. But there's no arguing that "More Cowbell" is an awesome signature.

Posted by: Dan, Capital Weather Gang | May 29, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

For those who cannot get beyond the hyperbole or humor of this post:

What is not hyperbole nor especially humorous is the statement, "We know little more about the inner workings of hurricanes right here on planet Earth". For that matter hurricanes, especially their size, intensity and structure, are not much predictable then Jupiter's Red Spots.

Think about this when a CAT 1 storm unexpectedly "bombs" to CAT 4-5 during an "eye replacement" cycle - just as it approaches Miami.

More on the prediction and uncertainties therein of tropical cyclones in a forthcoming post - stay tuned for the serious stuff.

Posted by: Steve Tracton, Capital Weather Gang | May 29, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

If it were so desired, the hyperbole could be toned down a bit by inserting "a" before "planet" in the headline. That might still be hyperbolic without crossing the line for some readers like "more cowbell." Btw, I watched that sketch again recently online, made my day.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | May 29, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I like the title of this post. But I can see where the "upset" comes from. When I first saw it I thought of a solar storm or something. But I wasn't very concerned. Anyhow...stepping away from the needless controversy over the title...

I think that the weather on other planets is just as cool as our own weather. Hopefully studies on the Large and Small Red Spots on Jupiter, and the electrical storm on Neptune, will help us understand our weather here on Earth a little better one day.

Speaking of weather in space, does anybody remember the dust devils that Mars Rover Spirit caught a few years ago? Those were pretty cool. :)

Posted by: weatherdudeVA (Lake Ridge) | May 29, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse


Space weather - as it affects earth and it's immediate environment (including satellites, manned and unmanned) - is a hot subject these days.

If you were not aware, one center of the National Centers for Environmental Research (NCEP)- along with Severe Storms, Climate, and Hydromet Prediction - is the Space Weather Prediction Center. See:

Posted by: Steve Tracton, Capital Weather Gang | May 29, 2008 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Mars weather report from Canadian Space Agency is here.

Posted by: Steve, Capital Weather Gang | May 30, 2008 12:51 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2012 The Washington Post Company