A storm is any disturbed state of an environment or in an astronomical
body's atmosphere especially affecting its surface, and strongly
implying severe weather. It may be marked by significant disruptions
to normal conditions such as strong wind, tornados, hail, thunder and
lightning (a thunderstorm), heavy precipitation (snowstorm,
rainstorm), heavy freezing rain (ice storm), strong winds (tropical
cyclone, windstorm), or wind transporting some substance through the
atmosphere as in a dust storm, blizzard, sandstorm, etc.
Storms have the potential to harm lives and property via storm surge,
heavy rain or snow causing flooding or road impassibility, lightning,
wildfires, and vertical wind shear. However, systems with significant
rainfall and duration help alleviate drought in places they move
through. Heavy snowfall can allow special recreational activities to
take place which would not be possible otherwise, such as skiing and
Desert storms are often accompanied by violent winds, and pass
The English word comes from
Proto-Germanic *sturmaz meaning "noise,
Lightning storm, Port-la-Nouvelle.
4 Extraterrestrial storms
5 Effects on human society
6 Notable storms in art and culture
6.1 In mythology and literature
6.2 In fine art
6.3 In motion pictures
6.4 In music
8 See also
10 External links
Satellite image of the intense nor'easter responsible for the North
American blizzard of 2006. Note the hurricane-like eye at the center.
Storms are created when a center of low pressure develops with a
system of high pressure surrounding it. This combination of opposing
forces can create winds and result in the formation of storm clouds
such as cumulonimbus. Small localized areas of low pressure can form
from hot air rising off hot ground, resulting in smaller disturbances
such as dust devils and whirlwinds.
Classic storm of summer, in Sierras de Córdoba, Argentina.
There are many varieties and names for storms:
Ice storm — Ice storms are one of the most dangerous forms of
winter storms. When surface temperatures are below freezing, but a
thick layer of above-freezing air remains aloft, rain can fall into
the freezing layer and freeze upon impact into a glaze of ice. In
general, 8 millimetres (0.31 in) of accumulation is all that is
required, especially in combination with breezy conditions, to start
downing power lines as well as tree limbs. Ice storms also make
unheated road surfaces too slick to drive upon. Ice storms can vary in
time range from hours to days and can cripple small towns and large
urban centers alike.
Blizzard — There are varying definitions for blizzards, both
over time and by location. In general, a blizzard is accompanied by
gale-force winds, heavy snow (accumulating at a rate of at least 5
centimeters (2 in) per hour), and very cold conditions (below
approximately −10 degrees Celsius or 14 F). Lately, the
temperature criterion has fallen out of the definition across the
Snowstorm — A heavy fall of snow accumulating at a rate of more
than 5 centimeters (2 in) per hour that lasts several hours. Snow
storms, especially ones with a high liquid equivalent and breezy
conditions, can down tree limbs, cut off power, and paralyze travel
over a large region.
Coastal Storm — large wind waves and/or storm surge that strike
the coastal zone. Their impacts include coastal erosion and coastal
Ocean Storm —
Storm conditions out at sea are defined as having
sustained winds of 48 knots (55 mph or 90 km/h) or
greater. Usually just referred to as a storm, these systems can
sink vessels of all types and sizes.
Firestorm — Firestorms are conflagrations which attain such
intensity that they create and sustain their own wind systems. It is
most commonly a natural phenomenon, created during some of the largest
bushfires, forest fires, and wildfires. The
Peshtigo Fire is one
example of a firestorm. Firestorms can also be deliberate effects of
targeted explosives such as occurred as a result of the aerial
bombings of Dresden. Nuclear detonations generate firestorms if high
winds are not present.
Dust devil — a small, localized updraft of rising air.
Wind storm— A storm marked by high wind with little or no
precipitation. Windstorm damage often opens the door for massive
amounts of water and debris to cause further damage to a structure.
European windstorms and derechos are two type of windstorms. High
wind is also the cause of sandstorms in dry climates.
Squall — sudden onset of wind increase of at least 16 knots
(30 km/h) or greater sustained for at least one minute.
Gale — An extratropical storm with sustained winds between
34–48 knots (39–55 mph or 63–90 km/h).
Thunderstorm — A thunderstorm is a type of storm that generates
lightning and the attendant thunder. It is normally accompanied by
heavy precipitation. Thunderstorms occur throughout the world, with
the highest frequency in tropical rainforest regions where there are
conditions of high humidity and temperature along with atmospheric
instability. These storms occur when high levels of condensation form
in a volume of unstable air that generates deep, rapid, upward motion
in the atmosphere. The heat energy creates powerful rising air
currents that swirl upwards to the tropopause. Cool descending air
currents produce strong downdraughts below the storm. After the storm
has spent its energy, the rising currents die away and downdraughts
break up the cloud. Individual storm clouds can measure 2–10 km
Tropical cyclone — A tropical cyclone is a storm system with a
closed circulation around a centre of low pressure, fueled by the heat
released when moist air rises and condenses. The name underscores its
origin in the tropics and their cyclonic nature.
Tropical cyclones are
distinguished from other cyclonic storms such as nor'easters and polar
lows by the heat mechanism that fuels them, which makes them "warm
core" storm systems.
Tropical cyclones form in the oceans if the conditions in the area are
favorable, and depending on their strength and location, there are
various terms by which they are called, such as tropical depression,
tropical storm, hurricane and typhoon.
Hailstorm — a type of storm that precipitates round chunks of
ice. Hailstorms usually occur during regular thunder storms. While
most of the hail that precipitates from the clouds is fairly small and
virtually harmless, there are occasional occurrences of hail greater
than 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter that can cause much damage
A tornado in Binger, Oklahoma during the 1981 outbreak.
Tornado — A tornado is a violent, destructive wind storm
occurring on land. Usually its appearance is that of a dark,
funnel-shaped cloud. Often tornadoes are preceded by thunderstorms and
a wall cloud. They are often called the most destructive of storms,
and while they form all over the world, the interior of the United
States is the most prone area, especially throughout
A strict meteorological definition of a terrestrial storm is a wind
measuring 10 or higher on the Beaufort scale, meaning a wind speed of
24.5 m/s (89 km/h, 55 mph) or more; however, popular usage
is not so restrictive. Storms can last anywhere from 12 to 200 hours,
depending on season and geography. In North America, the east and
northeast storms are noted for the most frequent repeatability and
duration, especially during the cold period. Big terrestrial storms
alter the oceanographic conditions that in turn may affect food
abundance and distribution: strong currents, strong tides, increased
siltation, change in water temperatures, overturn in the water column,
Great Red Spot
Great Red Spot on Jupiter
Storms do not only occur on Earth; other planetary bodies with a
sufficient atmosphere (gas giants in particular) also undergo stormy
Great Red Spot
Great Red Spot on
Jupiter provides a well-known example.
Though technically an anticyclone with greater than hurricane wind
speeds, it is larger than the
Earth and has persisted for at least 340
years, having first been observed by astronomer Galileo Galilei.
Neptune also had its own lesser-known Great Dark Spot.
In September 1994 the
Hubble telescope – using Wide Field Planetary
Camera 2 – imaged storms on
Saturn generated by upwelling of warmer
air, similar to a terrestrial thunderhead. The east-west extent of the
same-year[clarification needed] storm equalled the diameter of Earth.
The storm was observed earlier in September 1990 and acquired the name
The dust storms of
Mars vary in size, but can often cover the entire
planet. They tend to occur when
Mars comes closest to the Sun, and
have been shown to increase the global temperature.
One particularly large Martian storm was exhaustively studied up close
due to coincidental timing. When the first spacecraft to successfully
orbit another planet, Mariner 9, arrived and successfully orbited Mars
on 14 November 1971, planetary scientists were surprised to find the
atmosphere was thick with a planet-wide robe of dust, the largest
storm ever observed on Mars. The surface of the planet was totally
obscured. Mariner 9's computer was reprogrammed from
Earth to delay
imaging of the surface for a couple of months until the dust settled.
However, the surface-obscured images contributed much to the
Mars atmospheric and planetary surface science.
Two extrasolar planets are known to have storms: HD 209458 b and
HD 80606 b. The former's storm was discovered on June 23, 2010 and
measured at 6,200 km/h, while the latter produces winds of 17,700
kilometers (11,000 mi) per hour across the surface. The spin of
the planet then creates giant swirling shock-wave storms that carry
the heat aloft.
Effects on human society
Storm damage" redirects here. For the British television film, see
See also: Acid rain, Effects of tropical cyclones, Hail, Lightning,
Snow, Wildfire, Wind, and
A snow blockade in southern Minnesota, US in 1881
A return stroke, cloud-to-ground lightning strike during a
A sunshower storm in the
Mojave desert at sunset.
Shipwrecks are common with the passage of strong tropical cyclones.
Such shipwrecks can change the course of history, as well as
influence art and literature. A hurricane led to a victory of the
Spanish over the French for control of Fort Caroline, and ultimately
the Atlantic coast of North America, in 1565.
Strong winds from any storm type can damage or destroy vehicles,
buildings, bridges, and other outside objects, turning loose debris
into deadly flying projectiles. In the United States, major hurricanes
comprise just 21% of all landfalling tropical cyclones, but account
for 83% of all damage.
Tropical cyclones often knock out power to
tens or hundreds of thousands of people, preventing vital
communication and hampering rescue efforts.
often destroy key bridges, overpasses, and roads, complicating efforts
to transport food, clean water, and medicine to the areas that need
it. Furthermore, the damage caused by tropical cyclones to buildings
and dwellings can result in economic damage to a region, and to a
diaspora of the population of the region.
The storm surge, or the increase in sea level due to the cyclone, is
typically the worst effect from landfalling tropical cyclones,
historically resulting in 90% of tropical cyclone deaths. The
relatively quick surge in sea level can move miles/kilometers inland,
flooding homes and cutting off escape routes. The storm surges and
winds of hurricanes may be destructive to human-made structures, but
they also stir up the waters of coastal estuaries, which are typically
important fish breeding locales.
Cloud-to-ground lightning frequently occurs within the phenomena of
thunderstorms and have numerous hazards towards landscapes and
populations. One of the more significant hazards lightning can pose is
the wildfires they are capable of igniting. Under a regime of low
precipitation (LP) thunderstorms, where little precipitation is
present, rainfall cannot prevent fires from starting when vegetation
is dry as lightning produces a concentrated amount of extreme
heat. Wildfires can devastate vegetation and the biodiversity of
an ecosystem. Wildfires that occur close to urban environments can
inflict damages upon infrastructures, buildings, crops, and provide
risks to explosions, should the flames be exposed to gas pipes. Direct
damage caused by lightning strikes occurs on occasion. In areas
with a high frequency for cloud-to-ground lightning, like Florida,
lightning causes several fatalities per year, most commonly to people
Precipitation with low potential of hydrogen levels (pH), otherwise
known as acid rain, is also a frequent risk produced by lightning.
Distilled water, which contains no carbon dioxide, has a neutral pH of
7. Liquids with a pH less than 7 are acidic, and those with a pH
greater than 7 are bases. “Clean” or unpolluted rain has a
slightly acidic pH of about 5.2, because carbon dioxide and water in
the air react together to form carbonic acid, a weak acid (pH 5.6 in
distilled water), but unpolluted rain also contains other
Nitric oxide present during thunderstorm phenomena,
caused by the splitting of nitrogen molecules, can result in the
production of acid rain, if nitric oxide forms compounds with the
water molecules in precipitation, thus creating acid rain. Acid rain
can damage infrastructures containing calcite or other solid chemical
compounds containing carbon. In ecosystems, acid rain can dissolve
plant tissues of vegetations and increase acidification process in
bodies of water and in soil, resulting in deaths of marine and
Hail damage to roofs often goes unnoticed until further structural
damage is seen, such as leaks or cracks. It is hardest to recognize
hail damage on shingled roofs and flat roofs, but all roofs have their
own hail damage detection problems. Metal roofs are fairly
resistant to hail damage, but may accumulate cosmetic damage in the
form of dents and damaged coatings.
Hail is also a common nuisance
to drivers of automobiles, severely denting the vehicle and cracking
or even shattering windshields and windows. Rarely, massive hailstones
have been known to cause concussions or fatal head trauma. Hailstorms
have been the cause of costly and deadly events throughout history.
One of the earliest recorded incidents occurred around the 9th century
in Roopkund, Uttarakhand, India. The largest hailstone in terms of
diameter and weight ever recorded in the United States fell on July
23, 2010 in
Vivian, South Dakota
Vivian, South Dakota in the United States; it measured 8
inches (20 cm) in diameter and 18.62 inches (47.3 cm) in
circumference, weighing in at 1.93 pounds (0.88 kg). This
broke the previous record for diameter set by a hailstone
7 inches diameter and 18.75 inches circumference which fell
Aurora, Nebraska in the United States on June 22, 2003, as well as
the record for weight, set by a hailstone of 1.67 pounds
(0.76 kg) that fell in
Coffeyville, Kansas in 1970.
Various hazards, ranging from hail to lightning can affect outside
technology facilities, such as antennas, satellite dishes, and towers.
As a result, companies with outside facilities have begun installing
such facilities underground, in order to reduce the risk of damage
Substantial snowfall can disrupt public infrastructure and services,
slowing human activity even in regions that are accustomed to such
weather. Air and ground transport may be greatly inhibited or shut
down entirely. Populations living in snow-prone areas have developed
various ways to travel across the snow, such as skis, snowshoes, and
sleds pulled by horses, dogs, or other animals and later, snowmobiles.
Basic utilities such as electricity, telephone lines, and gas supply
can also fail. In addition, snow can make roads much harder to travel
and vehicles attempting to use them can easily become stuck.
The combined effects can lead to a "snow day" on which gatherings such
as school, work, or church are officially canceled. In areas that
normally have very little or no snow, a snow day may occur when there
is only light accumulation or even the threat of snowfall, since those
areas are unprepared to handle any amount of snow. In some areas, such
as some states in the United States, schools are given a yearly quota
of snow days (or "calamity days"). Once the quota is exceeded, the
snow days must be made up. In other states, all snow days
must be made up. For example, schools may extend the remaining
school days later into the afternoon, shorten spring break, or delay
the start of summer vacation.
Accumulated snow is removed to make travel easier and safer, and to
decrease the long-term effect of a heavy snowfall. This process
utilizes shovels and snowplows, and is often assisted by sprinkling
salt or other chloride-based chemicals, which reduce the melting
temperature of snow. In some areas with abundant snowfall, such as
Yamagata Prefecture, Japan, people harvest snow and store it
surrounded by insulation in ice houses. This allows the snow to be
used through the summer for refrigeration and air conditioning, which
requires far less electricity than traditional cooling methods.
Hail can cause serious damage, notably to automobiles, aircraft,
skylights, glass-roofed structures, livestock, and most commonly,
farmers' crops. Wheat, corn, soybeans, and tobacco are the most
sensitive crops to hail damage.
Hail is one of Canada's most
expensive hazards. Snowfall can be beneficial to agriculture by
serving as a thermal insulator, conserving the heat of the
protecting crops from subfreezing weather. Some agricultural areas
depend on an accumulation of snow during winter that will melt
gradually in spring, providing water for crop growth. If it melts into
water and refreezes upon sensitive crops, such as oranges, the
resulting ice will protect the fruit from exposure to lower
temperatures. Although tropical cyclones take an enormous toll in
lives and personal property, they may be important factors in the
precipitation regimes of places they affect and bring much-needed
precipitation to otherwise dry regions. Hurricanes in the eastern
north Pacific often supply moisture to the Southwestern United States
and parts of Mexico.
Japan receives over half of its rainfall from
Hurricane Camille averted drought conditions and ended
water deficits along much of its path, though it also killed
259 people and caused $9.14 billion (2005 USD) in damage.
Effect of wind shear on aircraft trajectory. Merely correcting for the
initial gust front can have dire consequences.
Hail is one of the most significant thunderstorm hazards to
aircraft. When hail stones exceed 0.5 inches (13 mm) in
diameter, planes can be seriously damaged within seconds. The
hailstones accumulating on the ground can also be hazardous to landing
aircraft. Strong wind outflow from thunderstorms causes rapid changes
in the three-dimensional wind velocity just above ground level.
Initially, this outflow causes a headwind that increases airspeed,
which normally causes a pilot to reduce engine power if they are
unaware of the wind shear. As the aircraft passes into the region of
the downdraft, the localized headwind diminishes, reducing the
aircraft's airspeed and increasing its sink rate. Then, when the
aircraft passes through the other side of the downdraft, the headwind
becomes a tailwind, reducing lift generated by the wings, and leaving
the aircraft in a low-power, low-speed descent. This can lead to an
accident if the aircraft is too low to effect a recovery before ground
contact. As the result of the accidents in the 1970s and 1980s, in
1988 the U.S.
Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration mandated that all
commercial aircraft have on-board wind shear detection systems by
1993. Between 1964 and 1985, wind shear directly caused or contributed
to 26 major civil transport aircraft accidents in the U.S. that led to
620 deaths and 200 injuries. Since 1995, the number of major civil
aircraft accidents caused by wind shear has dropped to approximately
one every ten years, due to the mandated on-board detection as well as
the addition of Doppler weather radar units on the ground.
Many winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding,
snowmobiling, and snowshoeing depend upon snow. Where snow is
scarce but the temperature is low enough, snow cannons may be used to
produce an adequate amount for such sports. Children and adults
can play on a sled or ride in a sleigh. Although a person's footsteps
remain a visible lifeline within a snow-covered landscape, snow cover
is considered a general danger to hiking since the snow obscures
landmarks and makes the landscape itself appear uniform.
Notable storms in art and culture
Wave off Kanagawa, a
Ukiyo-e print by Hokusai.
In mythology and literature
According to the Bible, a giant storm sent by
God flooded the Earth.
Noah and his family and the animals entered the Ark, and "the same day
were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of
heaven were opened, and the rain was upon the earth forty days and
forty nights." The flood covered even the highest mountains to a depth
of more than twenty feet, and all creatures died; only
Noah and those
with him on the Ark were left alive. In the New Testament, Jesus
Christ is recorded to have calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee.
See also: Genesis flood myth
Gilgamesh flood myth
Gilgamesh flood myth is a deluge story in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Greek mythology there were several gods of storms: Briareos, the
god of sea storms; Aigaios, a god of the violent sea storms; and
Aiolos, keeper of storm-winds, squalls and tempests.
Sea Venture was wrecked near
Bermuda in 1609, which led to the
colonization of Bermuda and provided the inspiration for
Shakespeare's play The Tempest(1611). Specifically, Sir Thomas
Gates, future governor of Virginia, was on his way to England from
Jamestown, Virginia. On Saint James Day, while he was between
the Bahamas, a hurricane raged for nearly two days. Though one of the
small vessels in the fleet sank to the bottom of the
seven of the remaining vessels reached
Virginia within several days
after the storm. The flagship of the fleet, known as Sea Adventure,
disappeared and was presumed lost. A small bit of fortune befell the
ship and her crew when they made landfall on Bermuda. The vessel was
damaged on a surrounding coral reef, but all aboard survived for
nearly a year on the island. The British colonists claimed the island
and quickly settled Bermuda. In May 1610, they set forth for
Jamestown, this time arriving at their destination.
The children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank
Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow, chronicles the adventures of a
young girl named Dorothy
Gale in the Land of Oz, after being swept
away from her Kansas farm home by a tornado. The story was originally
published by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago on May 17, 1900 and
has since been reprinted numerous times, most often under the name The
Wizard of Oz, and adapted for use in other media. Thanks in part to
the 1939 MGM movie, it is one of the best-known stories in American
popular culture and has been widely translated. Its initial success,
and the success of the popular 1902 Broadway musical which Baum
adapted from his original story, led to Baum's writing thirteen more
King Vidor (February 8, 1894 – November 1,
1982) survived the Galveston
Hurricane of 1900 as a boy. Based on that
experience, he published a fictionalized account of that cyclone,
titled "Southern Storm", for the May 1935 issue of Esquire magazine.
Erik Larson excerpts a passage from that article in his 2005 book,
I remember now that it seemed as if we were in a bowl looking up
toward the level of the sea. As we stood there in the sandy street, my
mother and I, I wanted to take my mother's hand and hurry her away. I
felt as if the sea was going to break over the edge of the bowl and
come puring down upon us.
Numerous other accounts of the Galveston
Hurricane of 1900 have been
made in print and in film. Larson cites many of them in Isaac's Storm,
which centrally features that storm, as well as chronicles the
creation of the
Weather Bureau (which came to known as the National
Weather Service) and that agency's fateful rivalry with the weather
service in Cuba, and a number of other major storms, such as those
Indianola, Texas in 1875 and 1886.
Great Storm of 1987
Great Storm of 1987 is key in an important scene near the end of
Possession: A Romance, the bestselling and Man Booker Prize-winning
novel by A. S. Byatt. The
Great Storm of 1987
Great Storm of 1987 occurred on the night of
October 15–16, 1987, when an unusually strong weather system caused
winds to hit much of southern England and northern France. It was the
worst storm to hit England since the Great
Storm of 1703 (284
years earlier) and was responsible for the deaths of at least
22 people in England and
France combined (18 in England, at least
four in France).
Hurricane Katrina (2005) has been featured in a number of works of
In fine art
Storm on the Sea of Galilee.
The Romantic seascape painters
J. M. W. Turner
J. M. W. Turner and Ivan Aivazovsky
created some of the most lasting impressions of the sublime and stormy
seas that are firmly imprinted on the popular mind. Turner's
representations of powerful natural forces reinvented the traditional
seascape during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Upon his travels to Holland, he took note of the familiar large
rolling waves of the English seashore transforming into the sharper,
choppy waves of a Dutch storm. A characteristic example of Turner’s
dramatic seascape is
The Slave Ship
The Slave Ship of 1840. Aivazovsky left several
thousand turbulent canvases in which he increasingly eliminated human
figures and historical background to focus on such essential elements
as light, sea, and sky. His grandiose Ninth
Wave (1850) is an ode to
human daring in the face of the elements.
In motion pictures
The 1926 silent film The
Johnstown Flood features the Great
1889 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The flood, caused by the catastrophic
failure of the
South Fork Dam
South Fork Dam after days of extremely heavy rainfall,
prompted the first major disaster relief effort by the American Red
Cross, directed by Clara Barton. The
Johnstown Flood was depicted in
numerous other media (both fictional and in non-fiction), as well.
Warner Bros.' 2000 dramatic disaster film The Perfect Storm, directed
by Wolfgang Petersen, is an adaptation of Sebastian Junger's 1997
non-fiction book of the same title. The book and film feature the crew
of the Andrea Gail, which got caught in the Perfect
Storm of 1991. The
1991 Perfect Storm, also known as the Halloween
Nor'easter of 1991,
was a nor'easter that absorbed
Hurricane Grace and ultimately evolved
into a small hurricane late in its life cycle.
Storms were also portrayed in several works of music. Examples of
storm music are like Vivaldi's Four Seasons violin concerto RV 315
(Summer) (third movement: Presto), Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (the
fourth movement),and a scene in Act II of Rossini's opera The Barber
Lightning within the cloud causes the entire blanket to illuminate.
Desert storm approaches at sunset.
Heavy storm brought by Severe
Storm Sanvu in Hong Kong.
North Atlantic storm strength Beaufort 9 causing extremely high
Storm waves coming abeam from starboard, causing water on deck.
Extreme weather, a list of historical storms and other extreme weather
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Media related to Storms at Wikimedia Commons
The dictionary definition of storm at Wiktionary
Quotations related to
Storm at Wikiquote
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Heat death of the universe
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