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Strongest low on Earth last weekend was a record-breaker in Canada

Monday, March 14th 2022, 8:59 pm - A powerful system that pushed across Eastern Canada last weekend underwent rapid intensification, enough so to set new records at three stations and bring the lowest pressure on Earth at the time to a part of the region.

Not a common occurrence when a part of Canada has experienced the lowest pressure on the planet at any given time, but that's what happened on the weekend.

A powerful low-pressure system that pushed across Eastern Canada underwent rapid intensification, breaking three records -- two monthly and one all-time.


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At one point on the weekend, the low bottomed out at a reading of 927 millibars just north of Labrador in the Atlantic Ocean, away from any stations.

PRESSURERECORD

The new Canadian low-pressure records were in St. Anthony, N.L. (monthly; 952.6 mb), Natashquan, Que. (monthly; 959.2 mb) and Cartwright, N.L. (all-time; 945.1 mb). Natashquan's new record occurred at 11:35 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, while St. Anthony and Cartwright was observed on Sunday, March 13.

Meanwhile, a few other stations came close to breaking the record, but didn't quite make it.

STATIONS REPORTING LOW PRESSURES

The following stations recorded low pressures on the weekend, with the locales marked with * having established a new record.

  • Hopedale, N.L. -- 952.2 mb (March record), 970 mb (March 2022)
  • St. Anthony, N.L. -- 957.5 mb (March record), 952.6 mb (March 2022)*
  • Gander, N.L. -- 954.1 mb (March record), 963.1 mb (March 2022)
  • Cartwright, N.L. -- (March record not known) 945.1 mb (March 2022)*
  • Natashquan, Que. -- 962 mb (March record), 959.2 mb (March 2022)*
  • Sept-Îles, Que. -- 970.5 mb (March record), 974.2 mb (March 2022)
  • Gaspé Peninsula, Que. -- 966.3 mb (March record), 968.7 mb (March 2022)

PRESSURE2

Gaspé Peninsula did not manage to set a new record, but if the system had tracked 100 kilometres farther to the west it might have happened as the centre of the low was down to 965 mb when it passed by.

At the time, there was another major storm in the Northern Hemisphere, south of Alaska, but it didn't compare "pressure-wise" to the Atlantic Canada low, according to Kevin MacKay, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

"This was the strongest storm on the planet [last] weekend," said MacKay.

HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO HIGH-PRESSURE RECORDS?

On the opposite end of the country, Whitehorse, Yukon, recorded its highest pressure of 1071.9 mb in February 1989. Meanwhile, the Canadian record for the lowest pressure observed belongs to Newfoundland's St. Anthony, dropping to 940.2 mb on Jan. 20. 1977.

PRESSURERECORDS

Tyler Hamilton, a meteorologist at The Weather Network, highlighted a memorable low-pressure event on Oct. 24, 2021 in the Pacific Northwest. The significant windstorm generated a pressure of 942 mb, costing millions of dollars in damage along the West Coast, stretching towards California.

To put Canada's current low-pressure record into perspective, a Category 3 hurricane can generate a low pressure from 945-964 millibars, while a Category 4 can drop the levels to within the 920-944 millibars range.

If last weekend's storm recorded the 927 mb figure over St. Anthony or Cartwright in Newfoundland, it would have generated a new all-time Canadian record for a low pressure.

With files from Matthew Grinter, Kevin MacKay and Tyler Hamilton, meteorologists at The Weather Network.

Follow Nathan Howes on Twitter.

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