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Take a trip through time and space to see the largest and most powerful storms ever recorded - both on Earth and beyond. It's another exciting episode of For Science!
OUT OF THIS WORLD | For Science! - a weekly look at the weird, wonderful and sometimes wacky side of science and technology

Half of Canada engulfed! See the LARGEST storms ever


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Tuesday, December 15, 2015, 3:35 PM - Watch above as we take a trip through time and space to reveal the largest and most powerful storms ever seen - both on Earth and beyond.

Hurricane Patricia, at 0:08 in the video, is now in the record books as the most intense storm in the western hemisphere, with a central pressure of just 879 hectopascals (hPa), and as the strongest storm in the world, with wind speeds clocked at 325 km/h (

Super Typhoon Tip, at 0:23, ranks as the most intense storm ever recorded in the eastern hemisphere, and is the largest storm in the world.

Moving offworld to see what's even bigger, stronger and more intense...

Saturn's Northern Storm (at 0:50), also known as the Great White Spot, spanned about 10,000 kms across as it tracked around the entire planet from late 2010 to early 2011, eventually catching up with its own tail. Apparently, the 2010/11 appearance of the Great White Spot was the eighth such storm spotted on Saturn since 1876. From the first appearance through until 1990, these appeared on a roughly 27-30 year basis, but since 1990 there have been three, in 1994, 2006 and then 2010. The next one is expected sometime in 2016.

Jupiter's Great Red Spot (at 1:00) is the largest storm ever seen, and is unusual compared to others, in that it's an "anticyclonic storm." Cyclonic storms, like we see here on Earth and even Saturn, are ones that spin counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere - the direction dictated by the Coriolis Effect - and winds typically become more intense as you get closer to the centre. The exception are tropical cyclones, which intensify until you get to the very centre, where they have their calmest winds due to air sinking down from above to add more fuel to the storm. An anticyclonic storm spins in the opposite direction. and its winds are strongest at the edges. In Jupiter's Great Red Spot, winds around the edge blow at around 400 km/h, while the core is very calm, with eddies that create swirling, multi-layer patterns.


A view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot from the flyby of Voyager 1. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

There is one larger weather pattern in the solar system - Saturn's Northern Hexagon.


Animation of Saturn's Northern Hexagon in false colour, from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This weather pattern is only visible during Saturn's northern summer, as it is shrouded in darkness for the rest of the planet's nearly 30-year-long orbit.


Closeup of the hexagon's central vortex.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The hexagon shape is sustained by the planet's equivalent of Earth's jet stream, with the interior analogous to the polar vortex. Storms spin up within the overall pattern and travel around, but the main feature seems to be the vortex churning away at the hexagon's core (shown in false-colour to the right).

As for even BIGGER storms, there are planets out there in our galaxy that dwarf even Jupiter, and very likely have even more impressive weather systems than what we can see here at home.

For now, though, we'll save those for a future episode of For Science!

Sources: NASA Earth Observatory | NOAA | NASA/JPL-Caltech | NASA/JPL-Caltech | NASA

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