Severe Storm

Cyclone Idai on 13 March 2019 west of Madagascar and heading for Mozambique. Image: ESA.


Storms are generally classified as a meteorological hazard,  caused by short-lived, micro- to meso-scale extreme weather and atmospheric conditions that last from minutes to days (EM-DAT).

Facts and figures

There are several different types of storms distinguished by the strength and characteristics of atmospheric disturbances:

  • Convective/local storm: A type of meteorological hazard generated by the heating of air and the availability of moist and unstable air masses. Convective storms range from localized thunderstorms (with heavy rain and/or hail, lightning, high winds, tornadoes) to meso-scale, multi-day events.
  • Sandstorm, dust storm: Strong winds carry particles of sand aloft, but generally confined to less than 50 feet (15 metres), especially common in arid and semi-arid environments. A dust storm is also characterised by strong winds but carries smaller particles of dust rather than sand over an extensive area.
  • Tornado: A violently rotating column of air that reaches the ground or open water (waterspout).
  • Lightning: A high-voltage, visible electrical discharge produced by a thunderstorm and followed by the sound of thunder.
  • Winter storm, blizzard: A low pressure system in winter months with significant accumulations of snow, freezing rain, sleet or ice. A blizzard is a severe snow storm with winds exceeding 35 mph (56 km/h) for three or more hours, producing reduced visibility (less than .25 mile (400 m).
  • Orographic storm (strong wind): Differences in air pressure resulting in the horizontal motion of air. The greater the difference in pressure, the stronger the wind. Wind moves from high pressure toward low pressure.  
  • Extratropical storm: A type of low-pressure cyclonic system in the middle and high latitudes (also called mid-latitude cyclone) that primarily gets its energy from the horizontal temperature contrasts (fronts) in the atmosphere.
  • Tropical storms: A tropical cyclone originates over tropical or subtropical waters. It is characterised by a warm-core, non-frontal synoptic-scale cyclone with a low pressure centre, spiral rainbands and strong winds. Depending on their location, tropical cyclones are referred to as hurricanes (Atlantic, Northeast Pacific), typhoons (Northwest Pacific), or cyclones (South Pacific and Indian Ocean) (UNDRR, Sendai Framework).

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Data Source

Publishing institution: European Space Agency (ESA)
ESA's Earth Observation Thematic Exploitation Platform (TEP) is a browser for satellite imagery and specific products on an environmental topic. The TEP platforms are divided into 7 categories: Coastal; Forstry; Geohazards; Hydrology; Polar; Urban; and Food Security. Each platform is a collaborative, virtual work environment providing access to EO data and the tools, processors and Information and Communication Technology resources required to work with them. TEP aims to bridge the gap between the users and the data and tools.
Publishing institution: Airbus Defence & Space
Pleidas, TerraSar-X, SPOT and Elevation data available commercially from airbus, certain sample data sets at various locations available for free.
Publishing institution: Radiant Earth Foundation
The website: Help and Tutorials: Demos & Use Cases:
Publishing institution: NASA Earth Science Disasters Program
NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) is a program for archiving and distributing Earth science data from multiple missions to users.
Publishing institution: OceanDataLab
The Ocean Virtual Laboratory is a web platform making satellite and in-situ data for ocean monitoring accessible. It presents one of multiple Syntool Web portals that promote the synergistic use of Ocean Remote Sensing data in a wider context of Oceanic and Atmospheric models or in-situ data. , ESA/SEOM Ocean Virtual Laboratory portal: SAR roughness Sentinel 1: Ocean Color: From Sentinel-2, Sentinel-3 and Meteosat. Chlorophyll: From VIIRS and MODIS Sea Surface Temperature, Sea level, Salinity, Wind, Current, Rain, Mean Square Slope, Sea ice concentration , ESA/DUE GlobCurrent portal: SAR roughness, Ocean Color, Chlorophyll, Sea surface temperature, Sea level, Salinity, Wind, Wave, Current, Rain, ESA SMOS Storm portal: Significant Wave height (SWH) Jason 2 and ALTIKA, SAR roughness Sentinel-1, Wind speed SMOS, SMAP, AMSR2 and ASCAT, wind barbs ASCAT, CNES Aviso'VIZ altimetry portal: Sea Surface Height Anomaly (SSHA) Jason-2 and SARAL, Sea Level Anomaly (SLA) Jason-2 and SARAL, Absolute Dynamic Anomaly (ADT) Jason-2 and SARAL, Mean Sea Level RIse, Sea Level Anomaly, Geostrophic current vectors and streamlines., ESA Sentinel3 Viewer: products from OLCI, SLSTR and SRAL sensors., CNES PEPS Sentinel-1 Ocean Viewer: SAR roughness Sentinel-1, ESA Sea Surface Salinity portal: SMOS salinity, SMAP salinity
Publishing institution: European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT)
Map Viewer that allows downloading and time series creation of meteosat products.
Publishing institution: UCL University College London
The TSR Tropical Storm Tracker presents tropical cyclone data received from three tropical cyclone warning centers via the UK Met. Office DPDS service. The data is derived from the GOES-16 satellite. Users can also register to obtain storm alerts. Near-real time data is presented on the website and seasonal forecasts are made separated by geographical region. Forecasts are separated by geographical region: Hurricanes: Atlantic ACE Index and USA and Caribbean Landfalling Typhoons: Northwest Pacific ACE Index and System Numbers Cyclones: Australian Region ACE Index, System Numbers and Landfalling STR presents the accuracy of its predictions through hindcast skill plots which are also available on their website.


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