Extreme Weather That is Out of This World

It’s that time of year again where many people—but especially storm-chasing enthusiasts—take up their favorite pastime of complaining about the weather. And justifiably so; on top of the days being cold, grey, and short and all the weather-related travel hassles, there’s not a ghost of a chance for a tornado or even a lightning strike in most places. So grumble away if you must; I’m right with you. In fact, last winter was so harsh that at one point in January 2014, Minnesota recorded a lower temperature than Mars. That’s depressing, considering that Mars is on average 140 million miles further away from the Sun than we are. But before we start whining about our planet drawing the short straw in terms of less-than-ideal weather, let’s take a look at weather conditions on a few other planets in our neighborhood and see how we match up.

Towering Dust Devils on Mars

Mars may be well-known for having a frigid, arid climate similar to Antarctica. But at least it could offer some excitement for tornado lovers. Dust devils form over the deserts there under the same non-storm conditions found in deserts here on Earth. But these Martian devils can tower ten times higher than terrestrial twisters, lofting huge amounts of dust into the already-gritty atmosphere, and they carry a powerful static electric charge that would pose quite a threat to an intercept vehicle attempting to probe one.

Neptune..the king of violent storms.

Other planets offer even more thrilling chase options.  On Venus, lightning storms rage within thick clouds comprised of sulfuric acid, but no strikes can reach the 800-degree-Fahrenheit surface, due to the planet’s atmospheric pressure being 90 times greater than that of Earth’s.  Neptune is probably the champion planet for violent weather in general, with massive, swirling windstorms up to 700 mph.  Some astronomers think these might be caused by methane gas condensing into diamonds that rain down towards the center of the planet, stirring up friction and turbulence within the atmosphere.  (Diamond-collecting expedition to Neptune, anyone?  Contact me for details if interested.)  And then there’s Jupiter’s infamous Great Red Spot, an anti-cyclonic hurricane more massive than the Earth itself.  It has been ongoing in roughly the same location at least since the time of its discovery about 400 years ago.  Of all the available storm-chasing opportunities in the solar system, this one would probably be my first choice.  Wouldn’t it be a refreshing change to set out on a chase knowing ahead of time the exact location where an inconceivably-powerful storm is ready and waiting for you?

Jupiter’s 400 year storm

If severe weather isn’t your scene, Mercury might be the best choice for you since it has no atmosphere.  But you’d better not object to a temperate climate.  Because Mercury rotates so slowly on its axis, one day on the planet is about as long as two months on Earth.  This means that the temperature on the sun side of the planet skyrockets to over 800º F, while on the dark side it crashes to -275º F, resulting in a temperature difference of well over 1000 degrees.  This might make it difficult to dress weather-appropriately for a day visit there.  And then of course there’s Pluto, the Solar System’s identity-challenged runt.  Winter haters, beware of this one.  Besides the fact that Pluto’s AVERAGE surface temperature is near -400º F, the seasons there last around 60 Earth years each, since it takes so long for the dwarf planet to orbit the Sun.  Imagine if we had a Pluto-style winter that had started back in 1960 (before some of you were born).  That would be five whole decades of bundling up, scraping off windshields, and driving to work in the dark.  And right now we would STILL have five years to wait before the temperature would painstakingly start swinging back up towards a balmy summertime high of   -360º F.

Still singing the wintertime blues?  Your First-Amendment rights hold, but I rest my case.


Josiah Maas

Josiah Maas

Blogger/Photographer at Mr Twister
Josiah Maas

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