Drone Pilot SchoolThe 21 Strangest Things About 2021’s Weather | The Weather Channel – Articles from The Weather Channel

December 18, 2021by helo-10
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  • 2021 had plenty of weird aspects to its weather.
  • Two events on each end of the temperature scale were the weirdest of the year.
  • The hurricane season also produced its share of oddities.

2021’s weather will be remembered largely for a pair of deadly outbreaks of extreme temperatures, a particularly devastating hurricane that left its mark well inland, and two severe weather outbreaks in December.

But those were just a few of the weather oddities in 2021.

With that in mind, we ranked the 21 most bizarre things we saw in the year’s weather, mainly in the United States. We also have a sizable list of honorable mentions below our top 21 list, simply because we love weird weather.

(PREVIOUS YEARS: 2020 | 2019 | 2018)

21. Donut-Shaped Hail

The day after Labor Day, I stumbled upon a photo of a hailstone the likes of which I hadn’t seen before.

The donut- or Cheerio-shaped hailstone shown below was captured in a social media post on Sept. 7 in the Madison, Wisconsin, suburb of Verona.

“I have seen some stones with a very thin inner structure that could have melted away quicker sitting on the ground, leaving a donut shape. But not this well defined,” said Ian Giammanco, meteorologist and hail expert with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety in a reply to a tweet at the time.

20. Flood Devastation in Washington, British Columbia

November was off the charts, even for the typically soggy Pacific Northwest.

Torrential rain from an atmospheric river triggered massive flooding in southern British Columbia and far northwestern Washington state. Abbotsford, British Columbia, and Sumas, Lynden and Ferndale, Washington, were among the towns that experienced at least some flooding.

Landslides cut off all exit routes out of the town of Hope, B.C., and left the Port of Vancouver cut off from inland areas. Parts of Highway 5 – known as the Coquihalla Highway – collapsed. Four people were killed in a landslide on Highway 99 south of Lillooet, B.C.

November was the wettest month on record in Bellingham, Washington (14.57 inches), and the second-wettest month in Vancouver, B.C. (12.3 inches).

Perhaps most stunning was aerial footage of the British Columbia flood zone after a light snow had fallen.

There will be more from British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest later in the countdown.

Properties inundated by floodwaters are seen in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

Properties inundated by floodwaters are seen in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021.

(Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

19. Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s Tornadic Year

We’re used to tracking tornadoes in the South, Plains or Midwest. But 2021 was a busy year for tornadoes in the mid-Atlantic states.

The July 29 outbreak spawned 14 tornadoes in Pennsylvania and six in New Jersey, including an EF3 tornado in the northeast Philadelphia suburbs.

Another seven tornadoes were spawned in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey as the remnant of former Hurricane Ida swept through. That included an EF3 tornado in Mullica Hill, New Jersey’s first F/EF3 tornado in 31 years.

In October, 13 tornadoes touched down in western Pennsylvania on Oct. 15, 16 and 21. That pushed the state’s 2021 tornado tally to 44, second-most of any year, according to the National Weather Service.

As of the time this article was published, 13 tornadoes were confirmed in New Jersey in 2021, according to the state’s climatology office. That’s the second-most in any year dating to 1950, behind only 1989’s 19 Garden State tornadoes. The state averaged one to two tornadoes a year from 2001 through 2020.

One of these tornadoes was deadly – an EF2 tornado that downed a tree on a home in the northwest Philadelphia suburbs.

View of a destroyed home in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, following the Sept. 1, 2021, tornado.

(NWS-Mount Holly, New Jersey)

18. Lightning Blasts Concrete, Driver Injured

According to a 2004 study by lightning researchers E. Phillip Krider and Kenneth Kehoe, there’s a 10% chance of lightning striking within 250 feet of a U.S. citizen each year.

But what happened in the Florida Panhandle in May was an extremely unlucky circumstance.

As the tweet below lays out, lightning struck the pavement on Interstate 10 in Walton County. The bolt blew out a chunk of concrete, which then went through the windshield of a pickup truck, injuring both the driver and a passenger.

(VIDEO: Lightning Sends Concrete Flying Through Windshield)

There have been numerous cases of lightning strikes on vehicles.

You’re usually protected if the windows are rolled up. As long as you’re not touching anything metallic leading to the vehicle’s frame, such as a door handle, radio or ignition, you should survive.

If you’re caught in a storm while driving, the National Lightning Safety Institute suggests pulling off to the side of the road, turning off the engine, putting your hands in your lap (instead of the steering wheel) and waiting until the storm has passed.

17. The Strongest and Longest Tornadoes of 2021 Were in December

Meteorologists refer to “violent” tornadoes as those rated at least EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. They make up a tiny fraction of all tornadoes in the U.S. but account for half the deaths from all tornadoes.

Since 1950, the majority of these violent tornadoes have happened from spring into early summer. The Newnan, Georgia, tornado on March 25 was the year’s first EF4 tornado.

The only other two violent tornadoes in 2021 happened in December.

One of those tore across parts of Kentucky on Dec. 10. EF4 damage was found in the devastated community of Mayfield, with estimated winds of 190 mph and a damage path of 166 miles.

Another EF4 tornado spawned from the same supercell thunderstorm tore along an 80-mile path from far northeastern Arkansas across the Missouri Bootheel into extreme western Tennessee.

It was the deadliest U.S. tornado outbreak in 10 years, with at least 91 lives lost, 77 in Kentucky.

There were stories of survival, including two Kentucky sheriff’s deputies who, after a very close call of their own, rescued a girl.

(MORE: Tornado Outbreak Recap)

People embrace as tornado damage is seen after extreme weather hit the region, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Mayfield, Kentucky. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

People embrace as tornado damage is seen after extreme weather hit the region, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Mayfield, Kentucky.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

16. A March Tornado in Vermont

Tornadoes probably aren’t the first, second or third things that come to mind when Vermont is mentioned.

The state only averages one tornado each year. Being so far north, you’d think any Vermont tornadoes would happen in summer.

But in late March, an EF1 tornado ripped an attached garage from a home near Middlebury, Vermont. Two people were injured.

This tornado, embedded in a line of severe thunderstorms, was only the state’s second March tornado in records dating to 1950.

(WATCH: First March Tornado in Vermont in More Than 65 Years)

15. Snowless Denver Extends into December

A fall snowstorm along the Front Range of the Rockies is usually one of the few guarantees in weather. But not in 2021 along Colorado’s Front Range.

Not even a dusting.

For the first time in records dating to 1882, Denver didn’t pick up even a tenth of an inch of snow through November. It took until Dec. 10 for that streak to end.

Other than the sight of dog walkers in shorts on Dec. 1, and some record-low early December mountain snowpack, perhaps the weirdest thing about this was the contrast with 2020.

An inch of snow blanketed Denver on Sept. 8, 2020, its second-earliest fall snow, and one day after thick wildfire smoke blanketed the Front Range.

And that made our strangest weather of 2020 list.

The Colorado State Capitol building in Denver is seen on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. The Mile High City has already shattered its 87-year-old record for the latest measurable snowfall set on Nov. 21, 1934, and it's a little more than a week away from breaking an 1887 record of 235 consecutive days without snow. The scenario is playing out across much of the Rocky Mountains, as far north as Montana and in the broader Western United States, which is experiencing a megadrought that studies link to human-caused climate change.(AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

The Colorado State Capitol building in Denver is seen on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

(AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

14. 100 Degrees in North Dakota in Late September

Late-September triple-digit heat is typical in Texas – not North Dakota.

On Sept. 28, two locations in western North Dakota – near Dickinson and Watford City – soared to 100 degrees.

As the National Weather Service tweeted below, it was the latest in the year any North Dakota city had reached triple digits.

But it was more exceptional than that.

It was also the farthest north triple-digit reading so late in the year in the entire Northern Hemisphere, according to weather historian Christopher Burt and weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera.

13. Fighting Fire Instead of Making Snow

A snow gun sprays water at the Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort during the Caldor fire in Twin Bridges, California on August 30, 2021. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

A snow machine sprays water at the Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort during the Caldor Fire in Twin Bridges, California, on Aug. 30, 2021.

(JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

As the Caldor Fire was advancing toward Lake Tahoe, California, in late August, officials turned on snow machines at the area’s ski resorts to wet the ground and increase the air’s humidity.

Among the most surreal photos in 2021 were those captured by photographer Josh Edelson as the snow machines were full-blast at the Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort.

Fire crews eventually stopped the spread of the fire before it scorched the area’s ski resorts or towns near the lake.

However, the Caldor Fire still charred 346 square miles and destroyed about 1,000 structures before it was fully contained in late October.

12. Siberian Wildfire Smoke Reaches North Pole

2021 was another destructive year for wildfires in Russia.

They flared up early in the spring in parts of Siberia. By summer, they had burned the largest area on record for any year in Russia in the satellite era.

In late summer, around 200 active Siberian fires covered about 62,000 square miles – about the size of Florida, and larger than all other combined active wildfires burning around the globe at the time.

This led to a surreal occurrence: wildfire smoke traveling over 1,800 miles from Siberia over the North Pole, as documented by NASA satellites in the first week of August.

While it was believed to be the first time Siberian wildfire smoke flowed over the North Pole, NASA later retracted that statement, saying, “An absolute determination of the first occurrence is not possible at this time.”

In December, a “zombie fire” was seen smoldering in the snowpack in one of the coldest places on Earth, Siberia’s “Pole of Cold.”

A model representation of the smoke plume (in gray) from Siberian wildfires in early August 2021.

11. A Hail Death From Hypothermia

In early July, a slow-moving thunderstorm dumped torrential rain and copious hail over the Mexico City metro area.

Streets quickly turned into rivers, which can be dangerous enough for motorists and anybody trying to walk through floodwaters.

The flooding also built up large piles of hail, and it was in one such pile of hail that a person became trapped and died from hypothermia.

While past hailstorms in Bangladesh, India and China have been deadly, hailstorms in North America are rarely deadly, though about two dozen are injured each year in the U.S.

But that’s from the impact of falling hail on the body. We can’t immediately recall a hailstorm death from hypothermia.

(VIDEO: Mexico City Flooding, Hailstorm Traps Several, Kills 1)

10. 2021’s Weirdest Rainfall Shift

From mid-March through mid-October, not even a measly 0.01 inches of rain fell in Sacramento, California.

While summer is California’s dry season, it was the city’s record-longest dry streak, which had stood since 1880 – six years after the state’s capitol building was completed.

One week later, the strongest known Eastern Pacific bomb cyclone tapped an exceptionally strong atmospheric river and dumped 5.44 inches of rain over the city on Oct. 24. That was the city’s wettest day in records dating to the Gold Rush.

It’s hard to imagine a sharper precipitation lurch.

9. North America’s Largest Fire Thunderstorm

Some wildfires burn hot enough to create their own thunderstorms, called pyrocumulonimbus clouds.

What happened in western Canada during the record-crushing heat wave as June turned to July was on another level.

A fire-generated thunderstorm exploded over the Sparks Lake Fire in British Columbia on June 30. The cloud grew to over 62,000 square miles, about the size of the state of Georgia, according to NASA. It was the largest pyrocumulonimbus cloud ever documented in North America.

The massive fire thunderstorm generated just under 113,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in 15 hours, according to Chris Vagasky, a lightning expert with Vaisala. Vagasky noted that’s about 5% of the average annual lightning in Canada.

Just over two weeks later, a team of scientists documented 10 such fire thunderstorms at once in central Canada on July 16, the most observed on a single day in North America in their eight years of study.

Besides starting more wildfires from lightning strikes, these massive fire thunderstorms can pump smoke high into the atmosphere that can linger and cool the atmosphere near the fires.

8. Thunderstorms Flush Scorpions Into Homes

Of all the dangers from thunderstorms, scorpions aren’t usually on the list.

But in November, thunderstorms with heavy rain in southern Egypt washed scorpions out of nests and into homes.

At least three people were killed and over 450 were hospitalized after being stung.

This is an occasional issue in this part of the world.

We’ll spare you the visuals, but if you want more on this story, watch our video here.

7. Earliest Cherry Blossoms in 1,200 Years

Those eager for spring in Japan got their wish unusually early in 2021.

The annual cherry blossom bloom in Kyoto, Japan, reached its peak on March 26, the earliest date in records dating to the ninth century, according to data from Osaka Prefecture University. That’s about two to three weeks earlier than average.

This appears to be a sign of climate change.

According to climate scientist James Hansen, Japan’s March temperatures have increased by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century.

Parts of Japan had their warmest March on record in 2021, according to NOAA.

A father in a mask, holds his infant child and enjoys the cherry blossom viewing at Ueno Park in Tokyo, 27 March. (Photo by Yusuke Harada/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A father in a mask holds his infant child and enjoys the cherry blossom viewing at Ueno Park in Tokyo on March 27, 2021.

(Yusuke Harada/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

6. Rain Fell Over the Peaks of Greenland’s Ice Cap

Even in the middle of summer, there are parts of the world that are usually too cold for rain.

But on Aug. 14, rain was observed at the highest point on Greenland’s ice cap for the first time, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The rain fell for several hours at Summit Station, a staffed research station about 10,551 feet above sea level in the heart of Greenland.

In July, another Greenland warm spell sent temperatures soaring into the upper 60s, an all-time record for the area.

Both are disconcerting signs in a warming climate. One recent study found Greenland is on track to lose more ice this century than in 12,000 years, which could then produce feet of sea level rise.

5. Category 4 Louisiana Landfalls in Back-to-Back Years

You would think after suffering through three hurricane landfalls in 2020 that 2021 would give Louisiana a break.

But almost a year to the day after Hurricane Laura ransacked southwestern Louisiana, Hurricane Ida slammed southeastern Louisiana on Aug. 29.

It was the first time Category 4 landfalls have occurred in back-to-back years in Louisiana. Prior to Laura and Ida, one hadn’t come ashore in the Pelican State since Betsy in 1965.

The other two – Last Island (1856) and Chenier Caminada (1893) – were in the 19th century.

4. Ida’s Prolific Northeast Deluge

Ida’s Louisiana impact was terrible enough. Then its remnant met up with a frontal system in the Northeast.

The up-to-11-inch deluge on Sept. 1 overwhelmed infrastructure in the New York City Tri-State area. Roads turned into rivers, subways gushed like geysers, water filled buses up to the seats and Newark Liberty International Airport flooded.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 53 people died due to drowning in the Northeast from Ida. Twenty-eight of those drowning fatalities were in New Jersey and 18 were in New York, some in flooded basements and ground-floor apartments.

Additionally, Ida spawned tornadoes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, one of which prompted extremely rare simultaneous tornado and flash flood emergencies in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

3. December Derecho in the Upper Midwest

Five days after Winter Storm Atticus dumped up to 21 inches of snow, an outbreak of severe thunderstorms raked the Upper Midwest with destructive winds and tornadoes – in December.

This outbreak spawned Minnesota’s first December tornado in records dating to 1950. Previously, only one severe thunderstorm warning had ever been issued in December in Minnesota.

The line of severe thunderstorms which raced from Kansas and Nebraska to Wisconsin met the criteria for a derecho. Only 1% of all derechos happen in December.

By the morning after, it appeared as if the warmth, rain and severe thunderstorms had taken a large bite out of the Upper Midwest’s snowpack.

(MORE: The Most Bizarre Things from the December Windstorm and Severe Outbreak)

2. February’s Crippling Cold Wave

Some cold outbreaks are record-breaking and at least uncomfortable. What happened in parts of the South in February was deadly, crippling and destructive.

A two-week siege of cold and snow in the Plains tied or set over 9,000 cold records from Feb. 7 to 20.

(FULL RECAP: Record-Breaking Cold Siege)

This led to a cascade of power outages that left almost 10 million customers in the dark for days. An estimated 210 people died in Texas alone from exposure to the cold or carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of outdoor grills or vehicles to stay warm, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Water pipes froze, then burst once they thawed, damaging homes and buildings. One Austin, Texas, family filled a bathtub with snow in the hopes of using it to flush toilets. Icicles formed on indoor ceiling fans.

At least 3.8 million fish were killed by the cold along the Texas coast, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Thousands of sea turtles were rescued and later released from the cold Gulf of Mexico.

Snow and ice only added to the misery. It snowed for the first time in 12 years on the beach in Galveston. Del Rio, Texas, along the Rio Grande Valley, had its snowiest day on record (11.2 inches on Feb. 18).

Damage from this cold siege was estimated at just under $21 billion, by far the costliest U.S. winter storm event in NOAA’s records since 1980.

1. June’s Record-Smashing, Deadly Heat Wave

The extremity and duration of the early-summer heat wave in an area typically considered an escape from searing heat and its costly toll placed this firmly atop our list.

In the last days of June, over 70 locations in the Northwest U.S. and western Canada tied or set new all-time record highs.

Our full summary is here, but some truly bizarre things we saw during this heat wave included:

-Lytton, British Columbia, shattered Canada’s all-time record high three days in a row, and was as hot as Death Valley, California, on June 29 (121 degrees Fahrenheit), then burned to the ground the following day.

-Salem, Oregon, tied Las Vegas’ all-time record high (117 degrees), shattering their own record in what was possibly the hottest temperature on record west of the Cascades.

-Quillayute, Washington, reached 110 degrees. That town hadn’t previously reached 100 degrees in records since 1966.

-Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport sweltered through three straight days with highs in the 100s. They only had two such days on record prior to the heat wave dating to 1945.

-Portland’s light rail system was suspended after a power cable was singed by the heat.

As with many heat waves, this event wasn’t just bizarre – it was deadly.

Over 100 deaths were attributed to the heat in both Washington and Oregon. At least 570 died in British Columbia. It was considered the deadliest weather event on record in both Canada and Washington.

Five western states – California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah – had the hottest summer on record since 1880.

Everett Clayton looks at a digital thermometer on a nearby building that reads 116 degrees while walking to his apartment on June 27, 2021, in Vancouver, Wash. Record breaking temperatures lingered over the Northwest during a historic heatwave this weekend. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Everett Clayton looks at a digital thermometer on a nearby building that reads 116 degrees while walking to his apartment on June 27, 2021, in Vancouver, Washington.

(Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Honorable Mentions

There were a number of other oddities in 2021’s weather that, while not making the top 21 list, we thought deserved at least a mention. They are listed in roughly chronological order.

Madrid, Spain, had its heaviest snowfall since 1971.

-A Montana windstorm sent a silo on a wild ride.

-A Wisconsin power plant generated snow flurries.

Saharan sand dunes were blanketed by snow.

-Behold, a Vermont “snownado.”

Four separate supercell thunderstorms each prompted tornado warnings for Selma, Alabama, on St. Patrick’s Day.

-That same day, a tornado wrapped a boat around a tree in Alabama.

-An English Civil War fort was revealed by flooding.

-This family had to shovel itself out of its cabin.

-Flash flooding was reported near the towns of Hurricane and Tornado.

-When two of Pittsburgh’s three rivers were different colors.

Strange clouds hugged the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

-A Florida man had to shovel his sidewalk.

-News anchors fled from a tornado.

-A pilot documented St. Elmo’s Fire in Georgia.

-Here’s what happened when pouring coffee in high winds.

-Watch an icy flood in a Saudi desert.

-When your golf cart has snow tires.

Tornado + rainbow.

Hail fell inside a Walmart.

-When drought forced hatcheries to truck salmon to the ocean.

-A 190-mph super typhoon – in April.

-A drone was caught in a tornado’s inflow.

-A giant sequoia in California was still smoldering over a year after a 2020 wildfire.

-A wildfire nearly burned a newsroom.

-Here’s why this car was stuck in sand.

-It rained on only one side of this guy’s vehicle.

This tornado looked like an old Atari joystick.

-We almost had an unprecedented May tropical depression in the western Gulf of Mexico.

Mexican hailstone from hell – or maybe this one was stranger?

-Speaking of hailstones – one in Texas set a record.

This tornado was atop a Colorado mountain.

-The first May without an F/EF3+ tornado since 1919.

-Why there was a green spot in a drought-suffering North Dakota field.

-When cave breathing led to fog.

-A sea of spider webs formed after a flood.

-Claudette was named over land, then was reborn over land.

-See Thailand’s iridescent cap cloud.

-An Iowa man made a “snow angel” in the summer.

-How lightning sparked a fire in the Gulf of Mexico.

Disney canceled fireworks due to “Elsa”.

-The danger of a hair-raising British beach.

-A road was buried in 4 feet of mud for seven miles.

-A “mosquito-nado.”

-A camera captured its own demise in a wildfire.

-Canadian summer cold fronts brought smoke, too.

Earth’s hottest month and America’s hottest summer on record happened in 2021.

Trapped in a flooded elevator.

-A typhoon toppled a million-dollar pumpkin.

Rain poured into a state capitol.

Henri’s weird track resembled a coiled snake – and it made landfall in Rhode Island.

-A Greek “firenado” sent a tree flying.

Hurricane Larry’s post-tropical “ghost” pummeled Greenland.

-A rare flower bloom in one of the world’s driest places.

Smoky waves in the sky over Wyoming.

-A weird rope cloud fed into future Hurricane Sam.

-Then, an unmanned Saildrone penetrated Hurricane Sam.

-These California meteorologists were really excited over a drop of rain.

-Drought exposed a 130-year shipwreck – in North Dakota.

-Another hectic hurricane season fizzled after early October.

Hail crashed through an Australian mall.

Flooding swamped a wedding reception.

-Over 7 inches of rain in one hour.

-An Alaskan atmospheric river isolated a town.

Landspout tornado meets a volcano.

High winds bent these Washington goalposts.

-What’s for dinner? A frying-pan tornado.

Trudging through ankle-deep hail in Spain.

Stranded by a blizzard for days in an English pub.

-A Turkish storm took a washing machine for a spin.

-“Watermelon snow” is worse than it sounds.

-A tornado just missed a ship on the Ohio River.

-A tornado tipped over a school bus with the driver inside, and an RV landed on it.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.





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