Most Uncertain Storm Images

One of the great things about crowd sourcing is that we have the luxury of using numerous classifications to determine an answer for one image.  The responses of 15 citizen scientists is much more powerful than a response from one person, even if that person is an expert.

We have gone through every single storm image on Cyclone Center that has been classified by at least 10 citizen scientists.  All classifications were used to determine the variance of the image – or, how similar one classification was to the others.  Ambiguous cloud patterns will have a higher variance than one with a clear eye, for example.

Here we present the Top 5 most highly uncertain storm images, through classifications completed by November 15, 2015.  With a little analysis is usually quite clear why the image was so uncertain.  Hopefully, this will help you to make more confident classifications in the future.

5. UNNAMED STORM (1800 UTC, 1 February 2007)

2007033S12177.MISSING.2007.02.01.1800.57.GOE-11.013.hursat-b1.v05_circleOf the 16 classifications for this system, 6 were for “Eye” patterns of high intensity, while another 6 were classified as “curved band” with a much lower intensity.  I think the issue here is the breaks in the colors just southwest of the large white blob (black circle) that may have been interpreted as an eye by some classifiers.  In fact, this is a “false eye” as has been discussed in another post here.

If this were a real eye, you would note a much more organized, spiral-like storm structure around it.  Here, the colors (clouds) do not show much shape at all, so this is most likely not an eye storm.

4. UNNAMED STORM (0900 UTC, 16 November 1998)

1998320N10102.MISSING.1998.11.16.0900.45.MET-5.022.hursat-b1.v05_circleThis storm was very sloppy.  Here, we see the clouds very close or over south Asia, which further complicates the cloud pattern.  Several classifiers classified this system as “No Storm”, which is probably a bit pessimistic as there is some pretty intense activity (blue colors) and hints of a spiral structure.  The high variance comes from two classifiers who saw this as a very powerful eye storm, probably focusing on the clearing in the clouds circled in black.  The storm is probably toward the weak end of the spectrum, which is supported by the fact that the storm wasn’t given a name by any forecast agency.

3. GENE (1200 UTC, 15 March 1992)

1992076S15194.GENE.1992.03.15.1200.63.GMS-4.035.hursat-b1.v05This is a completely different image than the first two.  Here the classifier is presented a scene with what appears to be two different kinds of cloud patterns in one.  To the left we have an intense blow up of thunderstorms (white) that could be a curved band or embedded center pattern.  To the right we have what appears to be a strong curved band or even embedded center pattern.  Which one is the real Gene?

Understandably, our classifiers had a hard time with this one.  Four classifiers went with an eye storm (I’m not seeing that here), three had embedded center, and two choose curved band.  Intensity estimates ranged from weak tropical storm up to Category-5 tropical cyclone.  If I were to classify this one, I would choose the dominant pattern at the right and probably go with a very strong curved band system.  We are probably looking at a strong tropical storm.

2. EVRINA (0000 UTC, 25 March 1999)

1999084S12119.EVRINA.1999.03.25.0000.28.GMS-5.013.hursat-b1.v05Evrina at this time was a disorganized system with no clearly defined center of circulation.  The majority of user classifications were for curved band or weak intensity, which is probably the best choice in my opinion.  There is little evidence of embedded center (1 classification) and there is enough here to warrant a storm classification of some kind (there were 4 “no storm” classifications).  There certainly is no evidence here of any eye storm (3 classifications).  I can only guess that these classifiers choose a false eye as described above.

1. UNNAMED STORM (0600 UTC, 6 September 1996)

1996250N08148.MISSING.1996.09.06.0600.14.GMS-5.013.hursat-b1.v05Our “winner” is this masterpiece.  The majority of our classifiers choose “No Storm” which I think is a very reasonable choice.  There are virtually no organized thunderstorms (blue or white colors) here and little if any evidence of spiral effects.  What gives this image the highest variance is that 2 classifiers out of 10 selected the strongest eye category, perhaps focusing on the large gray area in the middle and assuming it was one giant eye.  In fact, this would probably be the largest eye ever recorded, if it were one.  But alas, this is just a clear area in a sea of unorganized rain showers.

There are many more examples of storm images like this in our Talk forum.  If you see images that you are uncertain of, please post them there and we’ll get back to you with our best guess!

– Chris Hennon is part of the Cyclone Center Science Team and Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Asheville





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