FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — A severe thunderstorm that formed over the Pacific Ocean in 2018 now holds the record for coldest temperature ever recorded.
A NOAA satellite observed the very frigid cloud tops of that thunderstorm on December 29, 2018.
At the very top of the storm, it was a bone-chilling -168 degrees Fahrenheit!
According to a release from U.K.'s National Center for Earth Observation, the storm was so strong that it extended into the stratosphere.
Thunderstorms are some of the coldest clouds on Earth. A monster 20km high thunderstorm in southern Pacific in Dec 2018 was the "coldest storm ever seen from space" at -111°C (-168°F)!
— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) March 30, 2021
This event is known as an overshooting top.
The overshooting top in this particular situation resulted from very warm water at the surface.
This in turn allowed for very strong updrafts.
Impressive overshooting top on a thunderstorm near Waterloo IA late yesterday… from @freightdogextraordinaire (IG) pic.twitter.com/hxYUk3P8dv
— James Spann (@spann) July 8, 2020
As the strong updrafts continued, the storm strengthened and overshot the top of the troposphere.
The troposphere is the lowest section of the Earth’s atmosphere.
For reference, the troposphere is where all of our weather happens and it is where passenger airplanes fly.
— The UCAR Center for Science Education (@UCARSciEd) January 25, 2018
Scientists believe this particular storm produced the coldest known storm cloud temperature ever and it reached an altitude of over 12.8 miles above sea level.
Overshooting tops are common and we see this phenomenon from time to time in the Great Lakes region.
It typically looks like a dome above a thunderstorm anvil.
— Tom Purdy (@TomPurdyWI) June 17, 2016
Regardless of what is seen in the Great Lakes, this particular storm is extreme and it even pushed the limits of current satellite sensors.
Scientists have documented these extremely cold storms for a little over a decade and the bitterly cold cloud top temperatures are becoming more common.
This trend is important to note because colder cloud tops typically yield more extreme weather such as larger hail, ferocious lightning and extreme wind.