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NOAA Images: Wretched Weather

Posted by Laurie Frost on August 15, 2009

One of the collections in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Photo Library is titled National Severe Storms Laboratory, after NOAA’s extreme weather lab based in Norman, Oklahoma. Its albums are Tornadoes, Instruments, Sky Scenes, Lightning and Hail.

Here are some examples of what you can find there: nssl0001

Baseball-sized (diameter=6 cm) aggregate hailstone.

Credit: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/NSSL [nssl0001]

nssl0016NOAA caption: Time-lapse photography captures multiple cloud-to-ground lightning strokes during a night-time thunderstorm.   Norman, Oklahoma. March, 1978   Photographer: C. Clark

Credit: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/NSSL [nssl0016]


nssl0052NOAA caption: Tornado near end of life – photographed during “Sound Chase.” “Sound Chase” was joint project of NSSL and Mississippi State University. Purpose of project was to record sounds emitted by tornadoes.    Cordell, Oklahoma.   May 22, 1981

Credit: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/NSSL [nssl0052]

nssl0179NOAA caption: Project Vortex. The Dimmitt Tornado.  

South of Dimmitt, Texas.  June 2, 1995. Photographer: Harald Richter

Credit: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/NSSL [nssl0179]

Meteorological Monsters is the title of one of the albums in the National Weather Service Collection; the most extensive sets here are of various hurricanes and deserving of a separate look. But here are some other historical highlights.

wea00206NOAA caption: Oldest known photograph of a tornado.

22 miles southwest of Howard, South Dakota.   August 28, 1884

Credit: NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection [wea00206]

wea01411NOAA Caption: “Dust Over Texas.” Huge boiling masses of dust that blocked out the sun were common sights in Texas during the Dust Bowl years. In: “To Hold This Soil”, Russell Lord, 1938. Miscellaneous Publication No. 321, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Circa 1935

Credit:  NOAA’s NWS Collection [wea01411]

wea01422NOAA Caption: A dust storm approaching Spearman [TX].

In: “Monthly Weather Review,” Volume 63, April 1935, p. 148.

 Credit:  NOAA’s  NWS Collection [wea01422]


wea00796NOAA Caption:  “Seventh St., Washington, D. C., under the Flood.” 

In: “History of the Johnstown Flood”, by Willis Fletcher Johnson, 1889. P. 379. Library Call Number M79.4 J71h.

Photographer: Archival Photograph by Mr. Steve Nicklas, NOS, NGS

Credit:  NOAA’s  NWS Collection [wea0796]

NOAA credits these last two to “Our National Calamity of Fire, Flood, and Tornado” by Logan Marshall, 1913. L. T. Myers, publisher. Both were taken in Dayton, Ohio, in March 1913, during a period of flooding that throughout the region claimed “527 deaths, the U.S. record for the 20th Century.” Archival Photography by Steve Nicklas, NOS, NGS

wea00751NOAA Caption: Improvised row boats built by National Cash Register Company were of great value in rescuing marooned residents of Dayton.

Credit:  NOAA’s  NWS Collection [wea00751]

And proving that as soon as there was photography, politicos rushed into photo ops:


NOAA Caption: City leaders shouldering shovels and hoes to help clean up the city. Little mud on the clothes might indicate a posed picture for publicity purposes.

Credit:  NOAA’s  NWS Collection [wea00760]

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