You don’t see this every day. On Wednesday towering waves and powerful winds from a roaring storm in the North Atlantic briefly fought gravity and won.
The storm has brought hurricane-force winds to parts of mainland Ireland and Scotland, and gusts as high as 144 mph to offshore islands. Power outages affected thousands of homes as trees toppled and lightning crackled on Wednesday, but no major damage was reported.
Instead, the storm lived mostly through astounding photographs that seemingly defied the laws of physics. In Scotland, intense winds reportedly forced a waterfall uphill:
On Wednesday, a buoy 50 miles off the west coast of Ireland recorded that country’s largest series of waves on record—51.5 feet, with an individual wave measured at more than 70 feet tall. In an official graphic, the Irish Meteorological Service quaintly showed that that’s five times the height of a double-decker bus. An analysis showed these waves were the biggest waves anywhere on the planet on Wednesday.
The waves and wind are coming thanks to a particularly strong extratropical cyclone that’s garnered its own hashtag: #weatherbomb, so named because it’s undergone extreme rapid deepening known as “bombogenesis.” Believe it or not, that’s the technical term for a drop of its central pressure of more than 24 millibars in 24 hours.
This storm developed when a weak low-pressure center off the U.S. East Coast and a stronger Arctic low-pressure center merged near the southern tip of Greenland earlier this week. By Wednesday, the center of the storm was between Greenland and Iceland, with a minimum pressure roughly equivalent to Hurricane Sandy at the moment of its New Jersey landfall in 2012. Storms like this are relatively common this time of year in the north Atlantic, but the waves from this one were particularly high thanks to persistent winds aimed squarely at the Irish and Scottish shores.
Here’s how the storm looked on satellite from Tuesday night into early Wednesday:
One wave in Ireland sent spray nearly 500 feet into the air:
Closer in, the waves were breathtaking:
The waves drove feet of foam onto beaches, resembling snow:
The wild weather may not be over soon. Another strong storm will pass over Northern Europe on Thursday and Friday.