Satellite image of May 10, 1996 Mount Everest disaster

For anyone who's read about the May 10, 1996 Mount Everest disaster (especially in Krakauers' Into Thin Air), you may find this of interest:

http://www.weathergraphics.com/tim/everestloop.gif (1.4 MB animated GIF)

The short story is climbers near the summit were caught in unexpected thunderstorm activity, and eight died. The overshooting tops can be seen pretty clearly on the last frame of the image, here (inside hairline box near center):

v13.jpg


More on the disaster itself is on Google.

Tim
 
Into Thin Air was one of the best books I read in the 90's ... could not put it down until it was done. I did not realize this was associated with convective activity though ... at the summit the result was gale force wind and pounding snow. I remember the author talking about how the mountain dramatically affects the weather of the area ... and the fact that at certain times of year the jet stream cuts right across the summit, which can quickly trap climbers in 70 kt winds.

It was also interesting to me in Krakauer's book that because of the brutal conditions, no one can bring back the bodies of the dead from the top, so climbers often have to walk past the corpses of fallen climbers before them, some of whom have been there for years. George Mallory's body was just found in 1999, and he had disappeared in 1924. (For those who aren't squeemish, here's a photo of his discovery ... amazing how well preserved he looks in that climate.) The other unreal aspect of that book was the simply unbelievable story of Beck Weathers, the indestructable doctor from Texas. And while you're at it, check out this panorama from the top.

Krakauer describes the convection rising up the side of the mountain in an article he did for Outside Magazine here.
 
Originally posted by Andrew Khan
How did they die from the thunderstorm?

They didn't die from the thunderstorms, they were killed by the extreme cold, high altitude, fatigue, dehydration, etc. The thunderstorms just led to white out conditions, and high winds that prevented the climbers from descending the mountain.

Tim...thanks for posting this. Very cool. I'm an avid hiker and aspiring high alitude mountaineer. I trekked to Everest Base Camp in 2001, and have dreams of climbing the mountain someday. If anybody has more questions about the 96 Everest disaster please post them, I'd be glad to chime in.
 
The storms aren't low-topped by any means... incredible CAPEs are normal for India and Nepal that time of year. Cold upper-level flow tends to be shunted southward due to obstacle flow around the Tibetian Plateau, and that contrasts with extremely rich boundary layer moisture, setting up enormously steep lapse rates. The pic above shows a deep haze layer banked up against the Himalayas, indicative of considerable moisture working into this area. Apparently this kind of thing was rather early for this time of year and is why the mountains are not climbed in June.

Judging by the overshoot and the bright cloud mass on the terminator I'd imagine the tops on these storms were in excess of 40,000 ft. Thus the climbing party was probably up in the anvil region of orographic storm activity. I agree that the whiteout & frozen precip was the main problem, with wind gusts a secondary problem (and perhaps lightning, which Krakauer mentions).

The storms closer to the Bangladesh region often reach 60,000 ft or more. John Finch has done some great work along these lines.. see:
http://www.bangladeshtornadoes.org/

Tim
 
Originally posted by Tim Vasquez
The storms aren't low-topped by any means... incredible CAPEs are normal for India and Nepal that time of year. Cold upper-level flow tends to be shunted southward due to obstacle flow around the Tibetian Plateau, and that contrasts with extremely rich boundary layer moisture, setting up enormously steep lapse rates. The pic above shows a deep haze layer banked up against the Himalayas, indicative of considerable moisture working into this area. Apparently this kind of thing was rather early for this time of year and is why the mountains are not climbed in June.

Judging by the overshoot and the bright cloud mass on the terminator I'd imagine the tops on these storms were in excess of 40,000 ft. Thus the climbing party was probably up in the anvil region of orographic storm activity. I agree that the whiteout & frozen precip was the main problem, with wind gusts a secondary problem (and perhaps lightning, which Krakauer mentions).

The storms closer to the Bangladesh region often reach 60,000 ft or more. John Finch has done some great work along these lines.. see:
http://www.bangladeshtornadoes.org/

Tim


This storm was certainly aided by orography/topography. That would mean lightning would have been very frequent, if in fact they were in the anvil itself.
 
Originally posted by Andrew Khan
How did the thunderstorm ascend to those great heights? Assuming it was low topped, and sfc-based.

Also, think about how high the surface (ground) is there. The highest peaks around that area are 7000-8000 meters. People in the valleys live at 3000-4000 meters. So you're already starting much higher than the US Plains and even the Rocky Mountains.

I'm sure there was abundant lightning, but nobody speculates that is what killed anyone. I'm sure its possible. Many people survived the storm cold and battered, but were too tired to descend. They froze in place, wandered off the route and fell 8,000 feet in Tibet, or were killed by cerebral or pulminary edema.

If you are interested in this story you gotta read "Into Thin Air." Its an excellent account of the events, and its written for everyone, not just mountaineers. Looking for more...read "The Climb" by Boukreev, he single handedly rescued many of the climbers.

You may or may not know that several scenes from the Everest Imax movie were actually filmed on Mount Washington. The film maker, David Breashears, often bragged at how they dealt with 100+ mph winds on Mount Everest ALL THE TIME. During filming on Mount Washington they were humbled by real 100mph winds, with much more air behind them. All things being equal, 100mph on Mount Everest equals the same force as 54mph at sea level.
 
Originally posted by Tim Vasquez
The storms aren't low-topped by any means... incredible CAPEs are normal for India and Nepal that time of year. Cold upper-level flow tends to be shunted southward due to obstacle flow around the Tibetian Plateau, and that contrasts with extremely rich boundary layer moisture, setting up enormously steep lapse rates. The pic above shows a deep haze layer banked up against the Himalayas, indicative of considerable moisture working into this area. Apparently this kind of thing was rather early for this time of year and is why the mountains are not climbed in June.

Judging by the overshoot and the bright cloud mass on the terminator I'd imagine the tops on these storms were in excess of 40,000 ft. Thus the climbing party was probably up in the anvil region of orographic storm activity. I agree that the whiteout & frozen precip was the main problem, with wind gusts a secondary problem (and perhaps lightning, which Krakauer mentions).

The storms closer to the Bangladesh region often reach 60,000 ft or more. John Finch has done some great work along these lines.. see:
http://www.bangladeshtornadoes.org/

Tim

Yes, John Finch does have a very interesting site!

Where did you find that satellite loop?

Pat

PS Users of Digital Atmosphere Workstation may find these relief base maps of Bangladesh of some use:
http://www.wistorms.net/countryBasemaps/Asia/
A very light yellow font at size 12 or 14 will show pretty well in the mountainous areas.
 
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