Atmosphere And Weather

Perfect Storm is not a new Phrase

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"Perfect Storm is not a new Phrase"
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The phrase "perfect storm" emerged as a commonly known phrase in the 1990s during a decade when a rare massive storm developed after three individuals storms clashed. The now-famous 1991 "perfect storm" occurred off the northeast coast of the U.S.

According to, the expression "perfect storm" was used by Bob Case, a retired NOAA meteorologist, when the Oct. 28, 1991 storm occurred that began "as an extratropical low," but ultimately led to massive waves that reached several dozen feet high.

Science Daily notes that  author Sebastian Junger actually had gotten the phrase when writing his book after having a conversation with Case.

In the midst of the massive storm was a swordfishing boat, the Andrea Gail, which had six crew members on board. It was lost at sea and the remains of the boat or the crew were never found.  In 1997, Junger profiled the Andrea Gail shipwreck in a book he entitled, "The Perfect Storm". The book later went on to become a movie with the same title on the big-screen; the film starred George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.

The June 2000 Science Daily article states, "Case says that while he does not recall specifically talking to Junger among the thousands of calls he fielded over the years, he likely meant that three weather ingredients had come together to create a "perfect situation." However, this is true for any major storm."

Most of the time, the phrase "perfect storm" is associated with meteorology, but it has other meanings as well. One dictionary explanation states the phrase means "a combination of events which are not individually dangerous, but occurring together produce a disastrous outcome."

Merriam-Webster notes the phrase was used in1936.

Reportedly, according to the Grammar Phobia blog, its use in relation to meteorology occurred in Port Arthur (Texas) News: “The weather bureau describes the disturbance as ‘the perfect storm’ of its type. Seven factors were involved in the chain of circumstances that led to the flood.”

However, Grammar Phobia blog also notes the phrase actually dates back to the early 18th century, as indicated by the Oxford English Dictionary, but at that time had a positive use, unlike the negative connotation the phrase has generated today.

Since the book and movie, weather reporters and other media also use the phrase "perfect storm". It was most recently used this past week as Hurricane Sandy stormed up the east coast and along the way collided with a cold front from the east, wreaking havoc along the coastal communities from North Carolina up to Canada.

Once this October 2012 storm was discovered, the phrase "perfect storm" resurfaced, but then later was transformed in the media to be referred to as a "Frankenstorm".

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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