70 F. average high on May 18.
68 F. high temperature on May 18, 2016.
May 19, 1975: Strong winds cause over 2 million dollars of damage across Fridley, Mounds View and New Brighton.
Tornado Terminology You Need to Pay Attention To
The USA is on track for the busiest tornado year since 2011. That was the year Tuscaloosa and Joplin were hit. Why have we suddenly come out of a 5-year tornado drought? Two reasons: the same jet stream pattern that generated a stormy treadmill for the western USA created a wind shear profile ripe for tornadoes. Also, record warmth in the Gulf of Mexico has primed the pump with warmer, more unstable air.
If you hear of a PDS (Particularly Dangerous Situation) Tornado Watch issued nearby you want to pay very close attention. It means the atmosphere is locked & loaded for violent, long-track tornadoes. A "Tornado Emergency" is more dangerous than a Tornado Warning. It means a large, CONFIRMED tornado is moving into an urban area.
Severe weather season in Minnesota and Wisconsin usually peaks in June; the most severe T-storms are yet to come.
Clouds increase today with showers over southern Minnesota. Heavier rain arrives Saturday as a storm tracks from Des Moines to Duluth. Sunday looks like the drier day of the weekend with glimmers of sun by afternoon.
Expect 60s next week; 70s returning within a week as spring tries again.
Image above: AlabamaWX.com from May 2013 in the Oklahoma City area.
Photo credit: "Storm chaser convergence can cause backups for miles near dangerous storm systems." JR Hehnly.
Map credit: Aeris AMP.
Month's Worth of Rain in 4 Days. At least for some communities, reports the Twin Cities National Weather Service: "This week has been very wet, and the latest precipitation totals (Ending 4 AM this morning) since last Monday has confirmed the excessive amounts over the Upper Midwest. Most of western and northern Wisconsin has received between 2 and 6 inches of rainfall, with locally higher amounts. Across Minnesota, totals range from over 6 inches in the southeast, to nearly an inch across the northwest. Localized amounts of 3 to 4 inches were common around the Twin Cities metro area. Although most of today will be dry with some showers early, another storm late Friday, and into the weekend will bring another round of heavy rainfall."
Daily Rainfall Record on Wednesday. 1.81" soaked the metro area, roughly 2 weeks worth of rain falling in one day.
Rainfall Amounts. NOAA has a detailed list of rainfall amounts here.
El Nino Again? This Is Why It's Hard to Tell. Right now it's even odds, according to a story at Climate Central: "The tropical Pacific Ocean is once again carrying on a will-it-or-won’t-it flirtation with an El Niño event, just a year after the demise of one of the strongest El Niños on record. The odds right now are about even for an El Niño to develop, frustrating forecasters stuck in the middle of what is called the spring predictability barrier. During this time, model forecasts aren’t as good as seeing into the future, in part because of the very nature of the El Niño cycle. The reason scientists try to forecast El Niño is because of the major, often damaging, shifts in weather it can cause around the world. The last one brought punishing drought to parts of Southeast Asia and Africa and torrential rains to parts of South America..."
Why So Many Tornadoes in 2017? After a 5 year tornado drought it's been a very active year for nature's most violent storm. My friend, NBC10 meteorologist Glenn Schwartz in Philadelphia, talks about the variables contributing to a hyperactive tornado season for the USA: "...There are several factors that could help explain that big increase. Weather patterns change all the time, so there can be big differences from year to year in the number of tornadoes. But one constant has been the record warm water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico. A southerly wind over warm waters leads to record warmth and humidity. Those are two of the ingredients in many tornado “outbreaks”-when large numbers of tornadoes hit in a single day or two. A common measure of the energy that can lead to severe storms is called CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy). A higher CAPE is an important ingredient. Here is a great graphic that shows how a warm Gulf leads to high CAPE values, which in turn can lead to an increase in tornadoes..."
Tornadoes and Manufactured Housing: A Bad Mix. In light of the deadly Chetek, Wisconsin tornado I reviewed Minnesota's regulations. Manufactured home parks with 10 or more homes, licensed after March 1, 1988, must provide a storm shelter within the park. But parks licensed prior to March 1, 1988, must provide either a shelter on the premises -or- evacuation plans to a storm shelter close to the park. "Storm shelters are expensive!" So are brakes, but car manufacturers still include them with every purchase. When tornadoes hit these manufactured home parks damage is extensive. 44 percent of the 1,091 Americans killed by tornadoes from 1985 to 2005 died in mobile homes. Details here.
Concerned Phone Call Saves One Wisconsin Family From Tornado. WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee has the details: "A Barron County tornado survivor says a phone call from his dad is the reason he, his fiancé and their unborn baby were still alive Wednesday. Many in the Chetek, Wis. mobile home park hit with a tornado this week said they heard bad weather was on its way, but one man said he didn't take it seriously that a tornado was coming until it was almost too late. "I kinda blew it off not knowing the severity of the situation," said Ronnie Bloomberg. But his dad didn't. "My dad called me and said, 'Ronnie, you gotta get outta there’," Bloomberg said..."
Despite Tornado Threat, Shelters Rare for Mobile Home Parks. Here's an excerpt of a story at News OK published back in January which seems even more timely today: "...According to the National Weather Service, 44 percent of the 1,091 Americans killed by tornadoes from 1985 to 2005 died in mobile homes, compared to 25 percent in stick-built homes. That's especially significant considering how few Americans — 8 percent or fewer — lived in mobile homes during that period. Over the weekend, an unusual midwinter outbreak of dozens of tornadoes shredded two mobile home parks that didn't have shelters in southwest Georgia. Three people were killed at Big Pine Estates in Albany and seven died at Sunrise Acres in rural Cook County. For most of the U.S., installing storm shelters remains a voluntary decision whether they're for a private home, a mobile home park or a community center. Alabama and Illinois have laws mandating that new public schools are built with storm shelters, and Minnesota requires shelters at mobile home parks with spaces for 10 or more homes built since 1988..."
Tornado Casualties Depend More on Storm Energy than Population. Eos has a fascinating story: "...Armed with these two measurements and the published casualty counts for each of the tornadoes in their sample, Fricker and his colleagues investigated how casualties scaled with storm energy and the size of the nearby population. The scientists found that storm energy was a better predictor of the number of storm-related injuries and deaths: Doubling the energy of a tornado resulted in 33% more casualties, but doubling the population of a tornado-prone area resulted in only 21% more casualties. These results, which the team reported last month in Geophysical Research Letters, can inform emergency planning, the team suggests. The relatively larger impact of tornado energy on casualties might be cause for concern, Fricker and his colleagues note. If climate change is triggering more powerful tornadoes, an idea that’s been suggested and debated, emergency managers might have to contend with larger casualty counts in the future. But scientists are by no means certain that larger tornadoes are imminent. “There is no doubt climate change is influencing hazards, but for tornadoes, we just simply don’t know to what extent yet,” said Stephen Strader, a geographer at Villanova University in Villanova, Pa., not involved in the study..."
Photo credit: "A scene of destruction in Concord, Ala., after the 2011 Tuscaloosa–Birmingham tornado caused more than 1500 injuries. A new study indicates that storm intensity is a better predictor of casualty counts than the size of the local population." Credit: National Weather Service
What Causes a Heat Burst? The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls explains the meteorology behind Tuesday morning's storm-driven surge of heat, wind (and dirt): "When a thunderstorm is mature, warm and moist air rises into the storm. As the air rises, water drops (and ice crystals) form within the clouds which then fall out as heavy rain. With heavy rain falling, the air beneath the cloud is cooled due to evaporation. As a result, the air at the surface is typically cooler than the warm and moist air ahead of the thunderstorm. As the thunderstorm weakens, rainfall decreases. In most cases, when there is warm and moist air in the lowest 5000 feet of the atmosphere, the wind will decrease as the storm weakens and rain no longer reaches the surface. However, when there is very dry air below the cloud base, as occurred last night (see below), then evaporation continues below the cloud base. Where rain is evaporating, the colder air, which is denser than the air around it, will continue to accelerate toward the surface. Once the rain completely evaporates, the air will begin to warm more quickly as it approaches the surface. As it reaches the surface, the air is actually warmer and drier than the air ahead the storm."
"Highest mortality associated with a tropical cyclone, an estimated 300,000 people killed directly as result of the passage of a tropical cyclone through Bangladesh (at time of incident, East Pakistan) on Nov. 12-13, 1970...........Highest mortality associated with a tornado, an estimated 1,300 people killed by the April 26, 1989 tornado that destroyed the Manikganj district, Bangladesh............Highest mortality (indirect strike) associated with lightning, 469 people killed in a lightning-caused oil tank fire in Dronka, Egypt, on Nov. 2, 1994..........Highest mortality directly associated with a single lightning flash, 21 people killed by a single stroke of lightning in a hut in Manyika Tribal Trust Lands in Zimbabwe (at the time of incident, Rhodesia) on Dec. 23, 1975..........Highest mortality associated with a hailstorm, 246 people were killed near Moradabad, India, on April 30, 1888, with hailstones as large as “goose eggs and oranges and cricket balls."I observe a couple of revealing things about the record-setting events. First, they all happened before 1994..."
World to Tackle Deadly Disasters at U.N. Forum. Here are a few statistics in a recent Thomson Reuters Foundation article that made me do a double-take:
- "The number of weather and climate-related disasters more than doubled over the past 40 years, accounting for 6,392 events in the 20 years from 1996 to 2015, up from 3,017 in the period from 1976 to 1995.
- Of the 1.35 million people killed by natural hazards from 1996 to 2015, 90 percent died in low and middle-income countries, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, which collects the data.
- Over those two decades, 56 percent of deaths were caused by earthquakes and tsunamis, with the rest due to floods, storms, extreme temperatures, drought, landslides and wildfires.
- In 15 of the 20 years, the greatest loss of life was due to extreme weather events..."
Photo credit: "Williams College astronomer Jay Pasachoff prepares for a solar eclipse in Argentine Patagonia in February. He plans to observe this summer's total eclipse from western Oregon." (Photo courtesy of Jay Pasachoff).
Photo credit: "U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks to reporters after the weekly Republican caucus policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. April 4, 2017." REUTERS/Eric Thayer.
Map credit: "This map shows state rankings in the recent U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index." (image via Clean Edge)
The Big Green Bang: How Renewable Energy Became Unstoppable. Clean energy disruption is now well underway, says Financial Times: "...Mr Robson’s experience is just one example of the disruptive impact of green energy on companies — and entire industries — around the world. After years of hype and false starts, the shift to clean power has begun to accelerate at a pace that has taken the most experienced experts by surprise. Even leaders in the oil and gas sector have been forced to confront an existential question: will the 21st century be the last one for fossil fuels? It is early, but the evidence is mounting. Wind and solar parks are being built at unprecedented rates, threatening the business models of established power companies. Electric cars that were hard to even buy eight years ago are selling at an exponential rate, in the process driving down the price of batteries that hold the key to unleashing new levels of green growth..."
Graphic source: International Renewable Energy Agency.
Photo credit: " .
Photo credit: "
Photo credit: Dan Winters.
Terrifying Tornado Gives Couple a Proposal Story They'll Never Forget. Wait, if a tornado was approaching I'd be down on one knee too. Digging a storm shelter. Here's an excerpt at HuffPost: "A storm chaser in Texas used a terrifying tornado as the perfect backdrop to a proposal. Alex Bartholomew popped the question to girlfriend Britney Fox Cayton near McLean on Tuesday, as a twister struck the ground about a mile away. Fortunately, she said yes. Bartholomew shared photographs on Facebook of the couple’s epic engagement, with the tornado visible in the background. They are now going viral..."
TODAY: More clouds than sun. Chilly. Winds: NE 8-13. High: 55
FRIDAY NIGHT: Clouds, risk of a shower. Low: 43
SATURDAY: Steadier, heavier rain. Cool and pretty foul. Winds: NE 10-15. High: 49
SUNDAY: Damp start, some PM clearing. Winds: W 10-20. Wake-up: 44. High: 57
MONDAY: Sunny start, pop up shower late? Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 47. High: 66
TUESDAY: More clouds than sun, cool breeze. Winds: N 10-15. Wake-up: 45. High: 59
WEDNESDAY: Blue sky, getting better again. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 44. High: 67
THURSDAY: Partly sunny, feels like May. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 50. High: 71
Kansas Researchers Say Climate Change Will Deteriorate Midwest Water Quality. Here's an excerpt from High Plains Public Radio: "...Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of these fluctuations between drought and flood, though, according to new research published by scientists at the University of Kansas, and this "weather whiplash" will deteriorate the quality of drinking water. Terry Loecke and Amy Burgin, co-authors of the study, examined a particular pollutant, nitrate. It is a nutrient for crops and is a common ingredient in fertilizer. "Drought tends to stop nutrients from entering our water systems," says Loecke, who teaches environmental science. The nutrients accumulate in the soil when it is dry and, when heavy rain comes along, the nitrate that is not absorbed by plants as food is flushed into the water system..."
Glacier National Park May Need to be Renamed: Will Soon Have No Glaciers. Here are a couple of excerpts from a story at Fortune: "It is all but inevitable that the United States, apart from Alaska, will soon be missing the glaciers that have dotted our country for thousands of years. There is no other place that symbolizes America's glaciers like Glacier National Park in Montana. However, recent studies present strong evidence that in the coming decades the park will have none of the glaciers from which the park is named after...A recent study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Portland State University looked at how the 39 named glaciers in the park have been impacted by warming temperatures over the recent decades. Since 1966 when monitoring began the glaciers have on average declined by 39% with some glaciers declining by as much as 85% of their previous extent. Glacier National Park's melting glaciers are part of a global decline in continental glaciers since the 19th century. In the 19th century there were over 150 glaciers in this region, documented through historic photos and journals..."
Photo credits: "Before and after image of Alaska’s Muir Glacier. Left image taken in 1941, right image taken in 2014."
Miles of Ice Collapsing Into the Sea. It's all about unknown unknowns. If anything the rate of overall melting and sea level rise is happening faster than climate models have been predicting. The New York Times has the story: "...The acceleration is making some scientists fear that Antarctica’s ice sheet may have entered the early stages of an unstoppable disintegration. Because the collapse of vulnerable parts of the ice sheet could raise the sea level dramatically, the continued existence of the world’s great coastal cities — Miami, New York, Shanghai and many more — is tied to Antarctica’s fate. Four New York Times journalists joined a Columbia University team in Antarctica late last year to fly across the world’s largest chunk of floating ice in an American military cargo plane loaded with the latest scientific gear..."
Photo credit: "
Go West Young Tree - Climate Change Moves Forests in Unexpected Direction. IFLScience takes a look at new research: "Climate change is shifting the forests of America in an unexpected direction. All over the world, global warming is causing ecosystems to move away from the equator or to higher altitudes, in search of favorable climatic conditions. However, in the eastern United States, even more tree species have shifted westward than north. Dr Songlin Fei of Purdue University examined an extensive database on the locations of 86 species over the past 30 years. Of these, 62 percent were found to be moving north, averaging around 20 kilometers (12 miles) a decade. This entirely expected shift was overshadowed by a more surprising one. In the same sample, 73 percent were moving west, at slightly faster rates, with most change happening at the leading edge..."
Photo credit: "These trees in the Smokey Mountains National Park, Tennessee, are in one of the areas experiencing some of the fastest westward movement of species in the U.S." Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.
Image credit: Sea level rise: Miami and Atlantic City fight to stay above water
Image credit: "A periodical cicada dries out after emerging from its nymph skin in a backyard in Towson this week." (Karen Jackson/Baltimore Sun).
Cicada Climate Confusion? The Washington Post has more perspective.
Venice is a floating art city that has inspired cultures for centuries, but to continue to do so it needs the support of our generation and future ones, because it is threatened by climate change and time decay,’Centimeter by centimeter, inexorably, sea-level rise is moving shorelines, devastating habitats, laying waste to existing infrastructure and wreaking havoc on property values. These consequence command special attention for obvious reasons..."
Lorenzo Quinn, sculpter