Monday, April 19, 2021

Current Weather Warnings and Advisories

  • The dark purples are hard freeze warnings. 
  • Light blue is a freeze warning
  • Blue is a winter weather advisory for light snow accumulation
  • Pink is a winter storm warning for heavier snow accumulations 
  • Magenta is a fire weather warning (red flag warning)

The 30th Anniversary of the Wichita-Andover Tornado is One Week From Today

Duke Evans

I have been working with the Wichita Eagle on special coverage of that terrible tornado which will appear in print and online this Sunday. There will be a print story telling the story in chronological order along with a video. 

That tornado has been ranked by one researcher as the 5th strongest tornado since quality records began in 1950. While the tornado tragically killed 17, that was a small fraction of the number of fatalities that would have occurred without the storm warning system. 

There will also be some additional coverage here on the blog as to the meteorological aspects of the storm.

Palmer Drought Index, April 10, 2021

The latest Palmer Index shows the excessive wetness and soil moisture has increased a bit from the Oaarks to the Mid Atlantic coast when compared to the March 26 values. Wetness has increased a bit from Nebraska to Wisconsin. 

There is little change to the drought in the West. 

Right now, the biggest threat to the 2021 winter wheat crop is current temperatures and temperatures through noon Wednesday rather than drought. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

New Review of "Warnings"

Here is the new Amazon review:

Reviewed in the United States on April 2, 2021

Verified Purchase
A wonderful accounting of the state-of-the-art of forecasting and weather warnings by one of the people that invented and developed them. Mike Smith recounts how we got to where we are today. It’s a terrific read.

Thank you, Mr. Denton! Please consider Warnings for your spring reading or as a gift to the graduate or for Mom or Dad. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Phony 'Climate Emergency' Posturing

Scientific American and other publications are no longer going to use the term "climate change" (not to be confused with global warming, climate weirding, climate crisis) but replace it with "climate emergency." 

Prior to COVID, we had the lowest rate of extreme poverty in world history. We have the highest agricultural production in history. Meteorological famine has been nearly erased. 

Hardly an "emergency." 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Wind Power Fails -- Again

From Germany via Jo Nova

On January 1st, Germany shut 11 coal fired plants with about 4.7GW of generating power — supposedly as a part of the Big Phaseout [of fossil fuel generation]. But eight days later the wind wasn’t blowing and, according to Pierre Goslin, the system got so unstable that the managers had to turn back on some of the coal power. This on-off-cycle repeated so many times that one large plant — Heyden  – was restarted six times in the next eight weeks.

This actually began before the Texas catastrophe. More wind power is a recipe for a third world power grid. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Global Warming: Is There Anything It Can't Do?

The caption speaks for itself. I'd be cover my mask in shame if I were making such a ludicrous claim.

Why is it ludicrous? Her own administration's data shows there is no severe drought in Mexico. 

Below is NOAA's drought map for the region. Reds and browns are severe drought. 

The drought in the Southwest United States is far worse than anything in Mexico. If they wanted to flee drought they are going the wrong direction. 

This is typical of global warming hype. It is fact-free on far too many occasions. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sad News: Fatal Overnight Tornado

Tragic news. This is why nighttime tornadoes are so dangerous. 

Evidently, the damage was extensive. 

Here is what the radar was showing when I was warning of it on Twitter (@useatherexpert) as the tornado was approaching Palmetto. 

At 10:25pm,

  • Upper left panel is conventional radar (the type you see on television). There is a hook echo which is a signature of a tornado.
  • Upper right is the Doppler velocity data. There is a clear "couplet" -- which shows significant rotation in the storm. 
  • Lower left is the rate change of velocity data and can, as in this case, highlight the location of the tornado itself. 
  • Lower right is lofted debris. 
Because of the inconvenience of sheltering during the night, I was using an objective method for detecting tornadoes using radar and atmospheric conditions. Below were the numbers for a radar-indicated tornado in Mississippi. 

This photo is of a different tornado in Mississippi than the one cited above.
Brandon Clement

It is too soon to know if my forecast (below) met the criteria I have set for an "extreme" risk. Based on radar, there were other tornadoes. At least two were in rural areas (fortunately!) so I don't know if damage surveys will be done so they can officially be put into the NWS's official database. 

Note to Readers

 At 1:24am, this has to be the end of my severe weather coverage for the night. The tornado watch continues in effect (below) and tornado warnings are currently in effect. So, please monitor the weather in the threatened areas. 

Tornado Watch for Strong Tornadoes Until 7am

Note that "strong" tornadoes are forecasted to occur along with wind gusts to 80 mph. The watch is in effect until 7am. 

Please monitor the weather the rest of the night in this area. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Dangerous Derecho and Tornado Threat Through the Overnight Hours

This is a situation where you should call friends and relatives to make sure you they are aware of the threat and have at least two methods of being awakened when warnings are issued. 

Now Until 1am
The initial threat (now until midnight) is west of the Mississippi River (Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana). There will be giant hail (>2"), tornadoes and damaging winds from the stronger storms. 

1amto 7am Saturday
I've added a rare extreme risk (purple) over eastern Mississippi and far western Alabama from 1am to 7am CDT. There is the risk of strong tornadoes during the pre-dawn hours. Later. one or two lines of thunderstorms with damaging winds and, a few tornadoes, will occur. 

7am to 4pm Saturday
Damaging winds are possible in the yellow area with a couple tornadoes in the orange area.

Thunderstorm Timing
Here is the forecast radar for 8pm:

Radar Forecast for 2am:
Overnight tornadoes are extremely dangerous. Please make sure you have a NOAA Weather Radio, WEA activated on your smartphone and an app to awaken you if a tornado warning is issued. 

It is time to prepare! Recommendations:
  • Make sure your phone and computer are charged but unplugged before the thunderstorms arrive because a lightning-induced power surge can damage them. 
  • Have at least three independent sources of storm warnings.
  • If you have friends who live in a mobile home or have issues with getting to shelter, act when the watch is issued, do not wait for the warning. 
  • Fill your car with fuel and do the same with your chain saw, if you have one. 
  • Get cash from the ATM -- they don't work during power outages. 
I will update again this afternoon.

Major Severe Weather Event in the South

 Derecho Likely in the Southern United States

This morning, we begin with the damaging wind forecast. Power failures and blocked roads due to toppled trees are likely. 

Wind gusts above 75 mph are likely in the red and purple areas. Given the extremely wet soils, especially in Arkansas, trees will be easily uprooted. 

Tornado Forecast

There is a significant risk of tornadoes in the brown area and an enhanced risk of tornadoes in the yellow area. 

There will also be giant hail (>2") in the western half of the threatened area, including Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Dallas. 

It is time to prepare! Recommendations:
  • Make sure your phone and computer are charged but unplugged before the thunderstorms arrive because a lightning-induced power surge can damage them. 
  • Have at least three independent sources of storm warnings.
  • If you have friends who live in a mobile home or have issues with getting to shelter, act when the watch is issued, do not wait for the warning. 
  • Fill your car with fuel and do the same with your chain saw, if you have one. 
  • Get cash from the ATM -- they don't work during power outages. 
  • Fill any prescription refills now -- before the major storms begin. 
I will update again this afternoon. 

Which Areas Had More or Less Snow Than Normal?

The map shows how snow accumulations varied from average across the contiguous United States. Greens are more snow than normal and reds are less. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Tweets of the Week

Some comments from the Twitter feed. 

Stabilizing the Climate

This isn't the first tweet this week about "stabilizing our climate." I wonder if a press release pertaining to President Biden's infrastructure bill used that phrase.

Stabilizing the climate = stabilizing the weather. Does anyone actually believe we know how to control the weather? Besides, below is a graph of planetary temperatures since 1900. Can you point to any time where the climate was stable?
Even if we could control the weather, at what level is best for humanity? Climate scientists haven't even opined as to the ideal temperature for humans. 

Evil Weather Control
There are those who actually believe we can control the weather. 
We really should get the "we need to stabilize the climate" people together with the people who believe in "manmade manipulation of our weather." That way, we can save many trillion dollars in the infrastructure plan proposed by the president. 

One of the Vital Questions of Our Time
Yes! No more need be said. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Enhanced Risk of Tornadoes in the South

There is an enhanced risk of tornadoes in the orange area.

There is a significant risk of tornadoes in the yellow area. 

I recommend you keep up on the weather in these areas later today and this evening. 


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Today's Tornado Risk Forecast

Please see 4:55pm Update Below --

There is a significant risk of a tornado or two in the yellow area of middle and south central Kansas. The time to monitor the weather is from 5pm until 11pm, based on current information. 

This is kind of a tricky forecast. I don't expect major tornadoes but any tornado can be dangerous. Please monitor the weather in this area later today and this evening.

The National Weather Service just issued a severe thunderstorm watch for central Kansas and south central Nebraska. 
In addition to 70 mph thunderstorm-induced wind gusts and 2" hail, their forecast also calls for a tornado or two possible.  

I am not a fan of putting tornado forecasts into severe thunderstorm watches. But, I wanted you to be aware that, evidently, the NWS has come around to my way of thinking about the tornado threat. As of 4:57pm, the very first thunderstorm is forming just southeast of Dodge City. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Review of "Warnings"

I ran across a 2015 review of Warnings that I had not previously seen. It is here. Some excerpts:

In “Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather”, Smith gives a fast-paced description of the most remarkable storms that have defined modern times. He explains how the forecasting of weather changes has been transformed into a well-defined scientific discipline... 

The language used in the book makes it an amazingly easy-to-read publication. One does not need to have a meteorological background to appreciate the fascinating submissions made in the book. Complex weather phenomena like tornadoes are explained in graphic details for all to understand them. Numerous photographs in the book make it a vivid, interesting treatise. The fascinating nature of the book is amplified by the actuality that it is replete with suspense." 

Over the Easter weekend:

And, just a little while ago:
We are coming up on the tenth anniversaries of the catastrophic April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak in the South and the horrific 2011 Joplin Tornado, and well as the 30th anniversary of the Wichita-Andover Tornado -- the 5th strongest tornado in recorded history. 

Whether for Mother's Day, Father's Day, spring break, graduation or just a great read, I hope you'll consider reading the important, yet entertaining, stories in Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. 

Why We Urge You to Go to a Small Room in the Middle of the Home on the Lowest Floor

This image succinctly demonstrates two of our tornado safety recommendations:

  • If you don't have a basement (and, if you do, get under the stairwell or sturdy furniture), get into a closet or bath in the middle of the house. You can see they held up better than the rooms with outside walls.
  • Take shelter on the lowest floor. 
This photo, used by James Spann during the most recent episode of WeatherBrains, depicts a bathtub which sheltered four (!) people as a tornado destroyed the home around them. 
It can seem foolish getting into a bathtub or taking some of these other precautions. I get that. But they can save your life. 

We are headed into peak tornado season. Please keep these recommendations in mind. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

He Is Risen

Happy Easter to all!!

If at all possible, try to get to the church of your choice today, especially if you have been vaccinated. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Next Week Will Be a Stormy Period - Tornadoes Possible in Central U.S.

Now the it is "that" time of year, here are things you should do on a day when tornadoes are in the forecast. 

A tornado watch means atmospheric conditions are right for tornadoes in the area for which the watch is issued. Watches last several hours. Take special note of a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch states, "this is a particularly dangerous situation."

When a tornado watch is issued:
  • Call family and friends to make sure they are aware of the threat and insure they are going to monitor the weather at the first sign of thunderstorms. This means the sound of thunder or darkening skies. 
  • Make sure you have a flashlight in your shelter area along with a couple of bottles of water, a radio/TV/weather radio, diapers, and a snack of the kids (something like trail mix). If you have bicycle, football or other head protection in the house, put them in the shelter area. 
  • Gather up the family of those who may need help getting to shelter. You don't want to be darting through traffic to pick up children while the sirens are sounding. Way too dangerous. 
  • Make sure your weather radio has fresh batteries and that your Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are activated on your smartphone. Below is how to do it. This how the tone sounds. 
Note: WEA is not foolproof. This is why I recommend a weather radio, an app and WEA (three independent sources) to wake you up at night. Weathercall is also an excellent resource. 

Things you should do if a tornado warning is issued. 
  • Insure your safety first! Get you and your family into shelter. Only then call friends and relatives to make sure they have gotten the warning. 
  • Stay in the shelter until you are given an all clear or until five minutes after the radar shows nothing over your location. 
  • Do not go outdoors to try to look for the tornado. Tornadoes are often invisible. Both of the locations below were struck by the Joplin Tornado but it could not be seen during its approach. 

Do you see the tornado in these pictures? The only thing you are doing by doing outside to look is putting your life in danger. 

Your local television meteorologist, especially if they have the seals of approval from the National Weather Association or the American Meteorological Society are excellent sources of information that will keep you informed during tornado warning periods.  

Friday, April 2, 2021

Required Reading About the Garbage "Climate Emergency"

There is a climate problem(s). There is no climate "emergency." The brief essay on this topic which I recommend is here.

He asks a good question: After being told there is a climate 'emergency' for forty years, can you cite one thing in your life that is worse because of the climate?

I doubt you can. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Apologize For the Interruption

 We had a little Google interruption today. Things are back to normal now. 

I Remember When 'Scientific American' at Least Purported to Be About Science

This headline could almost be an April Fool's Joke, but - unfortunately - it is genuine. 

There is little science left in 'climate science' these days. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Palmer Drought Index as of March 26, 2021

Here is the latest Palmer Drought Index as of Friday. With the recent heavy rains in Tennessee over the weekend, the flood risk is very high from the Ozarks to the Middle Atlantic region if additional heavy rain should fall. 

Rip Current Danger!!

This is the best photograph of rip currents I have ever seen. I can explain in the photo below.

Rip currents slide sideways along the beach. The red circle points to a person in danger. As the current swirls down the beach (blue arrow) the person goes from being in six inches of water to suddenly being in 3-4 feet of water that comes on him or her from an unexpected direction. Sometimes the current can be strong and disorienting. All of the sudden, the person is in a situation they cannot handle. 

Most rips are more subtle but this photo -- and some bring water in from two directions -- but, this should give you the idea.

When there are rip current warnings out, be very, very careful you observe the pattern of the waves and flow before entering the water. Then, make sure you stay in shallow water. 

A Way Forward For the National Weather Service

[bumped to the top from February 16, 2020]
The National Weather Service -- again -- is having severe data problems today. The issues described in this piece have only gotten worse in the past year. The proposed solutions are still the best way forward. 
While I have great admiration for the National Weather Service, the agency is dealing with serious issues with few signs of resolution. Dr. Cliff Mass published an incisive column about one of its issues, specifically, how it is falling farther and farther behind in atmospheric modeling.

But, while weather modeling is vital, it is hardly the only serious issue with which the NWS is struggling.
  • It's weather radars were designed in the 1980's and installed in the early to middle 1990's. While they have been upgraded several times, they will not last forever. There is no real plan for their replacement. The proposals to use phased-array radar will, when it comes to tornado detection, be a step backward due to its poor resolution. 
  • It has been evident for more than twenty years that gap-filler radars are needed, at least 20 in number. The NWS has done little or nothing to acquire and install them. 
  • The promised storm warning accuracy increases from various technologies (to cite one example, here) do not appear to have panned out. In fact, tornado warning accuracy has regressed and a new version has significant issues
  • The NWS has been dragging its feat on acquiring new types of data that are essential if we are to improve storm forecasting. 
  • Instead of fixing these issues and focusing on its core mission of storm warnings and forecasts, the NWS is 'reorganizing' itself to focus on decision support services, which -- in some cases -- is corporate welfare. 
I could go on but you get the idea. I have given a great deal of thought to the future of the National Weather Service.

It is time to face facts: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent agency of the National Weather Service, is failing in its management of public-sector weather in our nation. The NWS lacks a genuine vision for becoming the world's best public meteorological agency.

There seems to be no appetite in Washington to get to the root of the problem. The "ocean" side of NOAA and its constituency has far more clout than the atmosphere/weather side, even in this era of global warming concern. The first administrator of NOAA (1970-74) is the only administrator with a meteorological background in the half-century of the agency's history. The recent nominee of the Trump Administration failed because he had a weather background rather than one in fisheries or ocean enterprise.

Congress, in a rare bi-partisan manner, is more than willing to help but is not getting the guidance it needs from the agency and I doubt it will ever get that guidance because of the NWS being NOAA's figurative stepchild.

The current situation will never lead to the National Weather Service being first-in-class. So, I offer this unsolicited advice to both the Trump Administration and Congress.

The U.S. needs to do two things:

1. Split off the NWS from NOAA into an independent agency. It is time to concede NOAA, which was a good idea, needs a divorce.

2. As a Reagan conservative, I hate proposing more government. But, we desperately need a National Disaster Review Board (NDRB). Details of this proposal are here and here. The NLRB would also be tasked with verifying NWS forecasts and, especially, storm warnings. The people issuing the warnings should not be the people doing quality control evaluations.

There is a much better chance of the independent NWS striving to be best in class with the necessary tools (better models, gap-filler radars, etc.) and other essentials as an independent agency. If it does not, the NDRB will be holding its heat to the fire as the NTSB does with aviation and transportation.

Monday, March 29, 2021

A New Tornado Risk Forecasting Paradigm

Over the past two weeks there has been a lot of controversy within weather science pertaining to the risk categories used by the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. It has even made CNN. 

The problem centers around the words used to describe tornado risk and the colors used to portray these risks. The existing system was designed to be used by meteorologists, only. Now that these forecasts are widely used by the public, it is past time to revamp the descriptions of the standards. 

I started using a new wording system on this blog and on Twitter in 2020 and have continued it in 2021. I propose it to my colleagues as a new industry standard. 

  • Significant Risk of a tornado is a 5% chance of a tornado of any intensity. In the above sample, it would be the yellow area. 
  • Enhanced Risk is a 10% chance. In the above, it would be orange. 
  • High Risk is a 15% or higher chance of a tornado and at least one of the tornadoes is expected to be rated F-2 or higher. The vast majority of tornado deaths are associated with tornadoes of F-2 or stronger intensity. 
  • Extreme Risk (rarely used) is a 30% chance of a tornado and at least one of the tornadoes is expected to be rated F-3 or higher. In addition to being dangerous to life and limb, mass destruction is possible. 

* The percentages refer to the chance of a tornado within 25 mi. of any given point covered by the forecast. It is the industry standard. 

In the event of a rapid-onset tornado threat requiring one of these forecasts after sunset local time, the meteorologist has the option to increase the threat one category if she/he believes it appropriate given the risk of deaths from overnight tornadoes is 2.5 times the risk from tornadoes that occur in daylight. 

That's it. We'll talk about colors in the near future. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Tennessee Tornadoes + Flooding = Lessons for All of Us

Following up this week of destructive weather, there are a couple of things I would like to share with our readers....

Lesson #1

From Channel 5 in Nashville,

There was so much weather to report, you might miss the item I have highlighted -- that two NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) stations were knocked off the air during all of the tornadoes and flash floods. That is why it is essential to have at least three sources of critical weather information. NWR is a great source of information, but it is vulnerable if the power fails or if the data feed from the NWS office to the transmitter is knocked out. 

Lesson #2

There are comments in the media and social media to the effect that some were surprised by the extent of the flooding. But, it was very well forecasted!

On Friday,

On Saturday,
This was posted at 1:19pm yesterday and, when you add the amounts forecasted at that time (above) to what had already fallen, the forecast was of excellent quality. The image below is the total rainfall.

The Weather Channel via Twitter
The media is now reporting five deaths. Several of those were from people who, evidently, were safe and drove into a flooded area.

The lesson is to take flash flood forecasts and warnings just as seriously as you take warnings of tornadoes. 

Weather science has cut the death rate from tornadoes by 95%. The statistics indicate we have not had nearly that level of success with flash floods. What is not clear to me is "why"? I've tried to reason it out but have not had much success. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to share them with me via Twitter @usweatherexpert or contact me directly. Thank you. 

Sunday Fun: "Liftoff" by Eric Berger

I was so excited to read Liftoff, which is the story of the creation of SpaceX, that I saved it for my vacation so I could give it my full attention. I wasn't disappointed. It is a story worthy of the company. 

My only nit is that I wish author Eric Berger had covered the "Starman" being launched in a Tesla on top of a Falcon Heavy rocket into a orbit around the sun. Given that Starman was followed by twin rockets landing at Cape Canaveral, it seemed like it was well worth covering. You would never have seen NASA do something like that. 

I rate the book 4.8 stars. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot.