Ninth Anniversary of the Joplin Tornado

The Joplin Tornado about twenty seconds after it touched down.
Basehunters' photo. Used with permission. 
Today is the anniversary of a tragic event in American history. The City of Joplin was blindsided by the tornado. It was one of the rare days in which weather science let down its fellow countrymen.  Joplin has rebuilt and is proud of what it has achieved in the wake of that awful evening. We salute them.

And, while -- even today -- some tornadoes are incredibly difficult to warn-of effectively, that wasn't the case for Joplin's. It was straightforward. Still, weather science and emergency management both failed. Plus, everything that could have gone wrong did, all the way town to the fact that the tornado was rain-wrapped and no one could see visually (the above photo was from behind the tornado). One hundred sixty-one people died; probably 100 to 120 more than necessary (a tornado of this violence in a densely populated area kills regardless of the quality of the warning).

Here is a brief blog post as to what went wrong; my book on the subject is here. Here is a podcast about the Joplin tornado.

Science fails from time to time. That's okay, even though it can be incredibly painful. Failure is an intrinsic part of science: advancing a hypothesis which sometimes fails. What we cannot allow to happen, whether it is with tornadoes, coronavirus or global warming, is to fail to learn and do better the next time. 


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