Friday, April 30, 2021

First Southern Plains Severe Weather Event Monday?

The central Great Plains and parts of the southern Plains have been exceptionally quiet when it comes to tornadoes for the last 18 months. Because it has been so long, I wanted to give this preliminary "heads up" that we might break that long streak Monday afternoon into Tuesday morning. 

Of course, I will keep an eye on this for you and will update over the weekend. Stay tuned!

John Kerry: The Ignorance of His CO2 Statement is Breathtaking

Masked John Kerry on scooter.
Via Drudgereport

The quote with video is here. He said: "We need to remove the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."

Carbon dioxide, along with oxygen, are the essential atmospheric elements to life on earth. Without them all life -- humans, animals, plants -- ceases. This is just another example of how incredibly unscientific the catastrophic global warming moment has become. 

We have record agricultural production with almost no meteorological famine and Kerry wants to screw with that? The existing CO2 may even be a bit of an "insurance policy" against future climatological cold spells such as the one that occurred in the middle of the 20th Century (see graph below). That said, there are good reasons to slow the future rate of carbon flowing into the atmosphere because too much additional warming could be a bad thing. That should be done via nuclear power for electricity generation. 

Last week, I received another email with the "cooler earth" slogan. 
Be careful what you wish for!!

Throughout human history, warmer weather has been associated with prosperity and colder weather has been associated with misery. The mid-20th Century cooling had terrible effects on humanity. 
Red Line is Earth's Temperature from 1900 to Now.
Circled Cold From 1960-80 Was a Calamity.
Now? World Prosperity.
Yes, in 1970, the horrific Bhola Cyclone (Indian Ocean name for a hurricane) killed more than a half million people. 

Yet Bill Gates and others want to return us to that awful era!! 
In terms of potential deaths, this is the worst idea in the history of mankind. In 1970, the population of earth was 3.7 billion. Today, it is 7.9 billion. If earth's temperatures were to drop 1°F, we almost certainly could not grow enough food. Millions would starve. Humanity has triumphed over the era of the "Population Bomb." Attempting to return to that era would be immorality on Nazi scale. 
It scares me to death that these scientifically ignorant people are running our national climate policy. As I've discussed in previous blog postings, the Supreme Court's Sullivan v New York Times decision has for decades allowed the media to smear people without fear of repercussion. So, for the most part, good people no longer run for office because they don't want to have their families dragged through the mud. The result is we now generally get people who are hungry for power or money or both. 
From an I&I editorial this week

Please write your representatives -- today -- letting them know you are strongly against this "dimming the sun" concept. 

I would recommend also writing them to change U.S.'s libel law but that will never happen because the current system favors incumbents. 

Copyright 2021 Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Soil Moisture For Agriculture

As of Monday (so it does not include the excessive rainfall from Oklahoma to southern Illinois) the drought in the West is extreme for agriculture as it is in North Dakota and from western Pennsylvania to northern New York. This map's data was before the torrential rains in the Ozarks region the past three days. Those rains are displayed below.
Please note that moisture is adequate over most of the winter wheat growing area. 

The Extraordinary Value of Recent Weather Forecasts

The value of weather forecasts and storm warnings isn't limited to saving lives. They have a huge economic value. 

Let's begin with the extraordinary simultaneous hailstorms in San Antonio, Ft. Worth and Norman. Here is the forecast from this blog yesterday. 

It correctly forecasts hail up to 4" in diameter in Texas in the orange area and singles out the DFW Metroplex. Norman is in the yellow area. Compare the forecast to the actual hail streaks which are red lines, more or less horizontal (west to east).
Considering there is a nationwide shortage of auto glass plus the hassles of dealing with insurance and rental cars, if people had put their cars in garages and brought in lawn furniture, etc., considerable economic value would be gained. More on the hailstorms, here.
The Flooding
This blog forecast major flooding for the Ozarks region ten days ago.
Here are the actual 48-hour rainfalls in the region. 
The forecasts got more specific with time, which -- if they chose to do so -- allowed people and companies to pull property out of the flooded areas and reroute trucks and trains around the flooding. 

The value of modern meteorology is not well understood by the public and policy makers. 

A friend brought this to my attention this morning:

While this is small market television, the fact is that this meteorologist, whomever he or she may turn out to be, will be called upon to save lives should a major tornado or flash flood situation occur. Yet, I almost guarantee the news anchors will earn more money (I've never understood that). 

Part of this is the fault of the science of meteorology -- we are terrible at explaining our value. But, part of it is due to some of the opinion-setting large markets (I'm looking at you Los Angeles and New York) not taking weather seriously until quite recently. 

Dangerous Overnight Flooding

Extreme Weather Summary, 12:30am

Flooding Update

Here is the rainfall for the 48 hours ending at midnight. 

The pinks are rainfalls of 6 to 7 inches. They have fallen on already-saturated ground. The radar map from 12:20am (below) shows rains continuing to fall over parts of Oklahoma and northern Arkansas.

This is a different type of flood map than we usually post. It depicts the "recurrence interval" of the rainfall over the 24 hours ending at midnight. 
  • The dark red = a once in ten year rainfall event. 
  • There is a small area in northwest Arkansas where it is a once in 75 year rainfall event. 
The National Weather Service says the flooding on the Illinois River, especially near Tallequah, is extremely serious and "life-threatening." Severe flooding is also occurring in northwest Arkansas. 

Severe Hailstorms

This is a map of hail swaths. The dark red areas are giant hail of 2" or more in diameter. There was softball-sized hail west of San Antonio. There were three metropolitan areas with extensive hail damage:

  • San Antonio
  • Ft. Worth
  • Norman, Oklahoma
The forecast of giant hail (posting below) up to 4" was extraordinary. 

There is a nationwide autoglass shortage. It is going to be some time before all of these autos are repaired. For the insurance industry, these hail swaths represent at least $1 billion in damage and likely more. 

As of this time, there are tornado watches in maroon. They will change during the night.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Noon Update: Tornado, Giant Hail and Flood Situation

Things have worsened since my morning update (now deleted):

Tornado Risk

The brown area has a significant risk of a tornado. In the Metroplex and south of I-20, the risk will begin after 2pm. 

Giant Hail Risk

In the orange area, there is the potential for hail up to four inches in diameter. This includes the DFW Metroplex. 

Increasing Flood Risk

Here is the rainfall up to 11:30am. 

The golds are amounts of 3" or more. The pinks along I-35 south of OKC = 6 inches. 

Heavy rain continues to fall in this area. Below is the radar from 11:55am.
Gold polygons are flash flood warnings.

Taking a wider view, 
Dark greens are flood watches. Light greens are flood warnings. Maroon is flash flood warnings. 

Over the next 48 hours, there will be areas of rainfall of 3 inches or more:
In southwest Missouri, the forecast is for an additional 4-5 inches!

Major flooding will result in the areas where flood warnings are now in effect and where additional heavy rains are forecast to occur. If you live in a flood-prone area please prepare a "go-kit" of heirlooms, cash and other items you would want to have if you were to need to quickly evacuate. 

I will have an additional update on this situation this evening. 

Another School Bus Swept By Floodwaters

This time it was Bentonville, Arkansas, this morning. 

Brian Armis, Via Twitter
There was one child and the driver on board. 

Video of a Washington, DC but being driven into a flood is here

Parents: Please contact your school board and make sure school bus drivers' training is upgraded to include, "Turn Around, Don't Drown."

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Story of How the Storm Warning System Came to Be

As we get into the statistical heart of tornado season 2021, this is the only book on the topic of how the storm warning system came to be: Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather

The warning system doesn't just encompass tornado warnings, 

  • Did you know that downbursts were once the #1 cause of commercial airliner crashes? Because of one courageous meteorologist, the last U.S. downburst crash was in 1994. 
  • A single unwarned U.S. hurricane killed 8,000 people (which would be 13,000 today due to population increase). We've prevented that type of disaster. 
  • The evacuation ahead of Hurricane Katrina was one of the largest peacetime evacuations in U.S. history -- and it saved 40,000+ lives. 
With graduations, Mother's Day and Father's Day coming up, I hope you'll consider picking up a copy. 

Today: The 30th Anniversary of the Wichita-Andover Tornado Part II

Yesterday's post focused on the "people aspect" of the violent tornadoes of 30 years ago today. This posting focuses on nascent science of the early 1990's that comprised the building blocks of today's highly-successful tornado warning system. 

Dreams of Doppler

Scientist Christian Doppler discovered the "Doppler effect" in 1842 which meant -- among other things -- that winds could be measured by radar. That had been a dream of meteorologists during much of the 20th Century. 

Early Success in Wichita in 1958
In 1957 and '58, the Weather Bureau installed an experimental Doppler radar at Wichita's (now) Eisenhower National Airport. The second year, on June 10, the radar measured 200+ mph winds associated with the El Dorado, Kansas, Tornado. The hypothesis had been proven: Doppler radar could detect tornadoes. However, that was highly impractical for anything but an experiment. 

It wasn't until the last 1970's that technology had advanced to where operational Doppler became practical. My story in yesterday's Wichita Eagle discussed the political aspects of deploying Doppler, embodied in a program called NEXRAD. Today is the anniversary of the first tornadoes detected with modern Doppler radar.

The April 26, 1991, Tornado Outbreak

This was a fierce tornado outbreak that extended from Iowa to Texas. Because the most severe tornadoes occurred in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma, we will focus on those tornadoes. 

The Meteorology

A powerful, negatively-tilted short wave rapidly dug into the southern Rockies. 

David Spector
The map above is a plot of surface weather features at 4pm and the 250 mb jet stream at 6pm. The numerals are the intensity and approximate locations of tornadoes. As would be expected the most intense tornadoes occurred in the area of maximum difluence ahead of the dry line. 

The 7pm 500mb chart depicts the short wave moving into the central Great Plains.
It was the rare situation where all of the meteorological elements came into place simultaneously.

KSNW-TV's Live WSR-74C Radar at 5:45pm 

I'm pointing to the developing hook echo associated with the developing Wichita-Andover Tornado north of Conway Springs (CS). I had just been handed a report of a funnel cloud north of that town. There was already a tornado on the ground over Goddard, Kansas, that was moving east northeast. 

Prototype NEXRAD Doppler Image, Oklahoma City, 5:47pm

The storms (above) were moving northeast. Because these storms were so distant from the radar, the prototype's resolution was poor. But, these were the first tornado thunderstorms ever shown on modern Doppler radar. 

A wider view of the NEXRAD:
This gives you an idea of how incredibly taxing it was to broadcast the warnings for all of these! There were no automatic TV "crawl" devices -- everything had to be done verbally and by pointing a maps. 

First Tornado Within NEXRAD's Wind Measuring Range

To the south of the three major Kansas tornado, a large supercell produced the F-4 intensity Red Rock (Oklahoma) tornado, here getting ready to cross I-35 about a mile south of the Dairy Queen at the Billings exit. The computer algorithm flashed a gold circle (reproduced here) that blinked when it found rotation. NEXRAD worked! It took just five days to prove itself. 

These days we look at the raw velocity data, shown below for the Red Rock storm.
Where the very light green and orange come together is the location of the the tornado. 

GOES Weather Satellite
If I recall correctly, the April 26th outbreak was the first, or one of the first, times the GOES imager was run on five minute intervals. While I was too busy to look at the satellites (it would have been useful, I wish I had) the data collected on this date is referenced in several scientific papers. 

Television Weather Technology
How about....none? There were no automatic "crawl" devices or other technology to display the warnings. We had an unlisted number for our trained storm spotters. Reports from the NWS came from the NOAA Weather Wire. The weather squadron at McConnell AFB (which was severely damaged by the tornado) issued "SA" reports (prior to METARs) every few minutes as the storm approached (even today I remember the T/Td was 81°/69°). Those came over "Service A" and had to be read off paper.  Everything had to be done pretty much as you see in the video below. 

Plus, we had to cover a Wichita radio station. The workload was enormous when trying to cover three major tornadoes in the immediate area, severe thunderstorms to the north (but still in our viewing area) and a line of thunderstorms that formed on the cold front and produced a second tornado warning for the Wichita area along with large hail, high winds and lightning that disrupted the search and rescue effort. It was hours of coverage with no dinner, no restroom breaks and hardly time to breathe. 

Still, this historic outbreak was the basis for the tornado warning system we enjoy today. We have cut the tornado death rate by 95% -- a tremendous scientific accomplishment. Weather scientists, however, need to insure we do not take these achievements for granted. There are some disquieting trends in the tornado warning system and I'll have more to say on that topic next month. 

But, today, let's take a moment to celebrate and cherish this Nobel-worthy scientific accomplishment: America's tornado warning system. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

30th Anniversary of the Wichita-Andover Tornado, Part I

Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the Wichita-Andover Tornado, one of the most violent and historic tornadoes of the twentieth century. 

Shortly after noon April 26, the National Severe Storms Forecast Center issued only its second-ever "strong language" tornado watch.

The forecast was for "very damaging tornadoes." Unfortunately, that tornado 
watch (the first of many that day) was exactly correct. 

Tornado moving through McConnell AFB

With that, we were off. You can read the entire story in the Wichita Eagle. There is also a video which can be accessed by clicking the link in the top image. 
This was a huge success for weather science in that a study by the Centers for Disease Control found that the storm warnings prevented 82% of the potential deaths from this terrible storm. Still, 17 people died. I wish to dedicate the story to the memory of the people who perished and to the team at WeatherData, Incorporated who saved so many lives that day. 

Part II, more about the science, is now posted. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Flooding Concern For Ozarks Continues

This is the NWS's rainfall amount forecast for the next five days. While the highest averaged-amount is five inches, there will be area that have as much as seven inches. 

This entire region has had a wet spring. Two day rainfall amounts (to 2pm today) continued to keep soils saturated and stream levels high. Click to enlarge. 
I apologize for the poor quality of the basemap but this is the only one I could find with this vital information. Please note the >2" amounts in eastern Oklahoma. 

The areas most at risk are:
  • Missouri south of Interstate 70.
  • The northwest half of Arkansas.
  • Eastern Oklahoma.
  • Far southeast Kansas. 
I always recommend that people in flood-prone area know how to quickly assemble a "go kit" so that they can evacuate if flood warnings are issued. This would be a good time to prepare. 

Saturday: Tornado Forecast for the Rest of the Day

There were overnight tornadoes and at least two tornadoes this morning. Below is the tornado forecast for the rest of the day.

The brown area has a significant risk of a tornado later today or this evening. Please keep up on the weather in this area when thunderstorms approach. 

Addition at 1:30pm CDT: 
The three red polygons are current tornado warnings. Unfortunately, the tornadoes have started up again.

Please Get Your COVID Shots

I keep reading that vaccination sites are shutting down because people are not getting COVID shots.

Unless your physician has counseled you otherwise, please get them. Kathleen and I have had them and suffered no significant ill effects.

The sooner we do this, the sooner this nightmare will end. 

No! No! No! No! Don't Stop Under Bridge During Tornadoes and Hailstorms

Frame capture from Brandon Ivey Video of Yesterday

Never stop under bridges due to hail or, especially, during a tornado warning. You risk being rear-ended and injured and, during a tornado warning, you could be killed. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

High Likelihood of Tornadoes Saturday in Southeast

There is a serious risk of tornadoes south of I-20 Saturday. 

  • The yellow area has a enhanced risk of tornadoes. 
  • The red area has a high risk. 
Tornadoes are less common in the morning but they could occur Saturday with the potential of more tornadoes during the afternoon. 

Please make sure your family and friends are aware of this potential.