Kansas EF-1 Tornado With NO Warning

It has happened again: another damaging tornado that 
should have been an easy warning -- had no warning at all. 

NWS Chat, one of the photos of yesterday's tornado
A tornado indicated on radar. Timely photographs of the tornado* moving into the populated area of Garden City KS. Yet, again, no tornado warning:
DDC = National Weather Service in Dodge City

The result: Damaged homes and businesses and at least one overturned truck. 

The residents of Garden City and southwest Kansas are asking questions:

KSN is a local television station

NWS Chat
And, this isn't the first time:
  • On March 13, 2011, when multiple meteorologists and storm chasers were trying to get DDC to issue a tornado warning on a storm that would later be rated as EF-2 intensity, they replied with a terse, "no."
  • On July 13, 2023, tornadoes developed in central/southwest Kansas and, again, no tornado warning -- even though the DDC NWS knew about them. 
What in the world is going on?!

This is the umpteenth reason as to why the United States, like Great Britain and other nations, should have a Natural Disaster Review Board. Otherwise, I fear, these unwarned and poorly warned tornadoes are going to continue and more people are going to lose their lives. 

Meteorological Explanation 

*The photo at the top of this essay shows a "wall cloud" -- which indicates the thunderstorm has a mesocyclone which is a small area of rotation and low pressure. Tornadoes can come from the mesocyclone. 

In recent years, for reasons unknown to me, a number of National Weather Service field offices, have started attempting to differentiate landspouts from commonplace tornadoes. The problem is this adds complexity and confusion to the warning process. In addition, after 40+ years of calling landspouts "cold air funnels," why the name change? 

Given this and other incidents, it appears National Weather Service meteorologists are not well versed in the definition of landspout. Here is the listing from the American Meteorological Society's Glossary of Meteorology:
Clearly, yesterday's tornado was full-fledged tornado -- not a landspout.

There are four primary types of tornadoes:
  • Associated with supercells. The most violent tornadoes are in this category.
  • Associated with ordinary cellular thunderstorms. These almost never get beyond [E]F-3 intensity. 
  • Landspouts, a/k/a "cold air funnels." These occur in non-thunderstorm clouds. They also do not have "mesocyclones" which is a small area of rotation and low pressure within a thunderstorm (see below). 
  • Gustnadoes. These are inevitably weak and occur in various conditions. They typically last seconds or tens of seconds, warnings should not be attempted with these.
From the American Meteorological Society's Glossary of Meteorology, if there is a "mesocyclone," it is a regular tornado rather than a landspout. The radar shows the reflectivity data, left, (the type of you see on television) and the Doppler wind data on the right. Circled is a "couplet" which is a mesocyclone. By definition, if it is a mesocyclone, it is not a "landspout."

Fortunately, the tornado was on the extreme east side of the city (below). Had it been any farther west, the damage would have been worse.

So, again, the Dodge City National Weather Service fails to warn of a tornado they knew to be in progress. 

I simply do not understand why these keep occurring. 

My recommendations: 
  • return to calling landspouts by their traditional name, "cold air funnel." 
  • stop attempting to judge storm intensity in real time for warning purposes. If a tornado is believed to be in existence, a warning should be issued. Period. 
If I learn more, I will update this piece.


  1. How about we call them what they really are by definition: a tornado. It is a rotating column of air in contact with the ground. The use of the term "landspout" has gotten out of hand, and basically useless. It is a tornado, period. From my time on research projects with Drs. Lee and Findley, the absolute technical term is "non-supercell tornado." Lastly, shame on WFO DDC. The office that shined like a star during the Greensburg Tornado seems to have lost their way,

  2. This is totally unacceptable. Why not just go ahead and warn the public to possible danger. Is it not better safe than sorry?

  3. Wow. So much misinformation here. Landspouts are not cold air funnels. Landspouts do not occur in non-thunderstorm clouds. Landspouts are usually small, short-lived or short-pathed, and weak. But, there are always exceptions. Yes, landspouts are tornadoes, but form by stretching of near-surface vorticity as opposed to the tilting of vorticity in the classic supercell tornado. You can’t call them non-supercell tornadoes since they can form under a supercell. I’ve seen many of them and we call them hybrids.

    The landspout itself is a type of mesocyclone so you can’t say they are never associated with mesocyclones. Predicting landspout formation (much less intensity) with current observations is extremely difficult. Warning based on the couplet shown above (with absolutely no supercell structure indicated in the reflectivity) may give you your desired POD of 1, but with a huge FAR and lead to the ‘cry wolf’ syndrome and eventual loss of life that the over-warning will cause.

    I liken forecasting landspouts to forecasting lightning strikes. It can’t be done. At the time of the GCK tornado there was a svr watch in effect and a svr thunderstorm warning for Finney County. That’s the proper way to handle it. Maybe add the ‘tornadoes can form from severe thunderstorms’ message to the warning.

    1. I'm sure the people repairing their roofs and having a tow truck put their truck back on four wheels are 'thrilled' to hear that a tornado warning was not appropriate. Especially, since they saw a tornado with their own eyes as later video from the scene reveals.

      Please go back to my post and read the American Meteorological Society's definition of a "landspout." This wasn't one as made obvious by the Doppler wind data.

      The fact is that people do not get into closets, bathrooms and basements for a severe thunderstorm warning. A tornado warning was clearly called for.

      While on the subject of warning credibility, what impression do you think forms when people can see a tornado, with a debris cloud, and there is no warning?


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