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Remembering the Joplin EF-5 Tornado, One Year Ago Today

One of the new descriptions, written in cooperation with social scientists, informs those in the storm path: “You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter.” Another warns: “Complete destruction of entire neighborhoods is likely.”….“We were ringing the bell a little louder,” Hudson said. “That’s one of the lessons learned from Joplin“.- from a Joplin Globe story highlighted below that describes the new, more dire and urgent terminology used by local NWS offices during “tornado emergencies” – when large, violent, killer tornadoes are on the ground, moving toward urban areas. Photo above: NOAA.

27 glaciers left at Glacier National Park. In 1910 there were 150 glaciers. Photo courtesy of USGS.

May 22, 2011 Minneapolis Tornado. Here’s a good overview of last year’s violent tornado outbreak in the close-in suburbs and North Minneapolis, from the Twin Cities office of The National Weather Service: “The severe weather season is definitely starting off in a big way this year, not only in Minnesota, but all across the country. On Sunday, May 22, there were 56 reports of tornadoes extending from northeastern Oklahoma, up the Mississippi Valley to northern Wisconsin. The strongest hit was Joplin, Missouri where at least 125 people have lost their lives and thousands are displaced from their homes. In Minnesota, there were reports in Fillmore, Hennepin, Anoka, and Washington Counties of tornadoes and property damage. Here is a radar image, taken at 2:19cst on May 22 that shows the pronounced hook echo southwest of Columbia Heights moving to the northwest at 35 miles per hour. Early estimates by the National Weather Service of the strength of the tornado in Minneapolis is a high end EF1 to EF2 tornado with winds between 100 and 125 miles per hour. The majority of the damage came from mature trees being uprooted and falling on houses and vehicles. Tragically, one man lost his life when a tree fell on his vehicle in North Minneapolis….The storms in the Twin Cities took on a familiar path for residents. On May 10, 2011 an EF1 tornado moved through St. Michael, Minnesota tearing the roof off a house and a severe thunderstorm– close to developing a tornado– moved northeast through the downtown area causing golf ball sized hail falling on players and fans at the Twins vs. Tigers game. This severe weather event was also caused by a low pressure system that developed on the lee side of the Rocky Mountains and took a similar track across Minnesota, thus leading to the similar storm paths.”

Remembering The Tornadoes Of May 22, 2011. Here’s an informative look back at last year’s outbreak, the tornadoes that proved major metro areas are not immune to violent winds. Details from the local National Weather Service: “A 3-D look at the Minneapolis tornado from the Chanhassen radar. The “column of red” is a descending core of air moving away from the radar that can sometimes be seen when stronger tornadic storms are close to a radar (greens represent air moving toward and reds away from the radar). The first image where a column appears is when the storm was near I-394 and MN-100 (fourth image in loop), which is where the tornado touched down. This feature began to fall apart as it moved into Anoka county. This coincides with the tornado weakening as it moved through Fridley.”

Tropical Depression Alberto. Weakened by wind shear, Alberto fizzled into a tropical depression late Monday, now pushing east, out to sea – not a threat to the Carolina coast. Visible satellite loop capable of CIMSS, and the University of Wisconsin.

Alberto’s Track. In the end wind shear aloft was too strong for Alberto, which was downgraded to a tropical depression Monday evening. In spite of drifting over warmer, Gulf Stream waters (low 80s) strong winds aloft shredded the storm, preventing it from strengthening. Above is a map from, showing the projected track of the soggy remains of Alberto in the coming days.

May 19 Kingman And Harper County Tornadoes. Here’s an update from the Wichita office of The National Weather Service; one of the tornadoes was a large, violent EF-3 twister.

Weather Service Implements Storm Warning Changes After 2011 Tornadoes. Here’s a good article from The Joplin Globe: “JOPLIN, Mo. — The May 22 tornado changed more than just Joplin. It also changed the way people get information about severe weather and the way the National Weather Service informs people about the severity of storms. But one thing has not changed. Eric Wise, the meteorologist who gave Joplin 20 minutes to prepare for the seventh deadliest tornado in U.S. history, is still on the job at the weather service forecast office in Springfield. The Springfield native can recall May 22 as if it were yesterday. “I was watching three different radars — Tulsa, Springfield and Pleasant Hill — as the main storm moved out of Southeast Kansas,” he said. “At 5 p.m., it looked like it would be no more than a shower.” Image above: NOAA.

Details On The Joplin Tornado. More facts from NOAA on the extreme EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri one year ago today: “On May 22, 2011, one of the deadliest tornadoes in United States history struck Joplin, Missouri, directly killing 158 people and injuring over 1,000. The tornado, rated EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with maximum winds over 200 mph, affected a significant part of a city with a population of more than 50,000 and a population density near 1,500 people per square mile. As a result, the Joplin tornado was the first single tornado in the United States to result in over 100 fatalities since the Flint, Michigan, tornado of June 8, 1953. The tornado was rated EF-5 on the Enhanced-Fujita Scale, with its maximum winds estimated at more than 200 mph. The path of the entire tornado was 22.1 miles long and was up to 1 mile in width. The EF-4/EF-5 damage path was roughly 6 miles long from near Schifferdecker Avenue along the western portions of Joplin to near Interstate 44 east of Joplin, and generally ½ to ¾ of a mile wide along the path.”

More Joplin Details. More information on the historic Joplin EF-5 from the NWS Central Region: “A large portion of Joplin, Missouri was devastated by an EF-5 (greater than 200 mph) tornado, resulting in 158 fatalities and over 1,000 injured in the Joplin, MO area. The Joplin tornado is the deadliest since modern record-keeping began in 1950 and is ranked 7th among the deadliest tornadoes in the U.S. history. The tornado surpassed the June 8, 1953 tornado that claimed 116 lives in Flint, Michigan, as the deadlist single tornado to strike the U.S. since modern tornado record-keeping began in 1950. The deadiest tornado on record in the U.S. was on March 18, 1925. The “Tri-State Tornado” (MO, IL, IN) had a 291-mile path, was rated F5, based on an historic assessment, and caused 695 fatalities. More information on 2011 Tornado statistics can be found at the following web site: ”

A Year After Joplin Tornado, Records Show Twister Was The Costliest Since 1950. Details from AP and The Star Tribune: “JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The cost of 30 manhole covers that got sucked away: $5,800. A new concession stand at the destroyed high school: $228,600. Shelter and care for more than 1,300 homeless pets: $372,000. The tornado that tore through Joplin a year ago already ranks as the deadliest twister in six decades. Now it carries another distinction — the costliest since at least 1950. Insurance policies are expected to cover most of the $2.8 billion in damage. But taxpayers could supply about $500 million in the form of federal and state disaster aid, low-interest loans and local bonds backed by higher taxes, according to records obtained by The Associated Press and interviews with federal, state and local officials.”

Photo credit above: “FILE – This May 24, 2011 aerial file photograph shows a neighborhood destroyed by a powerful tornado in Joplin, Mo. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday, May 30, 2011 that it will consider bringing in trailers, as it did for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, if enough homes are not available.”

Safe Boating Week. This is Safe Boating Week in Minnesota – details from the Twin Cities National Weather Service: “There are no specific warnings or advisories for lightning, but all thunderstorms produce lightning. A lightning strike to a vessel can be catastrophic, especially if it results in a fire or loss of electronics. If your boat has a cabin, then stay inside and avoid touching metal or electrical devices. If your boat doesn’t have a cabin, stay as low as you can in the boat. Boaters should use extra caution when thunderstorm conditions exist and have a plan of escape. Mariners are especially vulnerable as at times they may be unable to reach port quickly. It is therefore strongly recommended you do not venture out if thunderstorms are a possibility.”

Statistics The United States Coast Guard’s boating statistics show on average that 80% of all reported fatalities occur on boats where the operator has not received safety training. Learn about boating accident statistics.

Life Jacket Types There are a variety of life jackets and they are designed for different uses. Many drownings could have been prevented if life jackets were used. Learn more about life jackets and how to properly use them by visiting the Life Jacket Resource website. When out on the water – WEAR A LIFE JACKET!

National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Next week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, and NOAA has resources on Facebook to answer commonly asked questions: “As we get ready for National Hurricane Preparedness Week — May 27 to June 2, 2012– and as part of NOAA’s efforts to improve communication about storm surge, the NOAA launched a new storm surge web site. Take a look…

A Colorful Ocean. Here’s an explanation from NOAA’s Environmental Visualization Laboratory: “The average chlorophyll concentration during April 2012 is shown here using data acquired from the MODIS sensor on board the NASA Aqua satellite. Phytoplankton blooms can be seen all along the coastline of North and South America, and are monitored by NOAA for use in determining productive fishing grounds, managing coastal ecosystems, and identifying potential human health impacts from harmful algal blooms.”

Only In Kansas. Here’s a great photo (not for broadcast) from Mike Smith Enterprises Blog“A just-married couple sharing a first kiss, bountiful ripe wheat, and a landspout tornado*. The photo, in Harper County, is by Cate Eighmey Phototgraphy and the couple is Caleb James Pence and Candra Kim Pence via Facebook. *The tornado is the bowed, narrow tube midday between Caleb’s hat and the tree on the horizon.”

The WeatherNation TV On-Air Weather Team. From left to right, Bryan Karrick, Susie Martin, Katie Ferrier, Doug Kruhoeffer (who?), David Neal, Gretchen Mishek, Rob Kock (missing the top of his head – sorry), Kristin Clark, Todd Nelson and Aaron Shaffer. Addison Green and Mace Michaels are the newest members of the team (not pictured).

Aftermath. In March, 2000 downtown Fort Worth took a direct hit from a violent tornado, killing 5, injuring hundreds. Photo courtesy of “Restless Skies.”

“Downtown Tornadoes”
A year ago today was a violent wake-up call for people who still believe tornadoes can’t hit cities. The same day Joplin, Missouri was leveled by a mile-wide EF-5 tornado packing 200 mph winds – a swarm of 11 tornadoes hit Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. The EF-1 tornado that touched down in Golden Valley and ripped up North Minneapolis was on the ground for 14 miles; half a mile wide, ripping mature, 100-year old trees out by the roots, damaging hundreds of homes.
It could have been worse. A 2000 Ft Worth tornado hit after rush hour, shredding skyscraper walls/windows, leaving 5 dead. Oklahoma City has been hit 112 times since 1890! If you live or work downtown you’re not immune. The safest spot is usually a concrete stairwell or interior rest room. Take warnings seriously, and buy a NOAA Weather Radio.
The next 4-6 weeks are prime time for severe storms and tornadoes.
We heat up into midweek; the next frontal zone pushing more strong/severe storms into town Wednesday & Thursday.
We cool off late week; another wave of heavy T-storms Saturday before breaking out into 90-degree sun on Sunday.
Memorial Day? Three guesses. Sticky with heavy T-storms.

Climate Stories…

Why Do Economists Describe Climate Change As A “Market Failure”? No, the (true) price of carbon is not factored into everything we purchase or use, as this article at The Guardian explains: “When free markets do not maximise society’s welfare, they are said to ‘fail’ and policy intervention may be needed to correct them. Many economists have describedclimate change as an example of a market failure – though in fact a number of distinct market failures have been identified. The core one is the so-called ‘greenhouse-gas externality’. Greenhouse gas emissions are a side-effect of economically valuable activities. Most of the impacts of emissions do not fall on those conducting the activities – instead they fall on future generations or people living in developing countries, for example – so those responsible for the emissions do not pay the cost.”

Photo credit above: “Markets have made a calmer start to the week.” Photograph: Tony Gentile/REUTERS


The Week Ahead: EPA To Hold Hearings On Carbon Dioxide Limits For Power Plants. Here’s an excerpt of a story at Bloomberg BNA: The Environmental Protection Agency will hold two public hearings May 24 in Washington, D.C., and Chicago on Clean Air Act new source performance standards that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. As detailed in a World Climate Change Report article, the proposed NSPS, issued April 12, would limit emissions from new fossil fuel-fired power plants with a generating capacity greater than 25 megawatts to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. The rule is expected to further the power industry trend toward cheaper and cleaner natural gas power plants.”


The “Great Big Book Of Horrible Things”: WWII And Climate Change. This is an interesting (and vaguely troubling) article, from ABC News; here’s an excerpt: Sometimes, a little humor is indispensible. Matthew White uses it elegantly in the title of his fascinating new, big and easy-to-read reference book. “The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities” is a bright door stopper and mind opener. That jaunty title, which often brings a smile to those to whom I mention it, even hints at one reason we may have evolved humor in the first place: A little sugar can make the worst sort of important news at least palatable, so we can swallow it, get it down to where we can try to digest it. And with a growing number of the world’s climate scientists now speaking publicly about the grave global “catastrophe” and the imminent “threat to global civilization” now building in the form of manmade global warming, White’s book offers a simple, painful lesson. It reminds us that humanity has often and recently failed to prevent collective calamity, even when many people can see it coming and try to warn everyone.” Photo: Wikipedia.


Book It, We’re Toast. The Fate Of The Species. Don’t read this if you’re already in a bad new. Alarmism? I sure hope so; here’s an excerpt from Climate Central: If you grew up in the 1950’s and early 60’s, you probably remember the faint air of existential angst that lingered constantly in the background. With the creation of atomic weapons, and the booming stockpiles of missile-mounted bombs in the arsenals of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., it seemed perfectly plausible that an all-out nuclear war could wipe out a significant fraction of the world’s population — the first time in history that humanity was capable of such destruction. But as Fred Guterl says in a sobering, important and highly readable new book, those were really the good old days. The nuclear threat has receded, he acknowledges in The Fate of the Species: Why the human race may cause its own extinction and how we can stop it (Bloomsbury: $25), but warns that “the success of Homo sapiens has created new and terrifying risks that didn’t exist a few decades ago.”

Arctic Melt Releasing Ancient Methane. Here’s a snippet of a story from The BBC: Scientists have identified thousands of sites in the Arctic where methane that has been stored for many millennia is bubbling into the atmosphere. The methane has been trapped by ice, but is able to escape as the ice melts. Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, the researchers say this ancient gas could have a significant impact on climate change. Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after CO2 and levels are rising after a few years of stability.”
Photo credit above: UAF/Nature Geoscience.

* the actual research paper from is here.


Pollution In Thunderhead Increases Global Warming. Here’s a story from TG Daily: Pollution is leading thunderstorm clouds to capture heat, increasing global warming in a way that climate models have failed to take into account. It strengthens them, causing their anvil-shaped tops to spread out high in the atmosphere and capture heat, especially at night, says Jiwen Fan of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Global climate models don’t see this effect because thunderstorm clouds simulated in those models do not include enough detail,” says Fan. “The large amount of heat trapped by the pollution-enhanced clouds could potentially impact regional circulation and modify weather systems.”


Can Global Warming Be Contained? A Multi-Media Answer. Here’s a fascinating article from “Click on the link to see a thoroughly comprehensive infographic, a text version of the content, and a video highlighting key data on the infographic. Plus, you can answer their poll question. The infographic is fun, but read the text for details.  It starts with a succinct description of global warming, and provides many interesting and alarming facts, such as:

  • A reflection of the depletion of glaciers, the Glacier National Park in Montana, United States, has fewer than twenty-seven glaciers now, in comparison to over 150 glaciers in 1910. This is a decrease of about 87% in the number of glaciers.
  • In 2004, it was reported that Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, is losing about 4 inches annually because of global warming.

Climate Change Hits Globe’s Water has the details: LIVERMORE, Calif., May 21 (UPI) — The Earth’s dry lands are getting drier and wet ones wetter as climate change shifts and accelerates the globe’s water cycle, U.S. researchers say. Changing patterns of salinity in the global ocean during the past 50 years show a clear fingerprint of climate change on the shift in worldwide rainfall and evaporation, they said. Scientists with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California along with colleagues at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization say the Earth’s water cycle has strengthened by 4 percent 1950-2000.”

The Titanic, Climate Change And Avoidable Tragedies. That’s a mouthful, but thisHuffington Post article is a worthy read; here’s an excerpt: One of the most legendary maritime disasters was the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic. In a pivotal scene in James Cameron’s 1997 film, master shipbuilder Thomas Andrews looks around the magnificent foyer of the grand staircase, swarming with frantic passengers. Rose Bukater asks how serious the situation is. Says Andrews: “In an hour or so, all this will be at the bottom of the Atlantic.” The tragedy that was Titanic presents us with some sobering parallels to the great environmental challenges facing our civilization in the 21st century. Titanic suffered a cascading disaster in which sea water from one ruptured compartment spilled over the bulkhead into the next, inexorably causing the ship to founder. Analogously, as our ever-increasing human demands for energy, water, housing, transportation and agricultural land run up against the immovable iceberg that is human carrying capacity, we are witnessing the cascading failure of our fragile terrestrial support systems. Both calamities are the result of a collision between human over-confidence and the implacable forces of nature.” Photo: Wikipedia.


Let’s End Polluter Welfare. Here’s a post from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders atHuffington Post: At a time when we have more than $15 trillion national debt, American taxpayers are set to give away over $110 billion dollars to the oil, gas, and coal industries over the next decade. Clearly, we cannot afford it. When the five largest oil companies made over $1 trillion in profits in the last decade, with some paying no federal income taxes for part of that time, they certainly do not need it. It is time we end this corporate welfare in the form of massive subsidies and tax breaks to hugely profitable fossil fuel corporations. It is time for Congress to support the interests of the taxpayer instead of powerful special interests like the oil and coal industries. That is I joined with Congressman Keith Ellison to introduce legislation in the Senate and the House called the End Polluter Welfare Act. Our proposal is backed by grassroots and public-interest organizations including, Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and many others.”

Fracking In New York: For Farmers Gas Drilling Could Mean Salvation – Or Ruin. Here’s a clip of a story at Huffington Post: “ALBANY, N.Y. — When Dan Fitzsimmons looks across the Susquehanna River and sees the flares of Pennsylvania gas wells, he thinks bitterly of the riches beneath his own land locked up by the heated debate that has kept hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, out of New York. “I go over the border and see people planting orchards, buying tractors, putting money back in their land,” said Fitzsimmons, a Binghamton landowner who heads the 70,000-member Joint Landowners Coalition of New York. “We’d like to do that too, but instead we struggle to pay the taxes and to hang onto our farms.”

Photo credit above: “In this Feb. 2, 2012 file photo, organic dairy farmer Siobhan Griffin stands in a field with her cows a field at Raindance Farm in Westville, N.Y. While other states are reaping the wealth of the Marcellus Shale, New York has had a moratorium on drilling for four years while it overhauls regulations amid intense lobbying for a ban. Griffin, who raises grass-fed cows and sells organic cheese, doesn’t see gas as the answer. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File).”

Fighting Climate Change With Low-Tech Tools. Another must-read article fromBloomberg; here’s an excerpt: “In the late 1990s, regulators in some U.S. states began to make electric utilities sell their nuclear reactors to private operators. They weren’t trying to help head off climate change, yet they managed to do just that. Deregulation was supposed to bring down power prices. The sale of nuclear plants to nonutility owners, such as Exelon Corp. (EXC), was part of the process and was intended to serve that goal. But it also helped offset more greenhouse gas emissions in the 2000s than all of the wind and solar generation in the country combined. Increased nuclear output is an example of what I call “low- tech cleantech,” or the intelligent management of our energy infrastructure to make it more efficient. A small improvement in nuclear operations can have a much bigger impact than double- digit growth in renewable power sources for a simple reason: Nuclear reactors today generate far more of the U.S.’s electricity thanwind turbines and solar panels.”

Heartland Institute Facing Uncertain Future As Staff Depart And Cash Dries Up. Here’s an excerpt of a story from The Guardian: “The first Heartland Institute conference on climate change in 2008 had all the trappings of a major scientific conclave – minus large numbers of real scientists. Hundreds of climate change contrarians, with a few academics among them, descended into the banquet rooms of a lavish Times Square hotel for what was purported to be a reasoned debate about climate change. But as the latest Heartland climate conference opens in a Chicago hotel on Monday, the thinktank’s claims to reasoned debate lie in shreds and its financial future remains uncertain.”

On Blogging, Comments…And Online Civil Discourse. Here’s a portion of a post from St. Thomas professor and climate scientist John Abraham at The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Environment: “A recent posting on The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media website linked to a very long piece regarding climate change by Christopher Monckton. “As a practicing scientist, I recognize and value the role that The Yale Forum plays in furthering civil discussion on this topic. As a society, we have too few venues of this type where ideas can be discussed, solutions proposed, and our preconceptions challenged. It is not difficult to appreciate the dilemma faced by editors of sites like The Yale Forum when submissions such as that cited are offered, particularly when, as here, the respondent is addressing an earlier posting in which he or she was specifically named.”

To See Climate Change, Watch The Sea. Here’s an excerpt of a story at “THE Earth turns white when a change in large-scale ocean circulation triggers a sudden worldwide shift toward freezing temperatures. You may remember this apocalyptic scenario as the climax of the 2004 US movie The Day After Tomorrow. But how many of us are aware that the ocean can dramatically effect our climate in reality? In addition to well-known currents near the surface of the sea, such as the Kuroshio current around the coast of south east Asia, Japan and China, there is a massive global current that flows unseen in the deep, thousands of metres below the surface, called oceanic general circulation.” Photo credit: Jefferson Beck, NASA.

Climate Scientists Say They Have Solved Riddle Of Rising Sea. Here’s a clip from a story at Yahoo News: “Massive extraction of groundwater can resolve a puzzle over a rise in sea levels in past decades, scientists in Japan said on Sunday. Global sea levels rose by an average of 1.8 millimetres (0.07 inches) per year from 1961-2003, according to data from tide gauges. But the big question is how much of this can be pinned to global warming. In its landmark 2007 report, the UN’s Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ascribed 1.1mm (0.04 inches) per year to thermal expansion of the oceans — water expands when it is heated — and to meltwater from glaciers, icecaps and the Greenland and Antarctica icecaps.”

Climate Change As An Afterthought. Here’s a portion of an Op-Ed from The Bangkok Post: “...However, there are certain steps that could make an immediate difference and that would involve little political risk. As the summit statement in Pittsburgh noted: ”Enhancing our energy efficiency can play an important, positive role in promoting energy security and fighting climate change”. The statement also said ”inefficient fossil fuel subsidies encourage wasteful consumption, distort markets, impede investment in clean energy sources and undermine efforts to deal with climate change”. This is a very important point, and it can be taken a bit further. Until the true costs of fossil fuels are taken into account, clean energy sources will continue to be at a great disadvantage in attracting investment. These costs include not only climate change but also the deterioration of air quality and the potential for more catastrophic accidents at sea, such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.”



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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather

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