All Weather News

Severe Risk Midwest, Reflections on 2011 Joplin Tornado

Slight Severe Storm RiskSPC is predicting an enhanced risk of hail, damaging winds, even a few isolated tornadoes later today from the Twin Cities and Mankato to Omaha and northern Kansas. The best chance of unruly T-storms: between 3 pm and 9 pm this evening.

16% of all boating deaths in 2011 were alcohol-related. “The effects of alcohol can be even more hazardous on the water than on land. Boating Under the Influence, or BUI, affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. These impairments can increase the risk of being involved in a boating accident – for both passengers and boat operators. Alcohol is a contributing factor in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities.” – from NOAA. More on National Safe Boating Week here.

Given all the advances that have been made, the high death toll in Joplin has prompted many in the meteorological and emergency management communities to rethink how they issue tornado warnings. One of the major lessons stemming from Joplin is that more attention needs to be paid to ensuring that tornado warnings encourage people to take protective action.” – from a Capital Weather Gang story about lessons learned from last year’s EF-5 Joplin tornado.

We need to understand how and why some thunderstorms produce tornadoes and some don’t,” said Paul Schlatter, a severe weather and radar expert with NOAA’s National Weather Service. “I wish that we could say that 30 minutes out or more, this storm is going to produce a tornado.” – from a story at below.

On Oct. 2, 1858, a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 74-95 mph hit San Diego. This storm had been forgotten until Michael Chenoweth, a hurricane historian, and Chris Landsea, who is now science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center, published their study of the storm in the November 2004 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS).” – from a Washington Post article below. Photo above: NASA.

If the observed warming trend in the sea-surface temperatures continues, this result suggests that future La Niña events are more likely to produce extreme precipitation and flooding than is present in the historical record,” said Dr. Jason Evans, of the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre.” – from a Climate Central story about climate change and extreme weather.

10% of the world’s species have disappeared in just the last century. Details in a Huffington Post article below.

Miami Deluge. Thanks to “nikmartinezzz” (and Instagram) for sharing this remarkable photo from Miami late Tuesday. the Miami area picked up a record 5.54″ of rain yesterday afternoon (4.4″ of that in ONE HOUR!) The definition of a tropical deluge.

* more details on the record rains and subsequent flooding from

Tropical Storm Beryl Brewing? NHC is calling it “Invest 94“, an area of disturbed weather south of Cuba, at least partially responsible for soaking, flooding rains across south Florida. Two of the solutions bring this storm into the Gulf of Mexico – further strengthening possible in the days ahead; residents of Florida and the Gulf Coast should stay alert.

Thoughts About The May 22, 2011 Minneapolis Tornado. I asked my friend, Todd Krause, at the local Twin Cities National Weather Service, for a few thoughts about last year’s historic tornado. Here is what he wrote:

“There are three things that stand out:

a). Some storms take their time to intensify and produce a tornado, while others ramp up rapidly and produce a tornado very quickly. This was one of those rapidly developing situations. It was a low-topped supercell that had little indication just ten minutes prior that it was going to produce a tornado. It became a possibility only a few minutes before touchdown. The decision to warn was made at 2:08 pm or 2:09 pm, and we got the warning out at 2:10 pm and heard about the touchdowns at 2:15 pm. It would be nice if tornadoes always gave 30 minutes notice, and some storms do, but other develop extremely quickly, in which case it’s hard to get a warning out more than a few minutes beforehand.

b). The great value of SKYWARN. A HAM radio operator was at one of the large stores just south of I-394 and Park Place, looking to his east, saw a funnel with debris underneath, and reported it via HAM radio. This was our first report at about 2:13 pm. Having a confirmed tornado gave important credence to our tornado warning. Once we heard the report, we notified law enforcement right away and then broadcast meteorologists immediately thereafter. We had many great reports relayed to us as the tornado continued on its path.

c). As bad as it was, and even though this tornado was a killer (and we especially remember the family of the man who perished), it could have been so much worse. When I look at the pictures from the security footage of a couple of video cameras, the cloud base was low, the tornado wide, and I’m amazed the winds were not stronger than EF-1.”

Todd Krause

“Supercell.” Here is a Doppler radar (reflectivity) loop from May 22, 2011, courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service. No classic “hook shape” that jumps out at you – what’s remarkable is how quickly the cell intensified over Golden Valley, leaving little time to issue a timely warning.

“Ask Paul”. Weather-related questions, comments (and threats).


Good morning!
I saw Paul’s post this morning looking back at the North Minneapolis tornado. While flying with a friend last winter, we realized that we were flying NNE along the tornado track, and caught an interesting shot through the city. The picture is taken approximately over 394 and Hwy 100, looking northeast. We’re 1000 feet off the ground. The wavy lines through the image are artifact from the propeller. 
I thought you guys might find it interesting. For me, it demonstrated the impact of the tornado that you can’t really get a feel for from satellite photos.”
Barry Park
Apple Valley
Thanks Barry – appreciate you sharing this photo with me and my readers. The tornado “scar” on the ground below is clearly visible, no question. What was highly unusual was to have a 1/2 mile wide tornado ranked only an EF-1. For a weaker tornado, the Minneapolis tornado produced a disproportionate amount of damage and heartache, due to the fact that it traveled over densely populated suburbs on its way to North Minneapolis.

Joplin Tornado Anniversary: Remembering The Destruction Wrought On Missouri.Huffington Post has the details: “One year ago, an EF-5 tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, killing 161 people and causing nearly $3 billion in damage. The tornado, which was the deadliest in six decades, was also the costliest “since at least 1950,” according to the Associated Press. In the year since the tornado, residents and volunteers have worked tirelessly to clear debris and rebuild a community shaken by the violent storm. Over 600 permits for new homes and nearly 3,000 for “residential repairs and rebuilding projects” had been issued by late April, according to AP. Students at the local high school have attended class in a converted big-box retailer, as a new school is not scheduled to open until 2014.” Aerial photo of Joplin after the tornado courtesy of NOAA.

The Joplin Tornado: One Year Later. Where Does It Rank? Here’s a great summary of the Joplin tornado, and some perspective, from the Capital Weather Gang’s Andrew Freedman: “The ferocious tornado that tore the city of Joplin, Mo., apart exactly one year ago today stunned the nation with its tragic death toll and staggering damage. The twister’s winds were estimated to be more than 200 mph, making the tornado an EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which measures a tornado’s intensity. It devastated the city of 50,000, killing 161 and injuring more than 1,000. The Joplin tornado was the first single tornado in the U.S. to result in more than 100 fatalities since a tornado struck Flint, Mich., in 1953.”

Photo credit above: National Weather Service.

On The Edge Of Tornado Alley. Here’s a worthwhile story from the “The wind wasn’t just blowing, it was twisting. Joann Ochsner and her husband James rushed to their basement in disbelief that anything resembling a severe tornado could plow a path of destruction through Windsor. “We all went to the basement,” Ochsner said. “We had no idea what was going on upstairs. We didn’t hear a thing.” When she and her family emerged from the basement, the kitchen window had been blown in, the dishes that had been set on the kitchen table lay scattered in shards all over the floor and five 100-foot-tall pine trees her mother had planted decades earlier were blown entirely away.”

Photo credit above: “A police officer walks through a devastated neighborhood in southeast Windor after a tornado struck that community May 22, 2008“. LCL:STF.

Let’s Talk About: New Satellites To Improve Tornado Warnings. Here’s an interesting nugget from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “….The next generation of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites is scheduled to begin launching late in 2015. The “GOES-R series” weather satellites will have state-of-the-art instruments for improved scouting and tracking of these killer storms, even at night. With lightning detection from orbit and clearer pictures of cloud height, moisture and movement, the GOES-R satellites will improve meteorologists’ ability to assess conditions that spawn tornadoes, and they are expected to give upward of 20 minutes lead time in tornado warnings.”

Graphic above courtesy of NOAA, which has more information on the GOES-R satellite system here.

Storm Chasers: Study Aims To Go Inside Tornadoes. Here’s a terrific article fromYahoo News: “Come tornado season, meteorologist Joshua Wurman spends his life on the road, zooming down highways in search of thunderstorms. This summer, he and hiscolleagues will turn nomad to launch a first-of-its-kind program aimed at exploring tornado winds — not from the outside but from deep within the tornado vortex. “Our goal is a much more integrated picture of the tornado,” Wurman, president of the Center for Severe Weather Research based in Boulder, Colo., told OurAmazingPlanet. And that’s a picture that could reveal how tornadoes deal their damage and save lives, he added.”

Photo credit: Herbert Stein, 2009.

Creating Action-Inspiring Tornado Warnings. More than ever local NWS offices choose their wording with great care, especially when a tornado is on the ground, reflecting the sense of urgency and life-threatening conditions. has more details: “One year ago this week, 158 people died when a tornado with winds greater than 200 mph struck Joplin, Mo. Even though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued tornado warnings and activated siren alerts ahead of time, it was clear that some people ignored, disregarded or waited too long to react to them. As meteorologists continue to learn more about tornado formation and improve their forecasting, they are also working to improve how warnings are communicated to and received by the public. When meteorologists recognize atmospheric conditions that can spawn a tornado, a severe thunderstorm and tornado watch are issued. But that information can be frustratingly vague for the audience.” Photo above courtesy of Ryan McGinnis.

Desert Dust Intensifies Summer Rainfall In U.S. Southwest. I thought this was a fascinating read, courtesy of “As the climate warms, more regions of the world will be affected by drought. Increased desert regions and dry land produce more dust that gets lofted into the atmosphere. These  absorb sunlight and act as a , attracting moisture from nearby oceans and increasing seasonal rainfall. PNNL researchers are the first to investigate this effect in a dry region of the United States where water resources are limited. Understanding how dust contributes to atmospheric heating is important for predicting drought and  in this region and others in the world with rising populations.”
Photo credit above: “This rainstorm in Eastern New Mexico, as part of the North American Monsoon, gets moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of California during the late summer. Scientists have found that desert dust increases the monsoon effect in this region.” Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Southern Heat, Western Wildfires May Dominate Southwest Summer. Here’s a clip from a story at Bloomberg Businessweek: “The southern U.S. will probably be warmer than normal from June to August while the West may have major outbreaks of wildfires, government forecasters said. Temperatures are expected to be above normal for the next three months from interior portions of California to the East Coast and from southern New Jersey to Florida, according to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Maryland. There are too many conflicting signals for an accurate forecast for the Northeast, including New York City, said Jon Gottschalck, a forecaster at the climate center. For that region, the chances that the summer will be hotter, cooler or just normal are all equal, Gottschalck said.”

Today’s forecast highs (above) courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

Deadly Fire: Blackwater Blaze In Wyoming Remembered 75 Years Later. Here’s an excerpt from a story at “WAPITI RANGER STATION — Over the past 40 years, Dave Sisk has jumped from planes as a smokejumper and managed fires big and small throughout the Northern Rockies. Standing in a mountain meadow above Blackwater Creek in the Shoshone National Forest, it’s easy for Sisk to imagine what happened here on a hot August day 75 years ago, when a seemingly routine fire turned deadly. He managed a wildfire here in 2003, and thoughts of the 1937 Blackwater blowup were never far away. “Any time you’re in fire, especially if you’re in charge of a fire, that potential is always in the back of your mind,” Sisk said. “These guys in 1937 knew how to fight fire. What they didn’t know was that a cold front was off to the west heading in this direction.”

Photo credit above: MARTIN KIDSTON/The Billings Gazette. “Fire crews with the Shoshone National Forest make improvements to the Blackwater National Recreation Trail ahead of this summer’s 75th anniversary of the deadly 1937 Blackwater fire.”

Alberto Provides An Early Reminder. Here’s some timely advice for residents of “Hurricane Alley” from Jacksonville’s “…Although there’s nothing anyone can do to stop a hurricane from forming or influence its path, there’s plenty that those who live in its possible path can do to mitigate its potential for disruption. We should all stock up on the things we need to be prepared for the arrival of a hurricane on our shores — from gallons of water to a battery-operated radio to nonperishable foods. We should have an evacuation plan and watch for orders telling us it’s time to get out, and then do as we’re told. We should prepare our homes, businesses and other properties for a hurricane’s arrival by removing items that can turn into projectiles when heavy winds hit. And we should remember to think ahead where our pets and those who are less capable of helping themselves, such as the elderly, are concerned.”Satellite image above courtesy of NASA’s Earth Observatory.
Satellite image above courtesy of NASA’s Earth Observatory.

California Hurricane Odds Extremely Low, But Not Zero. Yes, southern California has been hit by (rare) hurricanes in year’s past. Jack Williams takes a look at a hurricane scenario for California in this Washington Post article; here’s an excerpt: “The May 15-November 30 eastern Pacific hurricane season is well underway with the National Hurricane Center forecasting that Tropical Depression TWO-E should become Tropical Storm Bud later today. The Center says it could hit southwestern Mexico near the resort city of Manzillo as a Category 2 hurricane on Friday. Aletta, this year’s first eastern Pacific tropical storm formed on May 14 and died on May 19 without ever threatening land. Prevailing easterly winds usually push most eastern Pacific tropical storms and hurricanes away from North America, which is why these storms usually attract little public attention.” Hurricane image above courtesy of NASA.

“I’ll Have A Bud, Please”. Is it me or is a tropical storm by the name of “Bud” somewhat reassuring? Not to residents of Mexico – some of the models strengthen Bud into a hurricane, possibly recurving northeast and hitting coastal Mexico within 72 hours. More from NHC: “Tropical Storm Bud continues to churn over the eastern North Pacific Ocean at midday Tuesday, centered almost 550 miles south of Manzanillo, Mexico. Maximum sustained winds are 40 mph, but further strengthening is expected, and Bud may become a hurricane by Wednesday Night. Its west-northwest movement will become northwest later today and north by Thursday.”

GOP Convention Nightmare: Hurricane In Tampa. Don’t laugh – there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll be tracking a tropical storm or hurricane somewhere in the Gulf, Atlantic or Caribbean by early August – approaching prime time for tropical systems. WTSP-TV and have the story (and video); here’s an excerpt: “TAMPA, Fla. — Images of palm trees and the waterfront convention center might be what helped attract the Republican National Convention to Tampa. The event is scheduled for the final week of August, a time that happens to also be very near the height of hurricane season. The idea, along with an estimated 50,000 visitors — most without transportation — has emergency planners contemplating the worst. “We’re looking at what could happen here in Hillsborough County and the actions that we would need to take,” said Preston Cook, Hillsborough County’s new Emergency Management director.”

Zippered-Vent Sleeping Bag Adds A Dose Of Flexibility To The Camping Equation. If you’re a die-hard camper, here’s one innovation you may want to consider, courtesy “While a good quality sleeping bag is a solid investment for keeping the crisp night air at bay, said bag can quickly become an oven when the ambient temperature heads northwards. Add to this the cramped nature of snoozing in a sack and you get a recipe for discomfort that some of us find hard to bear. The Zippered Vents Sleeping Bag aims to overcome these issues with a design that brings a little versatility to the equation.”

Safe Boating
The other day I saw a guy boating and texting. Not smart when you’re cruising through a narrow channel. Here’s a harrowing statistic: according to NOAA 16 percent of all boating deaths in 2011 were alcohol-related.
“It is illegal to operate any boat or watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Penalties can include fines, suspension or revocation of your drivers license and even jail time” according to NOAA. OK. That’s good enough for me.
This is National Safe Boating Week. Details on the blog, where I’ve included comments on last May’s Minneapolis tornado from Todd Krause at the local NWS office.
The average tornado lead-time nationwide is 12 minutes. That’s an average. Last year’s EF-1 tornado developed suddenly. “It would be nice if tornadoes always gave 30 minutes notice, and some storms do, but others develop extremely quickly, in which case it’s hard to get a warning out more than a few minutes beforehand” Krause told me in an e-mail. The NWS got a 5 minute jump, helping to avoid a major disaster.
A few storms today may turn severe, 1-2″ rain tonight & Thursday.
Heavy T-storms are likely Saturday, again Memorial Day. Sunday still looks like the warmest, driest day.

Climate Stories…

More Evidence That Global Warming Drives Extreme Weather. Here’s a snippet of a story from Climate Central: “There’s been a lot of discussion recently about how TV weather forecasters handle the issue of global warming — to the point that a watchdog group — —  has started singling out what it sees as the worst offenders in the forecasting community. Some of those high-profile weathermen in big market cities have a responsibility to tell viewers more about the emerging science that shows how a warming planet will affect day-to-day weather, including the potential for more frequent and severe storms, extended periods of drought and other extremes.”

1,000 Years Of Climate Data Confirms Australia’s Warming. The story from; here’s an excerpt: “The study led by researchers at the University of Melbourne, used a range of natural indicators including tree rings, corals and ice cores to study Australasian temperatures over the past millennium. They then compared these with climate model simulations. Dr. Stephen Phipps, a researcher with UNSW’s  Research Centre and the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science led the climate model simulation research. He said the results showed there were no other warm periods in the past 1,000 years that match the warming experienced in Australasia since 1950. “Our study revealed that recent warming in a 1,000-year context is highly unusual and cannot be explained by natural factors alone, suggesting a strong influence of human-caused climate change in the Australasian region,” Dr. Phipps said.”

Rapid Climate Change Turns Minnesota’s North Woods Into Moose Graveyard. The story from; here’s an excerpt: “ALONG THE GUNFLINT TRAIL, Minn. — If moose disappear from the boreal forest of northern Minnesota, as some biologists predict, they will not exit with a thunderous crash. Climate extinctions come quietly, even when they involve 1,000-pound herbivores. Experts who have studied the Northwestern moose — Alces alces andersoni — believe they are witnessing one of the most precipitous nonhunting declines of a major species in the modern era, yet few outside Minnesota fully appreciate the loss.” Photo credit: University of Minnesota.

Climate Change This Week: Vanishing Hawaii Beaches, Mexican Wind Boom And More. Here’s a clip from a story at The Huffington Post: “Aloha to aloha land: Hawaii’s beaches are going bye-bye, says the US Geological Service, reports Cornelia Dean at the New York Times. About 10% have vanished over the past century, and rising sea levels from climate change are likely to hasten the process, making it truly a loha land (Sorry, folks, I couldn’t resist…) What happens when you build up deadwood by suppressing fires in Canada’s boreal forest and couple it with climate change, which has made the forests drier and created longer, warmer, drier seasons? Disastrous wildfires like the one that burned up much of the town Slave Lake in 2011. Expect more, scientists are now saying, reports Graham Thomson at Postmedia News.”

Digging Into Climate Change, U.S. Scientists Find More Than Science. Here’s an excerpt from an interesting story at Scientific American: “BERLIN, Md.—Fifth grader Aman Shahzad looked closely at the level attached to the plumb line. “Lower, lower,” she called out. “OK! The bubble is in the middle.” Her classmate, holding the wooden surveyor’s pole, read the measurement: 14 centimeters. The two students were from Pemberton Elementary School in nearby Salisbury, Md., the first to participate in a new, three-month interdisciplinary unit called “Investigating Climate Science” that spans science, math, economics and government. On this spring day on Maryland’s eastern shore, they were on a field trip to Assateague Island, measuring the slope of the beach as the first step in a lesson on sea-level rise.”

Photo credit above: flickr/Jon Sullivan

Everest Weekend Death Toll Reaches 4. Climate change is making a climb of Mt. Everest even more perilous, as reported by Yahoo News: “Some climbers and environmentalists have expressed concern that climbing conditions on Everest are worsening each year, possibly due to climate change. An unusually light snowfall this year has added to the danger, renowned Everest climber Conrad Anker said. “Because there is little fresh snow, icy surfaces on the slopes make climbing more difficult and dangerous,” Anker said, adding that “the snow acts as glue, stopping rocks from falling on the climbers.”

Photo credit above: “In this Oct. 27, 2011 file photo, the last light of the day sets on Mt. Everest as it rises behind Mount Nuptse as seen from Tengboche, in the Himalaya’s Khumbu region, Nepal. Mountaineering Department official Gyandendra Shrestha said Monday, May 21, 2012, that a German, a Nepal-born Canadian and a Korean died Saturday while descending from the 8,850-meter (29,035) summit.” AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File.

The Earth Is The Lord’s: Our Responsibility For God’s Creation. From Huffington Post: “Here we go again. Another election cycle in which climate science is being debated by high ranking elected officials, party activists and interest groups with the power to sway what our candidates say they believe and how they act in office. It seems inconceivable that at a moment when there is virtual scientific consensus that climate change is happening, and is significantly affected by human behavior, that there are those who persist in denying the single greatest threat to life as we know it. Of the eight major Republican Party Presidential candidates this past year, five (Perry, Paul, Bachmann, Cain, Santorum) expressed outright climate change denial. Jon Huntsmanwas the only candidate who unequivocally affirmed the scientific consensus on climate change. And after previously holding positions that climate change was real and pressing, both Newt Gingrich and candidate-elect Mitt Romney have retreated to expressing varying degrees of skepticism on the subject.”



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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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