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Tropical Storm Potential Late Next Week – Tornado Footage: Ratings Titillation or Public Service?

A Tornado Conundrum

The media has a nagging double standard when it comes to airing tornado video. It’s good for ratings and clicks, but are we encouraging people to drive into raging storms – in search of video clips that may cost them their lives?

In light of the 2013 El Reno EF-5 that killed several tornado researchers, including veteran Tim Samaras, many storm chasers have backed off, not as willing to risk life and limb.

Kory Hartman heads up Severe Studios, a network of professionally trained spotters and chasers. “They all have at least 2-3 years of National Weather Service spotter training” he explained. No, you can’t fix stupid, but live tornado footage – from trained professionals on the scene – serves a purpose: “It provides critical confirmation – it gets people to take action” Hartman said.

In today’s blog: 80s and ice on Lake Superior, and global CO2 levels pass the 400 ppm milestone.


Tornado Titillation or Public Service? So is airing tornado footage, after the fact, a good idea? Does it tempt others, without training or experience, to rush headlong into supercells with iPhones held high, tempting fate in the process? There’s anecdotal evidence that streaming LIVE tornado footage from webcam, spotters or chasers confirms the fact that there’s a life-threatening storm moving in, prompting people to take action and head for the basement or another shelter. I asked Severe Studios founder Kory Hartman for his thoughts in the wake of the (reckless) tornado footage from Watford City, North Dakota: “El Reno killed some of the best and most knowledgeable chasers of all time. If that somehow inspires people to grab a Camaro and a camcorder and go flying after storms at 90mph with no experience, then God help them.” He added “live video is very valuable as the “social science” confirmation that a tornado is heading toward a person’s house. The video of chasers getting hit by tornadoes should be a “caution” to people. After El Reno, most of my chasers have learned to leave earlier, have more escape routes, stay to the south/southeast of the storm, take others with for navigation, etc.”

* image above is a Doppler radar velocity field showing the enormous EF-5 tornado that hit El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31, 2013, killing at least one amateur storm chaser and 3 tornado research veterans, including Tim Samaras. The red dots are locations of storm spotters relative to the tornado vortex.

North Dakota Tornado Prompts Safety Discussion. No basements, no permanent structures, nothing but wide-open fields. Where do you go? The recent tornado near Watford City, North Dakota has prompted a discussion about safety – here’s a clip fromManteca Bulletin: “No sirens or local alert system warned an RV park housing workers in North Dakota’s oil patch about a Memorial Day tornado that injured nine people and damaged or destroyed 15 trailers. Even with warning, there are scant places to take cover in the wide-open plain. Though such weather is rare in the area, officials say the twister already has prompted discussion among companies and others about how to better protect the thousands of workers who have taken to temporary homes as they cash in on the region’s booming industry…”


Video: “Dramatic” North Dakota Tornado Footage. Is it irresponsible to show this or link to this clip? Perhaps. Is it news? My fear is that highlighting these clips encourage others to take unnecessary risks to get a “tornado money shot” – which will put a lot of people in harm’s way. With mixed feelings here’s an excerpt from Stranger Dimensions: “Warning: the above video contains strong language, nervous laughter, and some seriously awe-inspiring tornado footage. The tornado touched down in Watford City, North Dakota on Monday evening, and Dan Yorgason not only lived through it, he captured some pretty incredible footage…”

* Here is a G-rated version of the tornado video clip from North Dakota, courtesy of GMA and Yahoo News.


Sloppy Holding Pattern. Precious little rain is forecast west of the Rockies over the next 84 hours. NOAA’s 12 km NAM shows a moist fetch from the Gulf of Mexico fueling a slow-moving cool front pushing across the Dakotas into Minnesota by Saturday. Numerous showers and T-storms are expected across the Gulf Coast and Southeast. NAM Future Radar: HAMweather.


All or Nothing. Little or no rain is predicted from California into west Texas over the next 7 days, but torrential rains will linger over Louisiana and southern Mississippi, another area of potentially excessive rainfall from the Dakotas into the Upper Midwest this weekend, where some 2-4″ rainfall amounts are possible. Source: NOAA.


Tropical Whispers. The GFS has shown a similar solution for a few runs now, so although it’s far from a slam-dunk, our confidence level continues to grow regarding possible tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico by the end of next week. The GFS model brings a tropical depression or possible tropical storm (Arthur?) into the Florida Panhandle next weekend, around Sunday, June 8. The official NOAA outlook calls for fewer tropical systems in 2014, largely the result of El Nino increasing wind shear over the tropics. It would be ironic if we had a busy season for tropical storms and hurricanes. At this point nothing would surprise me. Map above: WSI.


Record Heat and Record Ice: Astonishing Scenes from Lake Superior. This takes weather whiplash to an entirely new level – sunbathing in record 80-degree heat with chunks of ice floating behind you. Meteorologist Jason Samenow reports at The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang: “…Near the southern shores of Lake Superior, fragments of ice  still speckled the water’s surface this Memorial Day weekend.  These vestiges from the polar vortex winter presented an amazing contrast with the actual air temperature – which surged into the 80s in some areas just a few miles inland.  Heat records were set in a region with record-setting ice extent – quite the incongruity…” (Image above: NASA).


Tropical Pattern East of Rockies. While a stubborn bubble of Canadian high pressure keeps much of New England cooler than average, an expanding dome of hot, humidified air sparks numerous T-storms from Montana and the Upper Midwest into the Ohio Valley and Southeast. Locally heavy rains are likely along the Gulf Coast. Dark green-shaded areas show a probability of precipitation greater than 60%. Source: NOAA.

Researchers Turn To Drones To Gather Hurricane Information. Because drones can capture real-time data that Hurricane Hunter aircraft can’t. Here’s an excerpt of a great article from AP and Longview’s News-Journal: “…Hurricane hunter aircraft typically don’t fly below 5,000 feet and can’t descend below 1,500 feet, and real-time radar doesn’t provide information about the thermodynamics at work inside a storm’s cloudy core. Canisters stuffed with electronics dropped from the planes transmit data about a storm’s pressure, temperature, winds and moisture as they fall to the ocean, but they remain airborne for only a few minutes. The kind of drone that Cione plans to launch from the hurricane hunters will spend hours descending slowly, cruising on the air currents spinning through a storm, possibly even orbiting a hurricane’s eyewall…”

London’s Dirty Secret: Pollution Worse Than Beijing’s. This comes as a surprise to me – I was just in London in late December and the air quality was pretty good, overall. It may have been a fluke, according to a story at Bloomberg, which examines the downside of diesel; here’s a snippet: “London has a dirty secret. Levels of the harmful air pollutant nitrogen dioxide at a city-center monitoring station are the highest in Europe. Concentrations are greater even than in Beijing, where expatriates have dubbed the city’s smog the “airpocalypse.” It’s the law of unintended consequences at work. European Union efforts to fight climate change favored diesel fuel over gasoline because it emits less carbon dioxide, or CO2...”

125 Years After Johnstown: Facts About The Flood. Here’s a snippet of an interesting piece from AP and seattlepi.com: ” A privately owned dam collapsed in western Pennsylvania 125 years ago on May 31, 1889, unleashing a flood that killed 2,209 people. The terrible stories from the Johnstown Flood of 1889 are still part of lore because of the gruesome nature of many of the deaths and the key role it played in the rise of theAmerican Red Cross. Here’s some of what’s known about the flood, one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history…”

File photo credit: “In this 1889 file photograph, people stand atop houses among ruins after disastrous flooding in Johnstown, Pa. Facts, figures and anecdotes about the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania, which killed 2,209 people 125 years ago, gave the Red Cross its first international response effort and helped set a precedent for American liability law.” Photo: Uncredited, AP


The Internet As We Know It Is Dying. I read it on the Internet, so it must be true. Here’s a clip from a story at Salon: “…All is not well on the Web. While the particulars of each outburst of consternation and anger vary significantly, a common theme connects them all: The relentless corporatization and centralization of control over Internet discourse is obviously not serving the public interest. The good stuff gets co-opted, bought out, or is reduced to begging for spare change on the virtual street corner. The best minds of our generation have been destroyed by web metrics, dragging themselves across a vast wasteland in search of the next clickbait headline…”

On the other hand…

State of the Internet: Still Growing but More Mobile Than Ever. Mary Meeker has a few interesting observations about mobile trends in this New York Times article; here’s an excerpt: “…People are media junkies, sharing articles via social media and tapping into streaming services. Apps are replacing linear TV channels as the way to consume video, with Americans aged 16 to 34 watching just 41 percent of their TV live, she said. Google’s YouTube is also booming with consumers. “They are increasingly loving short-form video,” she said. “Consumers even love ads.” And 22 percent of video watching globally is done on mobile devices…” (image above: blazevideo.com).
What the Meeker Report Doesn’t Say: An Internet Tsunami is Coming. Moore’s Law apparently applies to the Internet too. Will it reinvent and prove resilient over the long haul? Please don’t take amazon.com away from me. Here’s a link to the story at inc.com.

BMW’s Techo-Flagship i8. Here’s more information on BMW’s new drool-worthy plug-in hybrid from the future. I can be yours – if you get a second mortgage on the house. Details from Gizmag: “BMW’s “sportscar of the future” is about to begin customer deliveries. Thei8 is a plug-in hybrid with a short fully electric range, 112 miles per gallon hybrid efficiency and a very feisty, 357 horsepower, all wheel drive sports mode that fires it to 60 mph in four and a half seconds. It’s a very clever piece of engineering and a beautiful piece of futurist auto art – a stepping stone between the oil age and the electric future. Take a closer look in our huge photo gallery and video overview...”


A Cartographic Guide To Starbuck’s Global Domination. I’m more of a Caribou-guy, but I’ve spent a small fortune at Starbucks as well – they’re getting harder to avoid, worldwide. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting piece at Quartz: “…Unsurprisingly, Starbucks shops tend to pop up around densely populated areas of the US. But outside of urban centers in wealthier countries, there’s plenty of territory that the vanillia-chai-skinny-latte has not yet claimed. Vast swaths of the US, not to mention the rest of the world, are untouched by the Starbucks green-siren logo…”


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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 startribune.com/weather And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather

One response to “Tropical Storm Potential Late Next Week – Tornado Footage: Ratings Titillation or Public Service?

  1. Incredible active on the minute news and radar. As hurricane season progresses, do
    keep us informed.

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