Monthly Archives: March, 2014

Tornado Quest Gee-O-Science Links For March 18 – 25, 2914

Spring has “officially” arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. From now until late June, the days will get longer. Along with the extra hours of sunlight, those of us in the tornado prone areas of North America will once again face the annual increase in severe weather events. What will this season bring? That’s the million dollar question. Most speculation should be taken with a grain of salt. While most of the USA saw a below average number of tornadoes in 2013, specific areas of the plains (central and eastern OK in particular) took a brutal beating from several rounds of severe weather…many of which were watershed events of historic importance. So…what will the coming severe weather season have in store? We’ll have to see…the best way for you to deal with nature’s tantrums is to have a good preparedness plan in place and when those storms send a few fast balls your way, be prepared to hit every pitch out of the park.

On that note, here are some links for your consideration…


If you need info from FEMA, including flood maps, this site should be of  good assistance.

This is Tsunamis Awareness week. NOAA’s Coastal Service Center has some very useful safety information.

A little science history blended with geology. A very interesting look back at the history of geological maps.


Spring not only brings a change in weather for the Northern Hemisphere, but new citizen science projects.


This should come as a surprise to no one. Trees near Chernobyl have barely decomposed since the 1986 nuclear disaster.

It’s a bit early for Air Quality Awareness Week, but never really too early to be mindful of air quality safety info.


In case you missed it, here’s NOAA’s 2014 spring climate outlook.

Speaking of spring, here’s a fun read (with a cool map) on tornadoes and spring. No, it’s not a forecast, just an interesting look at one of the Earth’s most contrary phenomenon.

Here’s a fascinating read from NOAA…the NWS Service Assessment of the May 2013 OK tornadoes (63 page PDF file).

An interesting paleoclimatology read on how wind-borne dust affected climates of the past.

Considering a career in the atmospheric sciences or know someone who is? Here’s some good read on a career in meteorology from the World Meteorological Organization.

Starting March 25, 2014, several National Weather Service offices (including Tulsa and Norman) will begin using Impact Based Warnings. After almost two years of watching the effectiveness of Impact Based Warnings, I’m not a little enthused that more NWS offices will start including additional very important information when a warning is issued.

According to some studies, Americans are concerned about climate change but see no danger in the near future.

A good read by Phil Plait: AAAS “What We Know” About Global Warming Campaign.

And that’s a wrap! Have a great week everybody!







Tornado Quest Gee-O-Science Links For March 11 – 18, 2014

Running a day late in posting this weeks Gee-O-Science links due to a full dance card. Eventually, someone will invent a 36 hour day…and I will fill each extra hour exponentially until a 48 hour day is invented. Now, back to biz…

Spring is finally making it’s presence knows across much of the Northern Hemisphere. While the occasional cool spell will linger for several more weeks, a few severe weather episodes have occurred across the Great Plains of the USA. What will the spring of 2014 bring across tornado-prone areas of North America? Much too early to tell and a great deal of speculation can’t be trusted. The best policy is to have a proper emergency preparedness plan in place and keep tabs on your local forecasts several days in advance. Having said that, let’s get on with this weeks links…


Neil deGrasse Tyson is hosting a new “Cosmos” series and gives his thoughts on how science got cool & why he doesn’t debate deniers.

What is a naturalist? The answer to that question can be as varied as the subjects studied.

A very cool list: “Twelve Amazing Women Who Totally Rocked At Science.”


Major world-wide brands take on a variety of important progressive topics. Is climate change a “hands-off” topic?


Are you involved in CoCoRaHS? Even if you’re not, check out the USA National Phenology Network and, as a citizen scientist, document how animals and plants respond to local weather conditions.

Yes, you too could find a planet…or something else equally important! No Ph.D required! Citizen science FTW!


As odd as it may sound, seismic activity can be accompanied by “lightning beneath our feet.”

A drone has filmed a volcano eruption from a bird’s-eye view. This is a little to close for comfort!


Is the USA’s EPA running out of time to craft carbon emissions standards for industrial polluters beyond power plants?

Interesting read by the Capital Weather Gang: The Misplaced  Emphasis On Extreme Weather In Environmental Threat Communication.


NOAA’s National Climactic Data Center has released their State Of The Climate report for February, 2014.

For RadarScope users, here’s an important essay on identifying non-precipitation echoes.

El Nino is making the rounds of atmospheric discussion topics as of late. Bob Henson of NCAR/UCAR writes on the challenges of forecasting El Nino development.

This week marks the 89th anniversary of the Tri-State tornado…the single deadliest tornado event in US history.

The Norman, OK NWS office has put together a nice video on the advanced spotter training topic of severe thunderstorm ingredients.

NOAA has designated March 16-22 as Flood Safety Awareness Week. Here’s some very important and potentially life saving information on the “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” campaign.

While on the topic of flooding, the American Red Cross has a new flood safety app!

Here’s some promising research being done at the Univ. of AL/Huntsville on lightning prediction.

Some things never change. In spite of years of mounting evidence, the vitriolic consternation over climate change continues.

Recent Gallup poll indicates that “A Steady 57% in U.S. Blame Humans For Global Warming.”

Here’s a “spot on” must-read essay that addresses one of the most annoying facets of social media and the attention-hungry “social-media-rologists” (whom I would never confuse with citizen scientists).

And that’s a wrap for this week…

Remember, this is Flood Safety Awareness Week. Also, if you’ve not done so, get your emergency preparedness kit in order and buy a good NOAA weather radio ASAP. Your life may depend on it.


State Of The #Climate For February 2014 from @NOAANCDC

NOAA’s monthly State Of The Climate Report has been issued for February, 2014. It’s a very mixed bag with a wide variety of weather events that took place over the USA. February is traditionally a very transitional month across North America with large-scale winter weather events on the heels of regional severe weather outbreaks not uncommon. I’ll let the report speak for itself, but there are a few items that caught my attention:

  • Contiguous USA drought conditions improved only slightly in parts of OK, TX, CA and several other states remain under “exceptional” drought conditions.
  • AK had its 8th warmest winter on record. During February, it was not uncommon for many stations across KS, OK, TX and neighboring states to be 20F – 30F colder that many stations in central AK.
  • Thanks to long-term cold snaps, the Great Lakes had their 2nd largest ice cover on record by early March.
  • Though severe weather events did occur, they were comparatively low impact events and were located primarily in the southern states.

As is often the case, I have sometimes remind people who take a lukewarm passing interest in weather that a report such as this is only a small snapshot of weather events over a short time span and may or may not reflect long-term climate change events. The longer record are kept, the more likely they are to be broken. Considering we live at the bottom of an ocean of air which is a very dynamic and ever-changing fluid, monthly extremes are to be expected. Long-term record over many years, decades, and even centuries are another matter.

Here’s to an interesting March…and if you’ve not done your preparedness for the coming severe weather season, please do so as soon as possible.


Tornado Quest Gee-O-Science Links For March 4 – 11, 2014

Across much of the Northern Hemisphere, the signs of spring and warmer weather are slowly making themselves known. There will be a few more blasts of winter weather left, but the overall trend is toward warmer temperatures and more hours of sunlight. For many, spring also brings the threat of severe weather. If you’ve not taken the proper preparedness steps, this would be a good time to do so. First and foremost, if you don’t have a NOAA weather radio, purchase the best one you can afford as soon as possible. This is your first line of defense in severe weather preparedness and the best source of potentially life-saving warnings. For details on that, see my previous post.

Here’s a look at a few select items for your consideration…


Are you into citizen science? Join the new Citizen Science Association and help promote the benefits of citizen science!

It’s March Madness for CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, & Snow Network)…an awesome citizen science project that anyone in the USA or Canada can take part in regardless of where you live or the time of year.


Solar storms can wreak havoc on certain parts of our infrastructure. Fortunately, our Earth can help fight back.

A new Cosmos just started. And if Carl Sagan knew, I’m sure he’d approve.


Say hello to Torvosaurus gurneyiRecently discovered, it could be the largest carnivorous predator from the late Jurassic discovered to date in Europe.


A very interesting piece from Popular Science with the details on where the plastic goes.

As an avid recycler, I’m painfully aware of the “pains and joys of recycling.”

Fascinating read on the connection between sustainability and social behavior.

National Groundwater Awareness Week runs from March 9 – 15, 2014. Here are more details from USGS.

Are you aware of how much water you use during a “typical” day? Few of us do…and we pay for it environmentally and financially.

Living in a large metro area as I do, I’m well aware of the love/hate relationship we have with our urban freeways.


In a warming climate, recent research indicates heavy rainfall events could be on the upswing.

Will there be an El Nino for 2014? Current outlooks from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center put the odds at 50/50.

Several National Weather Service offices will begin using Impact Based Warnings in spring 2014.

Thanks to a recent cold snap, Lake Michigan reached an ice cover record.

Climate change, according to recent research, can be felt to the deepest reaches of the Earth’s oceans.

Could extreme weather be a ‘silver lining’ for climate action? It is if it raises the issue of climate change to the highest political levels.

People are freaking out about all the temperature swings with cold snaps one week with sleet or snow followed by a week of mild temps and warm sunshine. Chillax…it’s spring…and it’s normal.

Interesting read: NOAA National Weather Service Meteorologist Twitter Use Shows That All Government Employees Are Communicators.

The National Weather Service was to receive new supercomputers for forecasting. Sadly, that hasn’t come to pass…and the USA is falling behind other nations forecasting tools at a rapid pace.

Last but not least, the Tornado FAQ from the Storm Prediction Center. This is a must-read if you live anywhere tornadoes occur.


At last…someone took the words right out of my mouth. “Why Daylight Saving Time Is Pointless.”

From Mother Jones: “Five Infuriating Examples of Facts Making People Dumber.” ~ Number 5 is the gem for me. :-/

There are many reasons Scandinavia’s Lapland is a very special place…and here’s some eye candy to prove it.

Yes, the California drought is bad. Bad enough that some are flushing rational thought down the drain.

Finally, a sobering first-person account of the May, 2014 tornado events in Oklahoma.

I’ve received several comments regarding my previous post on the Norman, OK National Weather Service’s Facebook Tornado Drill. Thank you for your interest. My intention is to bring attention to the obvious fact that much of social media, specifically Facebook, is a very poor way of getting important severe weather warning information. It may be a good way to obtain various forecast products in the days leading up to severe weather but when seconds count…it fails miserably.

Have a great week everybody!


A Quick Personal Overview Of The Norman, OK NWS Facebook Tornado Drill #okwx

On March 5, 2014, the National Weather Service office in Norman, OK conducted a tornado drill via Facebook to get a view of social behavior patterns in using social media to disseminate potentially life-saving warnings.  While the details of the warning process and preparation are beyond the scope of this essay, a quick examination of the results reveals little more than very sobering results.

Here’s a slide of the results as compiled by the NWS Norman, OK. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll round off population total numbers and let most of the results speak for themselves.

NWS Norman OK Facebook Tornado Drill

The warning for the drill was issued at 5:30 PM Central Time. Within 15 minutes, only 46,000 people had been notified of the warning. Many only became aware of the warning because it had been “liked” or “shared.” But that 15 minutes is critical. In a best case scenario, the lead-time in a tornado warning averages to 12 minutes. That means if you are in a tornado warned area, you may have (at most) twelve minutes to take shelter. It also could mean that, depending on your proximity to the tornado, you’ve less than one minute to get to shelter and save your life. In a metropolitan area of well over one million people, 46,000 & change is pitifully small. Within 30 minutes, only 131,000 had been notified via Facebook. Using the Moore, OK tornado of May 20, 2014 as an example, by the time 30 minutes had passed, the tornado has done it’s damage and was long gone. Looking further down the timeline of the drill and jumping forward to the highest population total of over 797,000, it took a full 13 hours for the warning to be shared on Facebook.

The rest of the slide from the Norman NWS doesn’t mince words and is self-explanatory. Facebook is a horrible platform to use when it comes to severe storm warnings where seconds count. I’ll take the personal liberty and add to that other social media outlets such as Google+, Tumblr, WordPress, Instagram, Vine, et al. Even text messaging is fraught with hazards such as misinformation spread under duress and cell tower reception which can be disrupted during violent thunderstorms. Presented with this dilemma, what is the best solution? A NOAA weather radio.

When a warning is issued and goes out over NOAA weather radio, you’re getting potentially life saving information at the same time as local emergency management, broadcast meteorologists on television, radio stations, and the thousands of “media-rologists” that bottleneck timelines all over social media. If you are in an area that is under a tornado/severe thunderstorm/flash flood warning, you do not have the luxury of confirming the warning via social media. You need to take immediate action and, if possible, take with you a portable device (NOAA weather radio, hand-held AM/FM radio, smart phone, tablet, etc.) where you can get updated information. As for weather buffs and/or storm chasers who share warning information, please take their posts with a grain of salt. I can relate to their excitement, but they are all too often in pursuit of increasing the number of followers or likes they can accumulate on their social media accounts. Some may be hundreds of miles away from you, have no idea of the local conditions you’re dealing with, post on Twitter or Facebook IN ALL UPPER CASE grandly pronouncing as if they are the only source for warning information. Never, under any circumstances, should any of these accounts be taken seriously. The only accounts on Twitter that you need to follow for timely weather information is your local National Weather Service office, the Storm Prediction Center, and the local broadcast meteorologists of your choice.  After 5 years on Twitter, I’ve seen a lot of accounts that wildly proclaim to “save lives” come and go. None of them do that. Unfortunately, the competition for popularity in social media among weather hobbyists and storm chasers is at an all time high and none of the jostling for followers, attention, and the “big man on campus” feather in their hat will do you, the general public, any good. I learned very early in my time on Twitter that when the warnings start, I should shut up. There is information that I do share, but it’s often issued by the Storm Prediction Center hours or even days before the expected severe weather event. Because I don’t think the public is as scientifically illiterate as many people do,  I enjoy sharing Mesoscale Discussions which are detailed forecast products issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK. While rather technical, these can give you an “insiders” view on the forecaster’s thoughts concerning severe weather potential. When possible, I will post information about a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch for parts of Oklahoma and neighboring states since I have a high percentage of followers in this (my home state) region. But, you  will get the watch information no faster than any other account or I will by having your NOAA weather radio handy.

In summary, as you can see from the results of the Facebook tornado drill, the use of social media (and specifically Facebook) is a poor choice.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of using NOAA weather radios for timely information that could save your life. Like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, they are a life-saving tool that should be in every home, place of work, school, recreation area, etc. And please be very discerning, discreet, and selective when it comes to following storm chasers and/or weather hobbyists in the social media format. None of them, including yours truly,  should be considered as a source of official weather information.

Stay safe, good luck…and get that NOAA weather radio in your hot little hands ASAP!


Tornado Quest Gee-O-Science Links For Feb. 25 – March 4, 2014

Meteorological spring has finally arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. For obvious reasons, this is merely a “reference point” since nature and the laws of the universe couldn’t care less how we pigeon-hole forces that are beyond our control. A perfect example is the current cold snap and accompanying winter precipitation across many contiguous USA states. Spring will be here soon enough.

For your consideration, this week’s links…


Scientific publishing does need an overhaul. Here’s an interesting take on the subject.


Weather is one of the most important topics in citizen science. It doesn’t matter where you live and anyone can contribute. After all, if you have curiosity and a computer, you can participate in scientific projects.

How the recent rise in citizen science participation is democratizing research.


The air pollution in China is so bad, there are comparisons to its similarity to a nuclear winter.

There are a myriad of myths regarding renewable energy sources. Hopefully, this article will put many of them to rest.


Considering a career in meteorology? The World Meteorological Organization has updated their popular atmospheric science career info.

March 2 – 8, 2014 is National Severe Weather Preparedness Week in the United States. Here’s important information on keeping you and your loved ones safe…and your pets too.

If you use the National Weather Service websites for forecast information, here’s an important read on proposed changes.

NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have launched a new weather satellite that will change the way meteorologists monitor global precipitation.

An interesting read with a focus on climate change and it’s relation to tropical cyclones.

Here’s a “must-read” (36 page PDF file) from the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences ~ Climate Change: Evidence and Causes. Very bookmark worthy too!

Like many continents, Australia is dealing with climate change induced heat, drought, and increased wildfire risk.

New Mexico is just one of many states that’s facing its own challenges with droughts and wildfires.

How should meteorologists engage with the media and public on policy issues? Meteorologist Paul Douglas offers some very sound suggestions.

Did the Farmer’s Almanac winter forecast verify? Are you kidding me? This is a joke, right?

And that’s a wrap. Hang in there my fellow occupiers of the Northern Hemisphere. Spring is on the way!


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