Monthly Archives: April, 2015

Tornado Quest Science Links And Much, Much More For April 20 – 28, 2015

After several days of active severe weather, the contiguous 48 USA states get a bit of a respite. For the most part, it will be welcome. There’s still plenty of time left to get your emergency kit for home or work in order…and this quiet period is a good time to make sure everything is in check. May is the most active tornado month (from a climatological standpoint) for North America…so we’ve still many weeks of severe weather potential ahead. With the recent spate of severe weather and several crucial deadlines garnering my time and energy, I’ve had to carefully delegate my time…ergo the brevity of this post.

For your consideration, here are this week’s posts…

GENERAL SCIENCE

Food for thought. “Can We Trust Scientists Self-Control?” In general, yes.

An excellent essay that hits the spot in “Inoculating Against Science Denial.”

TECHNOLOGY/SOCIAL MEDIA

A “must-read” for anyone who is online from Ghostery (which I can’t recommend highly enough). Trolls…aka online bullies…don’t just live for the change to make sophomoric comments, some lust for private data too.

HISTORY OF SCIENCE

A very comprehensive list of about one hundred books that cover a wide spectrum on the history of science.

GEOLOGICAL SCIENCE

The recent devastating Nepal earthquake was, by some accounts, a “nightmare waiting to happen.”

This doesn’t surprise me at all. We’re so good at causing earthquakes, the U.S. Geological Survey wants to start forecasting them.

Oklahomans feel far more earthquakes than Californians do…and the reason isn’t a surprise. Shake, frack, and roll.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE/RENEWABLES

This is the kind of good news I love seeing. “Like Shale Oil, Solar Power Is Shaking Up Global Energy.”

This is Air Quality Awareness Week. For many folks (depending on their local climate patterns) with health issues, this is far more important than even severe weather awareness.

2015 could be a very rough year for wildfires across the contiguous USA…and California in particular.

Our dependency on Amazon rainforests is much greater than we are aware of.

Some surprising survey results of American’s opinions on regulating CO2 and renewable energy research.

ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

Nice overview of the current California drought and its connection to climate change.

California’s drought isn’t the end of the world, but it will change the lifestyles of people who are affected by it. Welcome to a new and permanent way of life.

Are recent extremes in weather events tied to climate change? Some studies say, “yes.”

It’s been almost a decade (October, 2005) since a major (Category 3 or stronger) hurricane has made landfall in the USA. How much longer will our luck hold out?

I couldn’t have said it better myself. “Climate change eats away at the foundation of virtually every issue Americans worry most about today: the economy, national security, good jobs and public health.”

Could seasonal tornado forecasts be on the horizon? If this is feasible, it will be interesting to see how well it works over the long term.

There’s quite a storm brewing over the National Weather Service in Birmingham, AL installing a television studio. Personally, I welcome the concept and think it’s a cracking idea!

Can doppler radar detect birds? Absolutely. It can also detect smoke from wildfires, insects, bats…and much more!

Ft Worth TX NWS GraphicA very informative graphic from the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, TX explaining why an impressive velocity couplet on radar doesn’t mean “wedge.” A long-lasting cyclic supercell moved across central TX on 26 April 2015 and produced all modes of severe weather including large hail, tornadoes, and flash flooding. Damage surveys revealed all the tornadoes that occurred were of EF-0 intensity. Evaluation of real-time storm chaser reports also reveal 1) the difficulty in accurately deciphering what chasers are seeing with only lightning to illuminate the storm and 2) the hazards for the general public of getting your warning information from unofficial (non NWS and media outlet) weather information sources.

Ft Worth TX NWS Graphic2Yes, it was a remarkable supercell with impressive fluid dynamics and behavior, but rather normal in the number of and intensity of tornadoes.

FINALLY, THE QUIXOTIC

Can you put a price on the opinion of Pope Francis? Apparently some delusional opportunists think so…which is a shame. Unethical also comes to mind.

And on that note, this is a wrap! See you good folks next time!

Cheers!

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Tornado Quest Science Links And Much, Much More For April 13 – 21, 2015

It’s been a busy week across the Great Plains with multiple rounds of severe weather. Since late March, there have been several significant events. More severe weather is on tap for this week for the southern plains Wednesday through Friday. On the “home front”, some IT SNAFU’s reared their ugly heads. Technology is indeed a mixed bag and can show its nefarious side at the most inopportune moments…hence the brief post for today…so let’s get started.

For your consideration, here are this week’s links…

GENERAL SCIENCE

An interesting look at maps that geographically depict climate change beliefs.

A nice interview of Neil deGrasse Tyson in Esquire magazine.

Speaking of Tyson…”Neil deGrasse Tyson: Politicians Denying Science is ‘Beginning Of The End Of An Informed Democracy.'”

ASTRONOMICAL SCIENCE

Astronomers examining a map of the radiation leftover from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background, or CMB) discovered the Cold Spot, a larger-than-expected unusually cold area of the sky.

PALEONTOLOGY/EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY

Here’s a very interesting read for my fellow paleontology buffs. “Oldest Fossils Controversy Resolved.”

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

It’s been five years since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster…and the reverberations are still with us today.

ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

If you have any reason to be concerned with Severe Thunderstorm and/or Tornado Watches, here’s some important information on an update for the watches and warnings you’ll see online or hear on your NOAA weather radio.

If you’re interested in meteorology or considering it as a career, you need to know how to do this with your eyes closed. “Modern Tornado Outlooks Still Start With Colored Pencil Drawings.”

In case you’ve missed or would like to re-view Rich Thompson’s Tornado Forecasting Workshop, you can catch up on the OU SCAMS YouTube channel.

2015 has gotten off to a hot start…and it could top 2014.

Very thought-provoking. “Top Ten Reasons We Don’t Talk About Climate Change.”

Major climate changes are taking place in the Arctic…and the USA is leading a council along with seven other nations (Canada, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark) to investigate the rapidly warming Arctic climate.

A surprising read. “Air Force’s plan to drop U.S. forecast system for U.K. model draws criticism.”

A short and sweet post for today…and that’s a wrap! Time to finish off the IT troubleshooting grind.

Cheers!

Tornado Quest Science Links And Much, Much More For April 6 – 13, 2015

It’s been quite a histrionic weather week for the contiguous USA. Some locations are finally warming after a long and snowy winter, the California drought worsens, and the Great Plains had two wild days of severe weather (April 8-9, 2015). This week also marked the thirty-sixth anniversary of the Red River tornado outbreak in Oklahoma and Texas, the sixty-eighth anniversary of the Woodward, Oklahoma tornado, and the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak. I’ll have more on those events later in this post. Since we are entering an active weather pattern over the next several days, I’ll keep this post on the brief side and include links that I think you’ll enjoy.

For your consideration, here are this week’s links…

GENERAL SCIENCE

A very thought-provoking essay that confirms thought’s I’ve had for some time. “The Science Of Why You Really Should Listen To Science And Experts.”

Some great answers to, “Why Did You Become A Scientist?” My personal favorite…”Science turns “I don’t know” into “I don’t know… yet” and you won’t find anything more empowering than that.”

Ever wonder what the weather station identifiers mean? Here’s a handy essay that explains it all.

CITIZEN SCIENCE

Check out this very cool soil collection program. Best of all…it’s free!

GEOLOGICAL SCIENCE

The Oklahoma Geological Survey will be adding another analyst to its ranks to keep track of the smaller earthquakes that, as of late, been occurring almost daily in the Sooner state.

PALEONTOLOGY/EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY

My beloved Brontosaurus has been raised from the dead so to speak. Welcome (back) to the dinosaur club!

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE/RECYCLING

A well written guide to California’s water crisis and the challenges faced by those dealing with it first hand.

Is there a bright side to the devastating California drought? Yes…and it’s renewable!

Another bright side to the California drought is an optimistic, proactive state of mind.

A mass extinction that occurred 252 million years ago could give us hints at to how the increasing acidity in our oceans could affect current and future life forms.

Here’s a very nice infographic on a highly underrated practice: Upcycling.

China will surpass the  USA as the top producer of greenhouse gas emissions.

ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

It’s always fun to repost everyone’s favorite wind map!

A very nice climate resource: The US Climate Resilience Toolkit.

I love space exploration as much as any other science fan…but have often wondered why physicists immediately leap at careers in astronomy or cosmology. It’s time for a change because, “Climatologists To Physicists: Your Planet Needs You.”

The TRMM rainfall satellite mission has finally come to an end after seventeen years. Fortunately, there’s another satellite waiting to carry on the torch.

Could El Nino last all of 2015? If so, this summer will be incredibly interesting.

While Rolling Stone magazine isn’t know for its science writing, here’s a well-written thought-provoking read. “The Pentagon and Climate Change: How Deniers Put National Security At Risk.”

Preliminary tornado/storm surveys from the Chicago National Weather Service on the severe weather events of 9 April, 2015. Until EF Scale rating are finalized and a comprehensive analysis is completed of the entire damage path, take with a grain of salt any unofficial or hyped rumors.

In weather history:

THE QUIXOTIC SIDE OF THE HUMAN ANIMAL

Yet another state has clamped down (aka censored) the term “climate change.”

In spite of overwhelming evidence, no end in sight on this. “Meet The United States Of Divided Climate Beliefs.”

And that’s a wrap for this post…

I’d like to welcome my new followers on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, About.Me, Facebook, and Tumblr. Glad you’re along for the fun!

Cheers!

Update For Thursday’s Ongoing Storms And Severe Weather Potential

Today, 9 April 2015, is shaping up to be a very active severe weather day across a vast area of the contiguous 48 states. Like yesterday, this has been well forecast several days in advance. Let’s take a look at the mid-afternoon severe weather outlook from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). This outlook will remain valid from 3:00 PM CDT to approximately 8:00 PM CDT.

THURSDAY MID-AFTERNOON CATEGORICAL SEVERE WEATHER OUTLOOK

SPC Day 1 Outlook 2000 UTC 9 April 2015As you can see, there is a large area covered by Marginal, Slight, and Enhanced severe weather risks today. The current outlook also considers northern Illinois and bordering parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri to be at the highest risk of tornadoes. This is well covered by the current tornado watches. If you live anywhere in the Marginal, Slight, or Enhanced risk area and are under a watch, pay special attention to a reliable, official source of warning information and be prepared to take precautions should a warning be issued for your area. Expect all modes of severe weather, especially in the tornado watches. Now, let’s take a look at the current SPC watches as of 3:45 PM CDT.

SPC WATCHES IN EFFECT AS OF 3:45 PM CDT

SPC Watches 1 9 April 2015As of this post, a new watch is pending for parts of southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois. There are currently seven watches in effect…four severe thunderstorm watches and three tornado watches. The area of highest tornado potential is well covered by the tornado watches for parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Lake Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Another tornado watch farther to the south covers much of the ArkLaTex region in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The atmospheric ingredients in this region are such that a couple of tornadoes are possible and storms are forming well ahead of an advancing cold front that’s currently moving through parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. A very busy and active severe weather day is well underway…so pay special attention to official sources of weather watch and warning information. As I’ve stated in previous posts, the best sources of timely watch and warning information will come from the Storm Prediction Center, your local National Weather Service office, and the broadcast meteorologists of your choice. We have a long evening ahead, but if you have prepared ahead of time and plan accordingly, it will be much easier and less stressful on you. And remember…you are being looked after by some of the best atmospheric scientists in the field…and trust me, some of these folks are top-notch experts with an inimitable dedication to their profession, willingly carrying the heavy responsibility that rests on their shoulders all while keeping your safety in mind.

Once again…for your convenience…here are some handy safety rules and weather links…

Finally, another reminder that if you have a smart phone, you can put it to good use during severe weather year round by downloading the mPING app and reporting to the National Severe Storms Laboratory any severe weather you experience. This is a great way for you to take your mind off the unpleasant side of severe weather while contributing information to research meteorologists. Every report counts…including yours…but please don’t put yourself in danger just to get that report.

Remember, stay informed, stay safe, stay calm.

Cheers!

Updated: Wednesday’s Severe Weather Episode For Central/Southern Plains

For the mid-day Day 1 Severe Weather Outlook from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC), a Moderate Risk was introduced for parts of Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The possibility of this happening had been mentioned in previous outlooks. Considering some of the atmospheric ingredients coming into place, I’m not at all surprised. This post will focus on the mid-afternoon update issued by the SPC at 3:00 PM CDT (2000 UTC). More severe weather outlook updates will be issued by the SPC today. The next one will be at approximately 8:00 PM CDT (0100 UTC) and 1:00 AM CDT (0600 UTC). Keep in mind that severe weather setups are in a constant state of flux…and rarely do situations stay static from one hour to the next. This is where keeping in touch with your local National Weather Service office and the broadcast meteorologists of your choice are beneficial along with NOAA weather radio and, if available to you, a quality smart phone warning app. This post will be quite brief since things are rapidly falling into place for a busy severe weather day.

Let’s take a look at the mid-afternoon SPC severe weather update.

PUBLIC SEVERE WEATHER OUTLOOK ISSUED AT 12:01 PM CDT

PSWO 1 8 April 2014The SPC has issued a special Public Severe Weather Outlook that concisely explains today’s severe weather potential. This essentially has all the information you need to know. The next best step is making sure your emergency kit is in order and keep tabs on any warnings that are issued. Here’s a look at the mid-afternoon severe weather update from SPC.

WEDNESDAY MID-AFTERNOON SEVERE WEATHER OUTLOOK

Day 1 Categorical Outlook 1 8 April 2015Very little has changed from the earlier forecasts other than an increase in the likelihood of damaging straight-line winds and very large hail…possible up to three inches in diameter. As I’ve stated in previous posts, this is a very complex forecast scenario, is no “slam-dunk” forecast, and variables have come into play that may have a significant change in storm mode and hazards. Not everyone in the categorical outlook areas will see severe weather, but if you live anywhere in the Marginal, Slight, Enhanced, and Moderate Risk, be sure to keep in touch with official sources of watch and warning information. When and where will the storms form? From the mid-afternoon discussion, “ROUGHLY NEAR THE KANSAS/OKLAHOMA BORDER AREA EASTWARD THROUGH THE MIDDLE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY…IS STILL EXPECTED TO BECOME THE FOCUS FOR THE PRIMARY STORM DEVELOPMENT THROUGH THE REMAINDER OF THE PERIOD. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE MOST SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN COVERAGE/INTENSITY ALONG THE PLAINS PORTIONS OF THIS BOUNDARY MAY NOT OCCUR UNTIL THE 00-02Z (7:00 PM – 9:00 PM CDT) TIME FRAME.” In other words, some of the strongest storms may not get going until close to sunset…or even after dark. At night, it can be particularly difficult to see storms…so pay particular attention to any warning that is issued. Make sure you have a source of reliable official warnings handy through your evening and plan accordingly. While you’re at it, do yourself a favor and avoid the fear mongers. For those of you with anxiety and/or phobias regarding storms, deal with PTSD due to a previous encounter with a storm-related event, or are simply experiencing a great deal of worry, they’ll do you no good. Overall, they offer very little information that hasn’t already been disseminated by OFFICIAL watch and warning sources, and their actions (especially in social media) are usually self-serving.

In a scenario such as this, tornadoes are always front and center in everyone’s concern. Here’s a look at the mid-afternoon SPC tornado outlook map.

WEDNESDAY MID-AFTERNOON TORNADO OUTLOOK

SPC Day 1 Tornado Outlook 1 8 April 2015

The current thinking is the highest probability for a tornado is in the red shaded area. The highest probability for a significant (EF2 – EF5) tornado is in the black “hatched” area. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone in the tornado outlook area will see a tornado…or even be in a tornado warning. Tornadoes can also occur in the 5% or 2% area, but that’s less likely. Just because someone lives right outside of the 10% or 5% area doesn’t mean they should let their guard down and take a cavalier attitude. On the flip side, the purpose of this map and all others isn’t to scare you, but keep you informed as to what kind of severe weather you may experience so if it occurs, you can take the necessary precautions.

Before we wind this up…here’s a look at the SPC damaging wind and hail outlooks.

WEDNESDAY MID-AFTERNOON HAIL OUTLOOK

SPC Day 1 Hail Outlook 1 8 April 2015 The chances for large hail are especially significant in the red shaded area and the hatched area for parts of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and a small part of west-central Illinois. Once again, not everyone will see large hail, but the possibility is there. You might consider making sure your vehicles or anything that could be damaged by large hail is under cover. Now a quick look at the SPC damaging wind outlook.

WEDNESDAY MID-AFTERNOON WIND OUTLOOK

SPC Day 1 Wind Outlook 1 8 April 2015The 30% damaging wind outlook area closely corresponds with the tornado outlook. North-central Oklahoma to west-central Missouri are the areas currently most vulnerable. Perhaps most important is the fact that any storms that form and become severe in any of the outlook areas have the potential for damaging straight-line winds, large hail, and tornadoes. Another very important and often overlooked risk is for flash flooding. The severe thunderstorms that form today can put down copious amounts of rain that can turn a low lying road or small creek into a roaring river that can sweep away even the largest of vehicles. Remember the safety phrase, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” It could save your life. Lightning will also be a hazard with any thunderstorm…severe our otherwise…so mind the lightning danger.

Now that you’ve gotten the scoop on what’s ahead especially in the Enhanced and Moderate Risk areas, time to put your game face on and keep on top of all watches and warnings. If you have a solid plan of action to take if you need to seek shelter and a reliable, hype-free source of watch and warning information, you will be safe. Yes, much of the information from official sources will sound stern at times, but it’s their job. You are being looked after by some of the best atmospheric scientists in the field…and trust me, some of these folks are top-notch experts with an inimitable dedication to their profession, willingly carrying the heavy responsibility that rests on their shoulders all while keeping your safety in mind.

For your convenience, here are some excellent sources of weather and weather safety information:

Finally, if you have a smart phone, you can put it to good use by downloading the mPING app and reporting to the National Severe Storms Laboratory any severe weather you experience. This is a great way for you to take your mind off the unpleasant side of severe weather while contributing information to research meteorologists. Every report counts…including yours…but please don’t put yourself in danger just to get that report.

Remember, stay informed, stay safe, stay calm.

Since things are getting very busy for me, this will likely be the last post for the Tornado Quest blog. For the rest of the duration of this event, I can most easily be followed or reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TornadoQuest.

Cheers!

Updated: Potentially Active Severe Weather Episode Mid-Week For Central/Southern Plains

The potential for severe weather on Wednesday and Thursday is becoming more clear with the addition of new weather data to the forecast. Let me preface the rest of this post with two points. 1.) I’ve included for your convenience some severe weather safety links at the bottom of this post and 2.) it’s my hope that the information I’m sharing will alleviate some of the unnecessary anxiety and stress that is so often fostered by attention hungry fear mongers in social media. Having said that, let’s take a look at this week’s severe weather potential.

Updated 7:20 PM CDT: There is a Slight Risk tonight for parts of Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma with a pending watch from the Storm Prediction Center. If any storms for tonight, they could have an effect on the atmosphere in such a way that Wednesday’s severe weather outlook could be changed.

It’s no surprise that the Storm Prediction Center added an Enhanced Risk to Wednesday’s severe weather outlook. As is often the case, as more data become available, it’s easier to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Here’s a look at Wednesday’s SPC severe weather outlook. While some severe weather scenarios are almost textbook, this forecast challenge has become more daunting as the days when storms are likely has drawn closer.

WEDNESDAY

Day 1 SPC Categorical Outlook 7 April 2015Tomorrow’s severe weather setup is a very complex scenario. The next two days will certainly be no small challenge to any meteorologist. As of this post, SPC forecasters feel that storms may form much earlier than usual. This will have a significant effect on where and when any additional storms form later in the day. From the SPC discussion, “STILL..DEEP LAYER
SHEAR SHOULD BE STRONG ENOUGH FOR ORGANIZED CONVECTION…INCLUDING SUPERCELLS AND AN EVOLVING STORM CLUSTER…IN THE PRESENCE OF SIZABLE CAPE.” In other words, in spite of the fact that storms may form early, there are ingredients available for them to become potent supercells. It’s possible that if storms form early, it could be in the north-central Oklahoma/south-central Kansas border region…but that is subject to change. As the afternoon progresses, peak heating occurs, and several other elements fall into place making the atmosphere more volatile, there will be, “AN INCREASED RISK FOR SUPERCELLS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING VERY LARGE HAIL AND A COUPLE OF TORNADOES. INITIALLY ROUGHLY NEAR THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN KANSAS/OKLAHOMA BORDER AREA…THIS ACTIVITY IS EXPECTED TO SPREAD NORTHEASTWARD/EASTWARD TOWARD THE LOWER MISSOURI VALLEY…BEFORE GRADUALLY WEAKENING WEDNESDAY NIGHT.” Now, let’s take a look at the SPC’s severe weather probability map.

WEDNESDAY’S SEVERE WEATHER PROBABILITY MAP

SPC Probabilistic Outlook 1 7 April 2015As I’ve stated in previous posts, the purpose of the probabilistic map is to give people in the shaded areas an idea of their chances of seeing some kind of severe weather within twenty-five miles of a point. For parts of Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma shaded in red, there’s almost a one in three chance of some kind of severe weather occurring fairly close to any specific area. In the “hatched” area that’s outlined in black, there’s a higher probability of storms with a bit of extra power to their punch. The main thing to keep in mind is that if you are properly prepared for severe weather and aren’t doing anything foolishly risky, you’ll be just fine. If you live in a mobile home or will be working in a large room with a wide span roof, a barn, outbuilding, or outdoors (all typically areas that have an increased danger and are particularly vulnerable to even weak tornadoes or strong straight-line winds), you might consider planning today where you would take shelter if you’re in a warning. Outside of the red shaded area is our 15% and 5% probabilities regions which cover a large part of the southern plains to the Ohio valley. Keep in mind that storms may be very isolated in the 5% area, but can still pack quite a punch. So, to wrap up Wednesday’s outlook in lay terms…current SPC forecasts convey the possibility that some storms may get an early start. If they do form, expect them to be severe. Later in the day, the atmosphere will be primed for even more robust storms to form. Expect all modes of severe weather (aka: large hail, damaging straight-line winds, flash flooding potential, and tornadoes), numerous severe thunderstorm and/or tornado watches, and many warnings issued by your local National Weather Service office. Perhaps most importantly and once again, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of following official sources of watch and warning information.

THURSDAY

Day 2 SPC Categorical Outlook 7 April 2015Thursday’s severe weather outlook will be just as challenging as Wednesday’s…perhaps even more difficult…but the same hazards will be possible, especially in the Slight and Enhanced Risk areas. From the SPC discussion, “WHILE RESIDUAL CONVECTION/CLOUD COVER COULD ALTER THE LOCATION OF — OR EVEN HINDER DEVELOPMENT OF — THE NEXT ROUND OF AFTERNOON/EVENING STORMS AHEAD OF THE ADVANCING SYSTEM…IT APPEARS AT THIS TIME THAT AMPLE DESTABILIZATION WILL OCCUR AHEAD OF THE FRONT IN THE WAKE OF PRIOR PRECIPITATION. In a nutshell, in spite of widespread storms Wednesday that will have used up a lot of “energy,” the atmosphere will have plenty of time to re-charge its batteries for another round of rowdy weather. This time, the focus will be from northeastern Texas to southern Wisconsin and southwestern Michigan. The Enhanced Risk introduced yesterday by the SPC still holds. In fact, population wise, there will be almost three times as many people in the Thursday Enhanced Risk area as there were on Wednesday in spite of the fact that it is a slightly smaller area. Now, let’s take a look at Thursday’s probability map.

THURSDAY’S SEVERE WEATHER PROBABILITY MAP

SPC Probabilistic Outlook 2 7 April 2015Once again, the purpose of this map is to convey to you the probabilities of severe weather in or close to where you live. It’s not meant to scare or alarm anyone but, knowledge being power, to inform you so you can prepare for the possibility of storms and take necessary precautions if you’re in a warned area. The current thinking is that the highest probabilities will exist for much of eastern Missouri and most of Illinois…including the St. Louis and Chicago metro areas and surrounding suburbs. From the SPC discussion, “EXPECT SUPERCELL MODE TO EXIST — AT LEAST INITIALLY — WHICH THUS SUPPORTS INTRODUCTION OF AN SIGNIFICANT SEVERE-WEATHER AREA AND ENHANCED CATEGORICAL RISK ACROSS ILLINOIS/EASTERN MISSOURI AND VICINITY…WHERE LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS APPEAR LIKELY ALONG WITH A FEW TORNADOES.” Just like Wednesday, supercell thunderstorms will exist with all the trimmings. Regardless of where you live in the Marginal, Slight, or Enhanced risk area, prepare accordingly for the possibility of all modes of severe weather. Friday could be active as well from Georgia to the DelMarVa region and Saturday in western Texas…but with two rather significant days of severe weather already on our doorstep, we’ll cross those bridges if/when necessary.

Before I wrap this up, I’d like to pass along some helpful information from the Storm Prediction Center. This graphic is an excellent resource and clearly explains the new severe weather risk categories.

SPC Outlooks Graphic 2Here are some more helpful links:

Let’s meet again tomorrow to take a look at the day’s severe weather setup. It’ll be a much briefer post than this one, and will only focus on tomorrow’s severe weather probabilities. Once again…follow only official National Weather Service sources of watch and warning information along with the broadcast meteorologists of your choice…plan accordingly if you are in a watch…take proper precautions if you are in a warning…and you’ll be just fine. It comes as a surprise to many…but regardless of what these storms throw at you…if you take the necessary safety precautions you’ll come through smelling like a rose.

See you good folks later…

Cheers!

Updated: Potentially Active Severe Weather Episode Mid-Week For Central/Southern Plains

As expected, there have been significant changes to the Storm Prediction Center’s severe weather outlooks for this week. The most notable change is with the Thursday outlook which, as of this post, has the outlook area covering states much farther to the northeast that in previous outlooks. Regardless, we’ve a busy weather week ahead. Let’s first take a look at Wednesday.

WEDNESDAY

SPC Wed Outlook 1 6 April 2015

Wednesday’s Slight Risk has been expanded and now covers a large area from south-central OK into southern Iowa and western Illinois. Several major metro areas are within the Slight Risk and include Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City, Wichita, and all surrounding suburbs. Warm, moist air is flowing northward across the risk area and will provide the fuel for the storms. In western Oklahoma, Kansas, and northwest Texas, a “dryline” (which is a sharp demarcation line between dry and moist air) will be the focal point for storm development. In the early hours of Wednesday, storm formation will be deterred by a “cap” which literally stops warm, moist parcels of air from rising and forming storms. Eventually, ingredients in the recipe will come into play that will allow the cap to “break” and storms will develop. Once that happens, storms that develop should rapidly become supercell thunderstorms with heavy rainfall, large hail, strong straight-line winds, and the potential for tornadoes. The SPC specifically addresses the tornado threat with, “THE AMPLY MOIST BOUNDARY LAYER AND FAVORABLE LOW-LEVEL SHEAR — PARTICULARLY NORTHWARD INTO KANSAS NEARER THE ADVANCING SURFACE LOW — WILL LIKELY BE SUFFICIENT TO SUPPORT RISK FOR TORNADOES.” In other words, plentiful moisture for storm “fuel” along with wind shear that will allow storms to rotate will be present. There’s no reason to panic, just be aware that “tis the season” and any storms that form in the right environment have tornadic potential. Some forecast data hints at storms being somewhat isolated from each other, but any storms that do form will quickly become severe. As the evening progresses, storms will likely become more numerous, less isolated, and a reduction in the tornado threat may occur, but the large hail and damaging straight-line wind threat will continue. Flash flooding will also be an issue with any location that experiences torrential rainfall. Flooding kills more people every year than all other weather hazards combined and, in my opinion is a greatly underrated weather hazard. Now let’s take a look at Wednesday’s SPC Severe Weather Probabilistic map.

WEDNESDAY’S SEVERE WEATHER PROBABILISTIC MAP

SPC Wed Outlook 2 6 April 2015

The purpose of this SPC map is very simple, but certainly not meant to frighten anyone. It simply shows the probability of severe weather, including significant events, of occurring within twenty-five miles of any given point. Not every location within the Slight Risk 15% area or the significant severe “hatched” area will see storms. Some locations may not even see a drop of rain. It simply lets you know that within these areas, particularly the “hatched” area outlined in black, has a higher probability of severe weather being reported. This doesn’t mean an imminent disaster, but the Slight Risk also doesn’t mean storms will be “slightly” severe. At this time, SPC forecasters feel that storms within the hatched area will be pretty potent…which means if you live in or will be traveling through this area, expect a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch, numerous warnings, and some robust storms that won’t hesitate to show off how much shake, rattle, and roll they can make. It does not mean the end of the world or “death raining from the skies” which, unfortunately, is the message that many attention hungry fear mongers will convey through social media. If you have a well stocked emergency kit, a disaster/shelter plan in place, have good sources of watch and warning information, and heed all warnings and advisories only from official sources (your local National Weather Service office and the broadcast meteorologists of your choice), you will be safe. If you’re in an area where a warning has been issued, do not run outside with your camcorder to capture your ten seconds of YouTube fame, jump in a car and decide to become and impromptu “storm chaser,” or panic and try to drive out of the path of a storm. Those actions will expose you to lightning, high winds which can make driving difficult, low visibility, traffic congestion, and flash flooding which (with only two feet or less of water) can sweep you and your vehicle away. Plan ahead (as in now) for a day of severe weather, stay weather aware, and you’ll be fine. Now we can turn our attention to Thursday.

THURSDAY

SPC Day 4 Outlook 6 April 2015

At the risk of sounding like I’m blowing my own trumpet, when I first saw this map, my immediate thought was, “Ah-Ha! Just as I thought. The severe weather threat area has been shifted to the north and east! Wednesday’s storms have overturned much of the atmosphere and laid out tons of outflow boundaries! What a mess…and forecasting nightmare.” I’m beginning to think that almost forty years of being a “weather geek” is paying off. But enough of me, back to the SPC severe outlook for Thursday. Due to the previous days severe weather and certain changes in the atmospheric “recipe,” this day presents (as stated in the SPC outlook), “SUBSTANTIAL CHALLENGES WITH RESPECT TO THE CONVECTIVE FORECAST.” In other words, severe weather is very likely, but what a headache it is trying to narrow things down to when and where. Wednesday’s storms will have had an effect on the atmosphere that will change where and when new storms form. To make matters more challenging, computer forecast models are not fully in agreement on where storms will be at the beginning of the day and where they will form as the hours pass. The threat for large hail and damaging straight line winds will definitely be present and the risk for tornadoes could be somewhat less than on Wednesday, but don’t let your guard down. Any storms that form Thursday will be just as potent as Wednesday’s storms and you should heed official information on watches and warnings with the same degree of caution. In spite of the possibility that Wednesday’s storms may have taken some of Thursday’s severe weather energy, it will be a day you’ll want to be keenly weather aware, especially in the red 30% area for parts of Illinois and Missouri. Once again, there’s no need to panic or worry. Simply be prepared, avoid the fear mongers, stick with official sources of weather information, and you will be fine. Let’s take a quick look at Friday.

FRIDAY

SPC Day 5 Outlook 6 April 2015By the time Friday rolls around, much of the “energy” for storms will have moved to an area stretching from Georgia northward to the DelMarVa region. Time will tell, but it appears at this time that damaging straight line winds and large hail will be the primary threats. As is the case with previous days, what transpires Friday will depend a great deal on Thursday’s storm activity. If you live in or near the 15% probability region, keep a reliable source of official weather information handy. As is always the case, as each specific forecast time draws nearer, the SPC forecasters can be more specific as to where and when storms will occur and what threats will be most prominent.

It’s my hope that these posts are helpful in your preparation for an active and interesting episode of weather. If anything,  I hope to give those of you that have a degree of anxiety or phobias towards storms a sense of being in control by acquiring knowledge. Knowledge being power, and a sense of empowerment begets a calmer state of mind. In our contemporary world where divisiveness on the most menial of topics runs rampant, the human species needs all the “calm” we can get.

Let’s meet again tomorrow and take a look at this show Mother Nature has on the schedule. Who knows what changes she’ll have up her sleeve by then. In the mean time, check your NOAA weather radio, emergency kit, and plan your day accordingly. If you’d like to see all of the SPC’s information, you can find it here. If you need information from your local National Weather Service office, click your location on the “NWS Forecast Offices Map” and follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Finally, if you need information on NOAA weather radio, you can find it all here.

Cheers!

Tornado Quest Science Links And Much, Much More For March 30 – April 6, 2015

The severe weather season has kicked into full swing across much of the great plains. So far there have been only a few events, but we’ve still the busiest and most active months ahead. Due to this week’s pending severe weather, this post will be shorter than usual. I’ve also addressed the current severe weather setup for this week in other posts.

For your consideration, here are this week’s links…

SCIENCE EDUCATION/PUBLIC SCIENCE POLICY

A very good…and most timely…read on the hard-hitting realities that exist whether we want to believe them or not. “Why Scientific Truth May Hurt.”

A though-provoking read on what the climate movement must learn from religion.

CITIZEN SCIENCE

The CoCoRaHS “Hail Week” runs from April 6 – 11. 2015. Learn how to measure and collect hail…and then report it when it does make an occasional visit to your location.

TECHNOLOGY

A nice article on my favorite search engine which, in the process of competing with Google has also tripled it’s growth.

PHYSICS

After a two-year hiatus, the Large Hadron Collider is back in action and more powerful than before.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

When it hits home, it hits harder. “Poll: Americans Starting to Worry About Climate Change Now That It Affects Their Lawns.”

No surprise here. The California drought is testing the limits of unfettered, unregulated, and endless growth.

ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

Here’s a look at the latest US Drought Monitor. Conditions in California have remain steady as mandatory water rationing goes into effect. Extreme/exceptional conditions across Oklahoma and Texas actually worsened.

While on the topic of drought, the California drought saga continues.

This is a climactic “smoking gun” if there ever was one. “Thawing Permafrost Could Be The Worst Climate Threat You’ve Never Heard Of.”

Some good news from the National Weather Service. Impact-based warnings are becoming more commonplace across the nation.

A new technique in flood forecasting could prove beneficial for any populated area near a coastal area.

Emergency management officials are understandably concerned about the growing public complacency towards hurricane hazards.

Here’s a very nice graphic from the National Weather Service in Kansas City via the Oklahoma Mesonet that explains the recent changes to the Storm Prediction Center’s Convective Outlooks.

A very nice retrospective look back at the April 3-4, 1974 tornado Superoutbreak.

That’s a wrap for this post!

I’d also like to welcome my new followers! Glad you’re along!

Cheers!

Updated: Potentially Active Severe Weather Episode Mid-Week For Central/Southern Plains

Here’s a quick update to this week’s severe weather potential for the central and southern plains. First, let’s take a look at the latest Storm Prediction Center (SPC) severe weather outlook maps.

WEDNESDAY

Day 4 SPC Outlook 5 April 2015The map for Wednesday is quite a bit the same as yesterday, but the 15% probability outlook area is slightly larger. Confidence in severe weather occurring on Wednesday is increasing among SPC forecasters at this time, but there are some pieces to the puzzle that are missing…hence their decision to keep the 15% probability for now. As more data comes in and Wednesday draws closer, the probability of severe weather may be increased and the outlook area will be more specifically refined. It’s common to have a scenario such as this where the chances of severe weather are almost certain, but the “where and when” is somewhat muddled. What isn’t muddled are the chances of supercell thunderstorms occurring with all modes of severe weather (large hail, damaging straight line winds, flash flooding, and tornadoes) possible with any storm that develops. From the SPC discussion, “SHEAR WILL FAVOR LONG-LIVED SUPERCELLS AND ATTENDANT RISK FOR VERY LARGE HAIL…DAMAGING WINDS…AND TORNADOES. GIVEN UNCERTAINTY DUE TO STORM COVERAGE…WILL MAINTAIN ONLY 15% PROBABILITY AREA ATTM — DESPITE SIGNIFICANT SEVERE WEATHER POTENTIAL WITH ANY STORM THAT DOES DEVELOP.” Remember from the previous post…”shear” is the way winds flow in the atmosphere…changing direction with increasing altitude…that allow storms to rotate. Now let’s take a look at Thursday.

THURSDAY

Day 5 SPC Outlook 5 April 2015As was the case with Wednesday, the outlook map for Thursday is largely unchanged with the exception of the 15% probability area slightly larger, especially in Texas. Here’s where the headaches for the forecasters begin. Confidence in severe weather occurring is still high, but there are uncertainties regarding the coverage and timing of storms. How will Wedneday’s storms affect the conditions necessary for storms to form on Thursday? Will the atmosphere have time to “recover” or will it be stabilized to a degree? Regardless of these issues, the SPC discussion says, “SUPERCELL STORMS AND ASSOCIATED RISK FOR VERY LARGE HAIL…DAMAGING WINDS…AND TORNADOES CAN BE EXPECTED.” Taking into account the latest SPC outlook and my own subjective analysis, Wednesday and Thursday will be active severe weather days across much of the southern and central plains. In fact, a few storms could give us an appetizer” on Tuesday evening…so that bears watching as well. One of the challenges that SPC forecasters are currently dealing with are discrepancies between computer forecast models. As more data from the models comes in and better observation data is available, it will be easier to pin down more specific forecasts as to where and when storms will occur. One important thing to keep in mind is the fact that we’re dealing with a three-dimensional fluid that is in a constant state of flux. This is just the nature of the atmosphere and an example of the constant every-day challenges that meteorologists face. While the SPC wants to make you, the general public, aware of the severe weather threat, they also don’t want to alarm you unnecessarily. We’ve been aware of the threat for severe weather midweek for several days…so you have had plenty of “heads up” warning. If you’d like to take a look at the entire SPC outlook, you can find it here at their website.

After more information becomes available, we’ll take another look at this setup tomorrow. By then, the potential scenario will become much more clear.

Now go get that emergency kit ready and check your NOAA weather radio…  🙂

Cheers!

Potentially Active Severe Weather Episode Mid-Week (Wednesday-Thursday) For Central Plains

The latest Storm Prediction Center Day 4-8 Severe Weather Outlook issued on Apr 4, 2015 hints at a potentially active severe weather episode across several states. Several ingredients will be missing early in the week, so that will keep things in check. On Wednesday, conditions look more interesting, especially across Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. In the map below, the Day 5 (D5) severe weather probability is outlined in yellow and currently is at 15%. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s enough for the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) to take notice of. In the Storm Prediction Center Outlook, “WITH STRONG INSTABILITY AND MODERATELY STRONG SHEAR EXPECTED…ENVIRONMENT WILL FAVOR SUPERCELLS…AND ASSOCIATED RISK
FOR LARGE HAIL…DAMAGING WINDS…AND POSSIBLE TORNADOES.” (Please note: The use of upper case letters is standard for all NOAA/National Weather Service products). Essentially this means that instability (energy for storms to form) and shear (movement of air in the atmosphere that will help storms form large hail, and possible tornadoes) will be present.

WEDNESDAY

Day 5 SPC Outlook 4 April 2015

Looking ahead to Thursday, the Day 6 (D6) Outlook has a higher probability of severe weather across several states…from Texas and Oklahoma to Illinois and Indiana. This is where the forecast becomes more challenging. Storms that may have formed on Wednesday can be 1.) ongoing and still severe Thursday morning and/or 2.) affect the atmosphere in such a way that it will be difficult for forecasters to pin down a more specific outlook area where Thursday’s storms might form. Regardless, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is confident enough to have added a 30% probability to the Day 6 outlook. From the outlook discussion, “A FAIRLY BROAD AFTERNOON AND EVENING ZONE OF RISK FOR LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS ALONG WITH A FEW TORNADOES IS EVIDENT EXTENDING FROM ILLINOIS SOUTHWESTWARD ACROSS MISSOURI/ARKANSAS INTO SOUTHEASTERN KANSAS/EASTERN OKLAHOMA AND POSSIBLY INTO NORTH CENTRAL/NORTHEASTERN TEXAS.”  Having said that, confidence is rather high that Thursday will be a very active severe weather day with all the trimmings. Now for the caveat emptor. 

THURSDAY

Day 6 SPC Outlook 4 April 2015

 

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN FOR ME?

Let’s clear up a few things first. This forecast can and will change during the week. Like any of the best laid plans, things evolve or “Plan B” needs to be put into action. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is simply trying to convey the “heads up” that they see the potential for severe weather for the middle of the coming week. This post is also only my own subjective take on the SPC’s outlook along with some other computer model forecast information I’ve been watching. The Storm Prediction Center, your local National Weather Service Office, and the broadcast meteorologists of your choice are the best and most reliable sources of information to keep you and your family safe. If you want to keep close tabs on these severe weather outlooks, please follow the Storm Prediction Center on Twitter and visit their website often (at least two or three times a day) to monitor updates. On the menu to your right, click on the “Outlooks” tab for information pertinent to severe weather forecasts. Their website also has a wealth of information on how forecasts are made and what the Marginal/Slight/Enhanced/Moderate/High risks mean. It’s a very good “bookmark worthy” resource that everyone with even a passing interest in weather can benefit from.

  • Should I worry?
    • No. Simply make note of the possibility of severe weather this week and how it may affect your errands, commute, family plans, school, or work schedule, etc. It’s also a very good time to check your NOAA weather radio to make sure it has fresh batteries and is functioning properly. If you prepare ahead and stay on top of official forecasts, you will be safe (and feel safer) not just for this week, but the coming weeks and years ahead. Severe weather is a fact of life for most of the contiguous USA east of the Rocky mountains and, like the big snows in upstate New York, are something you should expect, prepare for, and take necessary precautions should you need to if a warning is issued for your area.
    • For those of you who have a degree of anxiety with storms, you’re not alone. Even the most modest of storms can bring some people into a very distressing panic attack. One thing that many severe weather aficionados don’t understand is there is a significant proportion of the population that does not share their enthusiasm. Some folks have a simple phobia of storms, lightning, thunder, etc. Others carry psychological and/or physical scars after having suffered through devastating personal loss directly related to a storm event in their past. If you’re in those groups, there’s one thing (well…make that two) you need to remember. First, the chances of the worst case scenario happening are very small. Second, stick with official sources of weather information and avoid the fear mongers at all costs. A good analogy is a quiet lake full of ducks…it looks calm until one or two start flapping their wings, splashing around, and cackling like they’re stark raving mad. While their “death-from-the-skies” rants may garner them a lot of followers on Twitter, likes to their Facebook pages, and visits to their websites, they rarely offer anything of value to the vast majority of folks like you who simply want to know reliable forecast information and how that will impact your everyday life.
  • What’s the purpose of this post?
    • 1. To pass along information that Mother Nature may throw a tantrum this week…so stay on top of your local forecasts. Be weather aware and plan accordingly. It’s that time of year.
    • 2. Give you a “laypersons” guide to what may happen and pass along resources of weather information.
    • 3. Reinforce the importance of being prepared for storms whether you’re at home, work, or school.
    • 4. Reassure those who are distressed by storms that knowledge is power, will keep you safer, and avoid the hype-sters who will only increase your anxiety.
    • 5. Remind once again that Tornado Quest is not and never should be looked upon as an official” source of potentially life-saving severe storm watch or warning information. I only pass along severe weather watch and forecast discussion information for purposes of convenience (I have a high percentage of Twitter followers in the Great Plains states) and severe weather forecast updates (aka Mesoscale Discussions) from SPC that, while often technical, give you insight into what some of the countries best forecasters are thinking regarding severe weather that is affecting your area. The only people who save lives are the hard-working folks at the National Weather Service. Broadcast meteorologists and emergency management officials should also be given credit where credit is due (especially the former) since they often convey a vast amount of life-saving information to a concerned or frightened public who is (understandably) not often able to discern what is happening…especially in moments of high fear or stress.
    • Last but not least, forget sirens. They’re old-school Cold War era technology that, at best, works for those who are a stones throw from the pole they’re on…and they do malfunction at the worst possible times. In most homes, schools, and commercial buildings, you’ll not be able to hear a siren over the cacophony of large hail, torrential rain, and high winds as a tornado bears down on your neighborhood…hence the importance of relying on NOAA weather radio along with broadcast meteorologists and (if available) a high quality smart phone warning app.

We’ve covered a lot of information here. My main purpose was to address the severe weather potential. As I thought about the general public’s concerns for impacts, I felt the need to address some issues that are of concern to me. The safety of you and your loved ones is of the utmost importance…and remember (especially in social media)…caveat emptor.

Have a great week everybody…I’ll post a few updates as we get closer to our chances of severe weather.

Cheers!

 

 

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