Tag Archives: May

Tornado Quest Science Links Week In Review For June 5 – 12, 2017

Greetings to one and all! For those of us in North American, summer is in full swing with sizzling temperatures expected for the next several days. Summer heat is a highly underrated weather hazard and I’ve got some outstanding information from the National Weather Service in this week’s post. As for severe weather, it’s going to be a very quiet period for much of the Great Plains the next few days. Overall, May 2017 was quieter than usual across the contiguous USA with the number of tornadoes, high wind, and hail reports being below normal. And, of course, the big news of the past few days has been the USA’s decision to discontinue commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. Fortunately, at the state and local level, there’s a groundswell gathering momentum that will hold to the commitment and do the right thing. There’s plenty to go over, so let’s begin.

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

CITIZEN SCIENCE

If you’re looking for a way to help out weather research with crowdsourcing citizen science, the mPING project is for you. The free app is easy to use and you can send reports year round for a variety of weather conditions.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

We’ve just observed World Oceans Day. Considering that approximately 75% of the surface of the earth is covered by water, it behooves us all to have a thorough understanding of how our oceans work and how important they are to our forms of life.

ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

Here’s a look back at severe weather activity in the USA for May, 2017. Of note are two events recorded in Oklahoma…a 104mph non-tornadic gust reported at the Walters, OK Oklahoma Mesonet station and a 4.25″ hailstone that was documented in Okfuskee County, OK. The number of tornadoes nationwide was 290…only slightly higher than the statistical average of 276. Overall, it was a below normal month in severe weather activity.

Infographic courtesty NOAA Storm Prediction Center

This week marks the anniversary of the June 8, 1974 Great Plains tornado outbreak. While not one of the larger outbreaks of recent years, long-time residents remember this event well. The Tulsa, OK metro was hit by three tornadoes with up to EF-3 damage in some areas. The deadliest tornado was the Drumright, OK EF-4 which killed fourteen people along a thirty mile long path. Here’s a overview of the events across several great plains states.

This is also the anniversary of the Barneveld, Wisconsin EF-5 tornado. The Milwaukee, WI National Weather Service has a comprehensive overview.

Here’s a look at the dangers of sea level rise in the USA according to new data from NOAA.

Many American residents who don’t have a good understanding of hour weather and climate work are prime targets for climate change denialists who prey on their lack of earth science knowledge.

While on the topic of the American public, Dr. Marshall Shepherd has written and excellent essay on fifteen suggestions for broadcast meteorologists on conveying weather information to their viewers.

Flooding in the USA kills more people annually than tornadoes, lightning, high winds, and hurricanes combined. It would behoove those of us in America to take the threat of climate change induced flooding very, very seriously.

Summer heat is settling in across much of North America. By observing heat safety tips, heat illnesses and deaths can be prevented.

Infographic courtesy NOAA

PUBLIC POLICY

One of the most thought-provoking articles I’ve read as of late. The subtitle says it all and it right on the mark. “For too long, liberals have been treating climate change as a third or fourth tier issue. As the US exits the Paris Climate Accord, it’s time for liberals to re-evaluate an issue that subsumes all others.”

In some form of media, climate change denial, both scientific and political, is nurtured in a variety of ways. Most of it goes unchallenged. It’s time to change that and call the denialists out. This will also require some introspection on the part of those of us who accept the overwhelming evidence of climate change science.

A disturbingly unsettling read on six ways budget cuts will hamper NOAA’s weather forecasting capabilities. Yes, this will affect you in more ways than you can imagine.

As of this post, thirteen states in the USA are continuing on with their commitment to the Paris Agreement. Let’s hope that in short order many other states join their ranks.

While on the topic of dedication to commitment, here’s another good read from Climate Central on how the USA can hold to its promise for the Paris Agreement.

Asking public officials if they “believe” in climate change is the wrong way to attempt an initiation of a productive dialogue.

Last but not least, is there a way that individual Americans can still follow the Paris Climate Agreement? Absolutely. Here’s how.

That’s a wrap for this post! I’d like to extend a warm welcome to my new followers in social media. I’m glad you’re along for the fun!

Cheers!

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A Decade Past

For most people reading this, the date of May 3, 1999 will have no meaning.  For weather enthusiasts/storm chasers like me and others who were living in OK & south central KS that day, it’s a date we won’t soon forget.  That day, the largest tornado outbreak in the history of OK took place.  Over 70 tornadoes, 40+ fatalities, approx. 700 injuries, and thousands of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed.  It was truly a remarkable meteorological event.  That day alone, I saw five tornadoes.  It was also one of the most exhausting chases I’ve ever been on.

Several things about that day really have stayed with me all these ten years.  On my way from Tulsa to my target area (which was between OKC and Lawton) I passed the Tanger Outlet Mall in Stroud, OK.  The mall was a popular shopping destination for residents in the area and, if I had some extra time, I often made a stop there on my way from Tulsa to points west.  I vividly remember looking over at the mall as I passed it on I-44 and for a moment, considered stopping there for a few minutes. Then the sense of urgency pulled me out of that lull and I kept going.  The days weather data kept going round in my head.  I knew we were in for a big day and I didn’t want to waste any time.  Little did I know that the next time I saw the mall several hours later, it would be in ruins from a tornado that damaged every store.

Somewhere to the west of OKC, there’s a rest stop on I-40.  When I got to that area, things were really starting to light up.  The supercell that would heavily damage the OKC metro was already tornadic, and I felt I’d best stop, regroup, and adjust my target area.  As I sat in my minivan listening to NOAA weather radio, a local television station in OKC, and watched the sky, I could hear the ‘clang clang clang’ of a truck driver who had parked in the same rest area.  The driver was bent under his truck and, with a hammer of some kind, was beating the daylights out of something.  I guess if you can’t fix it with the proper tools, get a hammer.  I felt rather sorry for the poor fellow.  Who knows what was wrong with his truck, how far from home he was, how far he had to go, and if he knew what kind of weather was about to pounce on top of him.

Three wall clouds, five tornadoes, and a shower of golf ball size hail later, I was headed back east on I-40 due north of Anadarko, OK.  I was torn between pursuing the storm to my north, or watching another which was rapidly intensifying to the south of Shawnee, OK.  I chose the latter since I knew that it might move toward Tulsa.  As I continued east, I saw one of the most amazing displays of “anvil zits” I’ve ever seen.  The upper portion of the tower to my north was absolutely a strobe light with lightning.  For those who don’t know, “anvil zits” is a storm chaser’s slang term for rapid staccato lightning that occurs where the updraft tower meets the thunderstorms anvil.  These are very rapid and repeating flashes of lightning that almost give the effect of a strobe light you’d see at a concert or club.

Going back up I-44, it was obvious to me that the storm to my southeast would continue on being severe for quite some time.  I was also listening to the radio and trying to digest what had taken place in the OKC metro.  The outbreak was far from over and I was wondering what else was in store.  But, fatigue was setting in and I knew if  I didn’t rest for a bit, I’d be driving half asleep.  At mile marker 177, I pulled over at a rest stop, turned all but my NOAA weather radios off, closed my eyes, and slid down in my seat.  I was exhausted from all the adrenaline.  Time passes.  I wake up.  Now the supercell thunderstorm that was to my southeast was northeast of me and headed for Tulsa.  Not good.  So, off I go after my nap and head northeast.  “Gee, that’s funny. There’s vegetation from trees along the interstate.” , I mumbled to myself as I got closer to Stroud, OK.  Suddenly, I’m at a dead stop.  Traffic in front of me has been stopped for some reason. Was it a wreck?  No, it had been a tornado…and a pretty good size one too…almost 1/3 mile wide.  Suddenly it hit me that as I was snoozing away back at that picnic area, a large tornado crossed the interstate just six miles in front of me…and I SLEPT through it…warning and all! After a gas leak had been taken care of, traffic began to move.  I was in a hurry to catch up with the storm and concerned about what could happen in Tulsa.  Suddenly, more vegetation, debris…and the Tanger Outlet Mall…in ruins.  So ironic that just a few hours earlier I’d considered stopping there.  If you’d told me earlier in the day that a tornado would destroy the place, I’d have said you were crazy.  When it was over, I’d crossed four damage paths on my way back to Tulsa and didn’t make it home until almost 4:00 a.m. the following morning.

The Norman, OK National Weather Service has a nice site up on the outbreak at http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/wxevents/19990503/.  You can find all the information you want concerning this weather event including some very important information regarding using underpasses as shelters that may save your life.  Quite a few of the photographs on my website are also from that storm chase.

Ten years, a decade past.  A lot has happened.  Much of it I’d love to experience again, and not a little that I wish had never happened.  But at least when I crawled out of my minivan early the next morning, my home was still in one piece.

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