Wednesday, April 30, 2014

From Fire to Biblical Floods - Will 2014 El Nino Rival Record 1997 Event?

Big Swings

Welcome to May, as in spring MAY finally arrive this month. We're due for a major shift in the pattern and with a potentially major El Nino brewing don't be surprised if we go from nagging chill to record warmth later in 2014.

We're all feeling pretty bruised & battered though right about now. Factoring cold and snow it was the toughest winter in a generation. April was the second wettest on record for the Twin Cities with 6.25" of rain.

On a positive note: no drought, no severe storms (it's been too chilly) and lawn-mowing season has been delayed by a couple weeks.

That's about to change. The model guidance I'm staring at shows a big northward bulge in the jet stream next week, with a few 60s likely, even a shot at low 70s by midweek. I can't wait until friends and family start griping about the heat. Next week should at least partially restore your faith in a Minnesota spring.

The same stalled storm rotates more bands of showers into town today, but skies brighten Friday - upper 50s for Saturday & Sunday.

My son is a Navy helicopter pilot. I remind him not to push the weather, in a helicopter or a Camry for that matter. Tuesday night, driving through historic rains in Pensacola, he did just that. 2 hurricane's worth of rain fell in less than 8-10 hours. Somehow he was able to find his way home amidst swamped police cruisers, flooded cars and washed out highways. He was lucky.

"Turn Around, Don't Drown." That's a NOAA phrase, and it says it all. Most flash flood fatalities take place at night, in vehicles trying to cross flooded streets. It's impossible to estimate water depth, especially at night. Given the option do the smart thing and stay put or turn around and find another, safer way home. I had a close call with my youngest son Tuesday night (stationed near Pensacola) when this massive flood, compared to Hurricane Denny in 1997, engulfed a vast swath of the Gulf Coast from Mobile to Pensacola and Destin. That's the subject of today's Climate Matters.

One Volatile Week. When weather stalls bad things often result: more intense drought/heat or extreme flooding. In the last week there were 3,606 severe weather reports, nationwide. Red dots designate tornado touchdowns, yellow dots signify high winds, green dots mark the location of flooding rain events. There was even a small tornado in Washington state. Something for everyone - expect tranquil weather. Interactive map: HAMweather.

Total Storm Reports:3606

Sizzling Southwest - Warming Trend Central USA into Next Week. NAM guidance shows 90 degree heat over central and southern California and Arizona the next couple of days, a building ridge of high pressure expanding into the southern and central Plains early next week. Much of the northern USA chilled by the recent slow-motion storm will see slowly moderating temperatures. Loop: NOAA and HAMweather.

Looking More Like Spring. Temperatures hold in the upper 40s to near 50F today, but if the sun peeks out Friday 60F is a real possibility, a few days in the 60s next week, even a chance of 70F by next Wednesday, depending on possible convection. The arrival of warmer air may set off a few scattered T-storms from Monday into Wednesday of next week. Graphic: Weatherspark.

Monsoon Season. This map from the Midwestern Regional Climate Center shows how much rain has soaked the Midwest and Ohio Valley in just the last week; in some cases 2 month's worth of rain. Over 8" estimated for southeast Missouri, 4-5" for much of the Twin Cities metro area.

This Is What 2 Feet Of Rain In Less Than 8 Hours Can Do. It was the equivalent of (two) slow-moving tropical storm's worth of rain, as much as 24-26" of rain from training thunderstorms in the Pensacola area Tuesday night. Details from WeatherNation's Facebook page: "Incredible rainfall amounts are leading to extensive flooding damage in Pensacola, FL. This picture from @oliverrhudy1 is of Scenic Highway falling off the bluffs."

Historic Flash Flood Event. Some are comparing the flooding from Mobile into the Florida Panhandle with Hurricane Danny in 1997. Here's a good synopsis of the record flood event of Tuesday night, which hit Mobile, Pensacola and surrounding communities so hard, courtesy of the local Mobile/Pensacola NWS: "A historic rainfall event developed ahead of a slow moving cold front on Tuesday evening, 29 April 2014 over portions of coastal Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle. The cold front was associated with a very powerful low pressure system in the Plains. The widespread flooding produced sinkholes (some very large and deep), cut roads in half and necessitated human water rescues (one confirmed fatality). Parts of I-10 were closed. The Fish River at Silver Hill (Baldwin County Alabama) peaked at a record high level of 23.18 feet (previous historical record was 22.78 feet on 20 July 1997).  Many folks throughout the area have compared this event to the extreme flooding impacts caused by Hurricane Danny (1997)..."

We're Going To Need A New Color Table. A friend of mine spent a few minutes recalibrating the color table for "storm rainfall" on GRLevel3 version 2.0, because the default table only goes up to 5". No, you don't expect half a year's worth of rain in one night. Amazing.

Pensacola, per CoCoRahs report, received 18.91" of rain yesterday. Saw an unofficial 24.40" report as well (see here: 
Officially yesterday, Pensacola (per NWS) had 11.13".

Pensacola averages: 4.35" for the month of April; 65.35" for the year.
Mobile: 11.24" at the airport made it the 3rd-rainiest day EVER there and the wettest since April 13th, 1955.
Mobile averages: 4.79" for April; 66.20" for the year.

* thanks to WeatherNation meteorologist Chris Bianchi for compiling these rainfall reports.

"Life-Threatening Flooding" Submerges Pensacola, Florida. Some communities around Pensacola may have picked up 5-6 months worth of rain in a few hours Tuesday night, creating a level of flooding and mudslides usually only seen in the aftermath of severe hurricanes or tropical storms. NBC News reports: "Forecasters figured that the rain in Pensacola set a record, but they could not be sure because a suspected lightning strike knocked out the National Weather Service reporting station there. “We’ve had people whose homes are flooding and they’ve had to climb up to the attic,” said Bill Pearson, a spokesman for Escambia County, which includes Pensacola. He said that authorities there described it as the worst flooding in 30 years..."

Moisture Haves and Have-Nots. Jody James posted this NOAA image of precipitation departures since October 1 of last year. The variations around the eastern half of the USA are striking.

Mid Atlantic Soaking. Here is a total rainfall update for Wednesday's soaking rains, showing Doppler estimates as high as 4-6" from the suburbs of Washington D.C. and Baltimore into the Delaware Valley.

Tropical Plume. The same stalled, retrograding storm responsible for record chill over the northern Plains was able to pull a plume of truly tropical air northward, which shows up on the precipitable water map above, contributing to severe flooding from Mobile and Pensacola to Washington D.C. The very slow forward motion of the storm also helped to prolong rains, creating a "train echo effect" along the Gulf Coast, and much of the Mid Atlantic from late Tuesday into Wednesday evening. Graphic: ClimateReanalyzer.

Tornado Chaser's True Story: "I Messed Up Big". This is why you really don't want to be in or near a vehicle when a tornado is approaching. Mashable has the video clip and story; here's the introduction: "A Mississippi tornado chaser met his match on Monday when a massive twister barreled directly over his car — while he was strapped inside. Luckily, he survived the tornado that swept through Tupelo, Miss. Even better, he filmed the whole thing. In the video, which was posted to YouTube on Monday (and has now been made private), a man is seen driving alongside a tornado, when he suddenly pulls off the road and into a field..."

Tornado Drone Journalism, Raising First Amendment Questions. Are you free to fly your personal drone over tornado wreckage, or any other natural disaster? The FAA has some serious questions/concerns. Here's an excerpt from Forbes: "Storm chaser and videographer Brian Emfinger used a drone to document the aftermath of a tornado that ripped through Arkansas.  That video prompted speculation as to whether the FAA was going to investigate or even fine Emfinger for using the drone.  Today, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is reporting ($0.99 paywalled) that the FAA is investigating the use of drones to gather aerial footage in Arkansas. FAA investigations and enforcement actions against drone journalists raise serious First Amendment questions about the agency’s ability to infringe upon press freedom in the absence of formal rules..."

Tornado Seasons Lately Have Been Boon Or Bust. Serious weather whiplash - applied to moisture, heat, and now tornadoes. Here's an excerpt of a story from AP and ABC News: "Something strange is happening with tornadoes lately in the United States and it's baffling meteorologists. It's either unusually quiet or deadly active. Until this weekend's outbreak, the U.S. had by far the quietest start of the year for tornadoes. By the beginning of last week, there had been only 20 significant tornadoes and none of them that big. There was also a slow start four years ago. And after a busy January, last year was exceptionally quiet until a May outbreak that included a super-sized tornado that killed 24 people in Moore, Okla. "When we have tornadoes, we have lots of them," said Greg Carbin, warning meteorologist for the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. "It's boom or bust..." (file photo from Kent Nickell, in West Liberty, Kentucky).

Pick Your Extreme: Biblical Flooding or Blowing Dust. Check out the photo from Kansas taken on Monday. Thanks to Kimberly Qualls for passing this one along via Twitter.

U.S. Slips To 4th Place In Global Weather Prediction, While A New Weather Service Supercomputer Has Not Been Ordered. Part of the problem: IBM sold off their supercomputer line of business to Lenovo, a Chinese company, and that has raised some very real concerns - ultimately any supercomputer upgrade has to be approved by the State Department and White House. A source who knows the details tells me that 1). it's a lease, not a purchase, 2). NOAA does not control the process and 3). the deal is larger than just NCEP supercomputer.  Cliff Mass has the details in his blog; here's an excerpt: "It is with considerable disappointment that I note that the U.S. has now slid into fourth place in global weather prediction. Yes, the country that invented numerical weather prediction and the one that possesses the largest weather research community in the world is moving further back in the pack, with substantial costs to the American people.  And frustratingly, a powerful new weather supercomputer, funded over a year ago by the U.S. Congress, has not even been ordered, even though it could radically improve U.S. operational weather prediction..."

Markets Gird For Return Of El Nino. The Wall Street Journal reports on the potential impact a moderate to strong warming phase of ENSO might have on the commodity markets; here's a clip that caught my eye: " El Nino looms at a time when global supplies of many raw materials already are stretched. Investors are loading up on commodities futures contracts that would rise in value if global food supplies are crimped further. Money managers hold more bullish than bearish bets in all 16 major agricultural futures markets, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data tracked by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The last time that was the case was in June 2011, when prices in many commodity markets were near their highest in decades..."

Comparing 1997 Super El Nino With 2014 El Nino Potential. STORMSURF has an amazingly thorough and comprehensive analysis of both the 1997 El Nino and the current 2014 El Nino underway in the Pacific, both events preceded by Kelvin Waves signals. The comparisons are striking, and although it's premature to estimate the strength of the current El Nino there are strong similarities to 1997. Here's an excerpt: "...All the above data suggests this evolving 2014 event is of equal strength to the 1997 event, if not stronger (as of the end of March 2014). The fact that the 2014 event started a month earlier might bias the analysis towards making it look stronger, if only in that it had more time to evolve. But the fact that it started a month earlier in and of itself could also suggest there was more latent heat energy built up in the ocean compared to the 1997 event. Note that El Nino is just a means for the ocean to vent off excess heat, serving much the same purpose as a hurricane relative towards venting off excess lower atmospheric heat.."

Early Symptoms of El Nino? I may be jumping the gun here (I am genetically capable of that), but El Nino tends to energize the southern branch of the jet stream over the USA, often resulting in more frequent and severe storms. It's impossible to know if a brewing warm phase in the Pacific had any influence on the record floods from Pensacola to Washington D.C. Wednesday. Out west the problem is drought, heat and high winds (clocked as high as 100 mph) fanning wildfires. That's the subject of this Climate Matters segment: "Talk about weather whiplash. WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas goes over wind and wildfires in Southern California & the historic flooding and downpours over the Gulf Coast. What do the trends say about the increasing threat for heavy rain?"

EF-4 Supercell. Even though this is a still image you can see the powerful rotation in this supercell thunderstorm, courtesy of Severe Studios and Kory Hartman. Thanks to Scott Peak and Basehunters for the share: "Amazing photo from Basehunters of the Louisville, MS supercell that produced the EF-4 tornado as it was entering the southwest part of town Monday night!"

Shelf Cloud. Thanks to Jim Plucinak out of Cocoa Beach, FL for sending this in.

Lunch With Paul Douglas, Part 1. So is it a sit-down joint or just a drive-thru? Thanks to futurologist, astronomy buff and entrepreneur Jeffery Morris (ie. FutureDude) for spending some time with me recently, talking about weather, technology and climate trends. Here's a clip from the interview where I talk about how the future is just like the past, only with more apps and less privacy: "...I pictured the flying cars and the robotic butlers. I used to daydream just like any other kid about what the future would be like. It’s interesting how the future isn’t anything like I thought it would be. It’s a little more mundane in many respects. Our technology and productivity have certainly improved. One person can now do unimaginable things in terms of research. You’ve got the world at your fingertips with the net. And yet, we are still driving our fossil fuel legacy cars. No robotic butlers. For me, the fun has always been to try to look at the current trends. Trying to look over the horizon and connect the dots, and make some educated guesses about where specifically weather technology will be..."

Boat Believed To Be From 2011 (Japanese) Tsunami Washes Up On Washington State Shoreline. Here's an excerpt of a story from Fox31 in Denver, "A small boat that authorities believe to be from the 2011 Japanese tsunami washed ashore along the Washington coast Monday morning. The Ocean Shores Police Department told Seattle’s Q13FOX that the boat was discovered off Ocean Lake Way and turned over to Grays Harbor County officials. Deputy director of Grays County Emergency Management Charles Wallace said the Department of Ecology plans to inspect the watercraft Tuesday..."

Photo credit above: "A small boat suspected to be from the 2011 Japanese tsunami was found on April 28 2014, washed ashore in Ocean Shores, Wash." (Photo: Karen Rasmussen via Ocean Shores Police Dept.)

Here Come The Robots. In the age of increasing automation and computerization some jobs are more threatened than others. How vulnerable is your career to smart robots in the years to come? The example above is for sales, which has a high probability of being computerized in the future, according to metrics highlighted in this story at Quartz: "In the second machine age, robots will perform tasks once thought to require uniquely human abilities, like driving our taxis and filleting our fish. But not all jobs will be equally affected by automation. The interactive plot above attempts to sort out the differences. We compared three variables related to the American workforce: the median wage for various jobs; the number of people employed in those positions in the United States; and the likelihood that these jobs will become automated..."

The "Post-Antibiotic Era" of Drug-Resistant Disease is Almost Here. Right. Don't sweat the tornadoes or biblical floods. Remind me to never leave my basement again. Here's the intro to a story at The Wire: "Get ready to crawl into a hole, forever: Gonorrhea, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia are just some of the infectious diseases that are becoming resistant to antibiotics, a new report finds. The newly-released World Health Organization document finds that in every region of the world, the growing rate of antimicrobial and antibiotic resistance is a serious threat to human health. Minor infections that were once considered beaten could kill again, and lengthier stays in hospitals and higher healthcare costs are a near-guarantee..."

Photo credit above: "Microbiologist Tatiana Travis in the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." (AP / DAVID GOLDMAN)

Which Cities Spend The Most On Pampering Pets? No, the Twin Cities didn't make the cut. Miami is at the top of the list for some odd reason. Here's a clip from Consumerist: "The list is on 2013 sales of pet-related items — from Mr. Whiskers’ favorite toy to Rover’s beloved brush. Does your fish have a ginormous fish palace? That’s included too. According to Amazon’s list, the most pampered cities for pets on a per capita basis, and in cities with more than 400,000 residents:
1. Miami
2. Seattle
3. Atlanta
4. San Francisco
5. Portland, Ore.
6. Washington, D.C.
7. Las Vegas

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Severe Risk Shifts to East Coast (are tornadoes becoming more intense?)

Low Expectations

"Keep your expectations low. That way you may be pleasantly surprised from time to time."
Good advice, especially for a meteorologist. Especially this "spring". Goldilocks had a point: rarely is our weather "just right". It's usually too hot-cold-wet-dry. The 7-Day Outlook should come with a 7-Day supply of Zoloft.

But here's what I've discovered: the weather has an uncanny way of evening things out. It may not happen next week or next month, but this cold, foul, puddle-infested FAIL of a spring will be balanced by an extended spell of gloriously lukewarm blue-sky postcard-worthy days.

Then again I have been standing way too close to the Doppler.

Any unwanted slush in your yard gives way to rain showers today as temperatures aloft begin to mellow. Puddles shrink tomorrow as skies brighten; 50s will feel like sweet relief this weekend as the sun makes a rare cameo appearance. Next week will feel like spring again; consistent 60s and even a few low 70s by the second week of May.

Like a cruel meteorological mirage spring keeps getting pushed back.

And as much as I'm rooting for warm fronts to reach our lofty latitude, my hope is that we have a quiet tornado year in Minnesota. Stay tuned.

* photograph of a new lake in a farmer's field near Cologne, Minnesota courtesy of WeatherNation meteorologist Bryan Karrick.

** Second wettest April on record in the Twin Cities. The Star Tribune has details. More data from NOAA here.

Unstuck. The stormy pinwheel of moisture that has stalled out over the Ohio Valley much of this week, sparking tornado outbreaks in the south and soaking rains from the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes into the Upper MIdwest, will finally get kicked out to sea by late week. Another clipper-like system may push a few scattered instability showers into Minnesota on Friday. NAM Future Radar: NOAA and HAMweather.

East Coast Soaking. Some 2-3"+ rainfall amounts are likely from Washington D.C. to Albany today and early Thursday, capable of minor flooding problems over the Mid Atlantic and New England. Data: 84 hour NAM model, courtesy of NOAA and HAMweather.

Severe Threat Lingers - Not As Extreme. I'm happy to see a lack of "Moderate Risk" from NOAA SPC, a slight risk from Washington D.C. to Charlotte, Atlanta and Orlando later today with hail, straight-line winds and a few isolated tornadoes possible.

Another Springy Mirage? Probably not. The ECMWF model is fairly consistent pulling 60-degree air back into Minnesota next week. You may even be able to lose the jacket for a couple of days. Today will be raw, but spring returns in all it's glory by Tuesday. Graphic: Weatherspark.

Cheering On The 45-Day Wish-Cast. Confidence levels remain low on details, but the sun is climbing higher in the sky; at some point it WILL warm up. NOAA's 45-day CFS (Climate Forecast System) trend shows fairly consistent 60s in May, with 80s surging into Minnesota in June. Better late than never. Source: HAMweather.

72 Hour Rainfall Amounts. Most parts of the Twin Cities metro just picked up an April's worth of rain since Saturday. Check out some of the amounts, courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service:
LocationCounty, ST

Provider72 Hr Pcpn

Mississippi Weatherman Evacuates On Air As More Tornadoes Hit The South. Everyone wants to err on the side of caution, even the local meteorologist in the path of a large, violent tornado. At least this station in Tupelo has a basement, which came in handy Monday afternoon. New York Magazine reports (check out the video clip): "...A video from NBC affiliate WTVA offers a dramatic illustration of that point. On Monday afternoon chief meteorologist Matt Laubhan was reporting on the storm live on air when a tornado touched down near the station in Tupelo, Miss. After the feed stalls for a moment, Laubhan yells "Basement, now!" to other employees, then runs off camera. Later, the station tweeted "We are safe here..."

Four Things That Turn America Into The "Tornado Super Bowl". Where have you heard that before? NBC News has an explainer, focused on why the USA experiences (far) more tornadoes than any other nation on Earth; here's a clip: "A one-of-a-kind combination of weather factors make the United States the twister capital of the world, with the ominous funnels 10 times more common in the states than anywhere else on the planet, scientists say. The four main ingredients all are geographical, all unique to America's borders: a massive mountain wall to the west, a warm ocean to the southeast, a cold-air “shield” to the north – and above these particular latitudes, a narrow river of wind, the jet stream, that surges eastward at hundreds of miles per hour..."

Little Rock Outbreak Details. Here is additional information on the Sunday evening outbreak that leveled parts of Vilonia and Mayflower, courtesy of the Little Rock, Arkansas National Weather Service: "In the picture: Rotation associated with the parent storm on 04/27/2014 was persistent for roughly 40 miles (Tornado #1) before weakening (where the gap is indicated). Another tornado (Tornado #2) was likely spawned a short time later by the same storm and tracked through White, Jackson, and Independence Counties. Note: Tornado #2 may actually be several tornadoes. This will be determined through damage surveys. The graphic is courtesy of the National Severe Storms Laboratory..."

• This is the strongest tornado to hit the state since the Denning tornado on May 24-25, 2011. That tornado was rated EF4, with a path length of 45.71 miles. Four were killed, 27 injured. The fatalities were at Etna and Denning in Franklin County, and Bethlehem in Johnson County, all in mobile homes.

• This is the second time in three years that Vilonia has been hit by a tornado. The last time was April 25, 2011, when a long-tracked EF2 tornado hit, killing four.

• Since reliable records began in 1950, Vilonia has seen five tornado tracks within the present-day city limits. Aside from 4/27/2014, there was 4/25/2011 (EF2), 12/24/1982 (F3), 12/23/1982 (F2), and 03/12/1961 (F2). Source: National Weather Service, Little Rock.

* 2 confirmed deaths from Sunday's tornado outbreak in Iowa. Details here.

Preliminary Tornado Ratings:
EF-4: Louisville, MS
EF-3: Mayflower/Vilonia AR, Limestone County, AL (at least), Tupelo, MS
EF-2 : Union City, TN, Heard/Troup County, GA
EF-1 : Kimberly, AL (north Jefferson County)

Storm Chaser Says He's Retiring After Deadly Arkansas Tornado. CNN has a remarkable interview with a storm chaser who's apparently had enough; here's the description: "Deadly tornadoes have left a path of death and destruction for miles in the south. Our Ed Lavandera is in Mayflower, Arkansas where he caught up with a storm chaser who came dangerously close to it all. He tells us why his experience on Sunday will be his last."

Tornado "Scar". Chris Dolce points out a comparison of high-resolution NASA MODIS images taken before and after the Mayflower-Vilonia tornado. You can see the damage swath left behind in the top image, taken April 28.

Most Tornado Watches? Looking at data from 1999-2008 the most tornado watches issued by NOAA SPC weren't in traditional Tornado Alley, but southern Alabama and Mississippi; an average of 16 tornado watches every year. Not quite what I was expecting.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due. Meteorologists take a lot of flak for missing forecasts, but the folks at NOAA SPC in Norman, Oklahoma nailed the tornado prediction Sunday, again on Monday. That's the topic of today's first Climate Matters segment: "WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas goes over the factors that went into the historic tornado outbreak that dropped large destructive tornadoes over Alabama and Mississippi. What has to happen to make a situation like this occur?"

Dome It! Schools Can Affordably Survive Tornadoes. Yes, tornadoes are a threat, and an opportunity to make our communities more resilient and storm-prooof. Here's an excerpt of a timely, interesting article from Andrew Revkin at The New York Times: "... I spoke Monday with David B. South, the co-inventor of a dome manufacturing process 37 years ago whose company, Monolithic Dome, has been erecting storm-safe domed school buildings from Sarasota, Fla., through Geronimo, Okla., and Lumberton, Tex., and even west to Payson, Ariz. (where the benefits include the big energy savings that come with thick insulation and concrete). There are ways to build a safe haven into a conventional school design, as well. But old building codes, tight budgets and simple inertia continue to get in the way of change..."

Photo credit above: Monolithic Dome. "A domed building at the Dale, Okla., elementary school doubles as a tornado shelter and cafeteria."

Supercell. Check out the timelapse footage of a supercell thunderstorm passing over Des Moines, courtesy of meteorologist Jason Parkin. Great animation.

Why It's Hard To Outsmart A Tornado (And How Scientists Are Trying). NBC News has an interesting story about the difficulty in determining which supercell thunderstorms will go on to spawn large/deadly tornadoes. As a nation we over-warn for twisters, which is probably better than the alternative. Here's an excerpt: "...As a result, Wurman said forecasters tend to "overwarn" about tornadoes. The false-alarm rate for tornado warnings is about 75 percent. But Brooks said it's better to sound a false alarm than to risk missing a killer tornado. "That 75 percent number is a result of the fact that deciding whether this is a tornado-making storm is a fundamentally hard problem," he said..." (Image: Gene Blevins, Reuters).

Tornado Tip-Offs. Meet the new starting pitcher for the Twins. There's a sign of The Apocalypse. No, I'm using visual aids to remind you about hail and tornadoes. Most large, violent tornadoes are preceded or accompanied by large hail. The larger the hail, the stronger the thunderstorm updraft. The stronger the updraft the higher the probability of a supercell powerful enough to tornado. That's the subject of this Climate Matters segment: "Large destructive storms capable of dropping baseball sized hail and damaging tornadoes don't happen where you think. WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas shows just where most of these powerful storms are witnessed."

Tornadoes: The Science Behind The Destruction. National Geographic has more good information and background on tornadogenesis - here's a clip: "...Even then, "we still don't know why some thunderstorms create tornadoes while others don't," tornado-chaser Tim Samaras said in early 2013. Samaras was a scientist and National Geographic grantee who was killed by a twister on May 31, 2013, in El Reno, Oklahoma. (Read "The Last Chase" in National Geographic magazine.) Brooks says scientists believe strong changes in winds in the first kilometer of the atmosphere and high relative humidity are important for the formation of tornadoes. He adds that there also needs to be a downdraft in just the right part of the storm..."

From "Gale" To "Inconceivable". Ranking Tornado Strength. Here's a good explanation of the new enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, courtesy of an article at Time Magazine: "...The Enhanced Fujita scale was adopted in 2007. It was designed to more accurately reflect the actual damage a tornado had done on the ground. The EF scale uses 28 different damage indicators, ranging from small barns to hardwood trees to shopping malls—and each of those indicators is assessed based on several different points of possible damage..."

61 Facts About Tornadoes. Here are just a few from in Phoenix:
- "A tornado emergency is enhanced wording in a tornado warning indicating a large tornado is moving into a heavily populated area. Significant widespread damage and numerous fatalities are likely. The term was coined by forecasters in May 1999 and is used sparingly.
- Enhanced Fujita Scale: The Fujita scale is used to estimate the wind speed of a tornado by the damage the tornado causes."

* details on the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak, featured above, from Wikipedia.

Yes, Tornadoes Are Getting Stronger. To be fair and balanced, there is still no widely accepted scientific gun that can directly connect the dots, to the point we can say "climate change absolutely produces more numerous or more powerful tornadoes". But this story out of Wired just made me do a double-take; here's a clip: "...A tornado-power equation that actually gauges a twister’s kinetic energy would be more useful to scientists who are also examining the effects of climate change, so that’s what Elsner built. He looked at the length and width of a storm’s damage path, correlated that to the amount of damage, and then used the result to estimate wind 1.0 speed. A little more crunching and bam!—integrated kinetic energy of a storm. Non-linear upward trend estimated values of kinetic energy Elsner’s analysis suggests that since the turn of the century, tornadoes have packed a more powerful punch..."

Researchers Develop Model To Correct Tornado Records. With Doppler (and a proliferation of storm chasers after the movie "Twister" was released in the early 90s) we've seen an apparent uptick in tornadoes. More people and technology looking for them. But are tornadoes becoming more intense over time? Here's a clip from a story posted by Florida State University: "...The increase in reports has diminished the population bias somewhat, but it introduced a second problem: There are more reports, but are there also, in fact, more tornadoes? In other words, is the risk actually increasing? To address these issues, the FSU researchers first made the assumption that the frequency of tornadoes is the same in cities as in rural areas. They also operated on the assumption that the reported number of tornadoes in rural areas is low relative to the actual number of tornadoes. Their model calls for the reported number in rural areas to be adjusted upward by a factor that depends on the number of tornadoes in the nearest city and the distance from the nearest city. The model shows that it is likely that tornadoes are not occurring with greater frequency, but there is some evidence to suggest that tornadoes are, in fact, getting stronger..."

100-Degree Heat Brewing For Los Angeles Area - Records May Fall. 100F in late April? Here's an excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: "A heat wave this week is expected to send temperatures soaring to 20 degrees above normal for much of the Southland, potentially breaking records with triple digits in some areas, forecasters say. Building high pressure is also expected to bring gusty Santa Ana winds to the region, prompting warnings of high fire danger, particularly Tuesday through Thursday, when temperatures could hit 100 degrees in some inland areas, the National Weather Service said..."

* forecast graphic above: NOAA and HAMweather.

Phones Are Giving Away Your Location, Regardless Of Your Privacy Settings. No, you're not paranoid - you are being tracked until further notice. Maybe if I start using my old brick phone...? Quartz has the story; here's an excerpt: "...A new study has found evidence that accelerometers—which sense motion in your smartphone and are used for applications from pedometers to gaming—leave “unique, trackable fingerprints” that can be used to identify you and monitor your phone. Here’s how it works, according to University of Illinois electrical and computer engineering professor Romit Roy Choudhury and his team: Tiny imperfections during the manufacturing process make a unique fingerprint on your accelerometer data..."

Confirming Our Suspicions: Oreos Are As Addictive As Crack. Here's a clip from a story at Huffington Post: "...Thanks for telling us what we already knew, science! Just last year, a team at Connecticut College got a bunch of lab rats, Oreos, and cocaine, and set off for Vegas. Actually, they set up two mazes. The first maze had Oreos at one end and rice cakes on the other; the second promised an injection of saline on one side and an injection of morphine/cocaine at the other. After they had received their prize, the rats could choose to linger as long as they liked, presumably in the hopes of seconds they would never get..."

Best TV News Bloopers Of April. There are some really good ones in here - video courtesy of TVNewsCheck. (PG rated).

Climate Stories...

* cartoon courtesy of David Horsey at The Los Angeles Times.

Typhoon Haiyan Was Just The Start - Prepare For An Even Stormier Future. As oceans continue to warm will hurricanes and typhoons become more intense over time? Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "...The damage Haiyan caused outstripped any storm the typhoon-prone islands had experienced before. Reibl says typhoon Bopha in 2012 had already redefined ideas on how big a typhoon could get, and yet "just a year later, Haiyan made Bopha seem like just a little wind … When Bopha happened we didn't envisage a Haiyan. Can we envisage something more than Haiyan?" Reibl says that in the past the Philippines were considered the 7-11 of natural disasters – small but open all hours. Indonesia, with its large but infrequent disasters, was more like a mega mall. He says the scale of devastation wrought by Haiyan meant the Philippines had become "a mega mall that is now also open 24/7"...

Photo credit above: "An aerial photograph of a coastal town in Samar province in central Philippines, taken on 11 November 2013." Photograph: Erik De Castro/REUTERS.

Top Military Commanders Have Declared Our Biggest Threat, And It's One We're All Ignoring. I have a son in the Navy and I can assure you that Navy brass take climate change very seriously. Seas are rising; that will impact Navy ports in the years and decades to come. Anything that potentially destabilizes economies and can spark conflict is of great interest to the Pentagon. Here's an excerpt from PolicyMic: "...For the U.S. military, climate change isn't just about sad-looking polar bears and declining biodiversity. It's a real challenge that has the potential to seriously destabilize nations and throw entire regions into conflict, potentially escalating into wars that will require new strategies and new technologies to win. In a recent interview with the Responding to Climate Change blog, retired Army Brig. Gen. Chris King said that the military is extremely concerned about climate change. "This is like getting embroiled in a war that lasts 100 years..."

Supreme Court Backs EPA Rules For Coal Pollution. The New York Times has an update - here's an excerpt: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate coal-plant pollution that wafts across state lines from 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states to eastern states. The 6-to-2 ruling is a major environmental victory for the Obama administration, which has instituted several new E.P.A. regulations under the Clean Air Act in an effort to crack down on coal pollution. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the effort as a “war on coal...”

File photo: Matt Brown, AP.

Climate Scientist Katherine Hayhoe On Time Magazine's Most Influential People of 2014 List. Here's an excerpt of an interview with Dr. Hayhoe from The University of Toronto: "... I’m encouraged when international relief and development organizations like World Vision put climate change at the forefront of their concerns. I’m inspired by faith leaders from Pope Francis to the U.S. National Association of Evangelicals who emphasize how the Christian faith demands a response to climate change. With 97 per cent of climate scientists agreeing that climate change is happening due to the choices people make every day, the simple truth is that the scientific debate is over, and now it’s time for all of us, from every walk of life and part of society, to take action..."