Common Sense Steps to Lower Tornado Risk

To live is to grapple with risk. From crossing the street to catching exotic viruses to surviving wild storms. The recent EF-4 tornado that smashed into Nashville after midnight left me wondering what the 2 dozen people who lost their lives might have done differently. What can we learn?

Late night tornadoes are especially insidious. Having warning apps on the smartphone sitting on your nightstand can help. NOAA Weather Radio should be in every home. Something as simple as sleeping in your basement when there’s an overnight Tornado Watch can lower risk.

A positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation responsible for unusually mild weather is forecast to linger well into April. Our mild bias may hang on well into spring.

Today will be easier to take with sunshine and light winds. Spring fever busts out over the weekend, with 50s Saturday and low 60s in the metro Sunday afternoon. That’s 20-30F warmer than average across the southern half of Minnesota.

No storms, no floods, no polar vortexes. Thank God.

Shades of April. 50s Saturday and a shot at low 60s Sunday before a mini-correction next week (back into the 40s and 50s). My kind of March cold front. ECMWF (top) and GFS (bottom) courtesy of WeatherBell.

Mild Bias Most of March. I keep waiting for the other shoe (or boot) to drop but the pattern remains amazingly stubborn with the coldest air of winter cut off to our north. We’ll see a few swipes of chill, but probably no prolonged period of temperatures below average.

Nashville Area Tornadoes Were EF-4 Strength. Here’s the intro to an explainer at Tennessean: “The Nashville Weather Service in Nashville says East Nashville and Donelson in Davidson County and  Mt. Juliet in Wilson County saw damage from at least one EF-3 tornado Tuesday morning, based on damage surveyed so far. An EF-3 tornado has winds of 158-206 mph, according to the Enhanced Fujita scale. The tornado hit Mt. Juliet with winds of 155-160 mph. Donelson suffered damage from a 160-165 mph tornado.  “This is just damage observed in these neighborhoods and it might possibly be the same tornado,” the NWS tweeted.  According to NWS Nashville meteorologist Brittney Whitehead, the tornado that hit East Nashville was an EF-3 with winds of 136-140 mph. The tornado that hit the Germantown/North Nashville area appeared to be an EF-2 with winds of 125 mph.  Officials are still determining whether it was one or maybe two long-track tornadoes across Davidson, Wilson and Smith Counties...”

“Like Something Out of the Wizard of Oz”. Daily Beast has a remarkable story of survival: “A couple managed to survive the deadly Tennessee tornado by hiding in their bathtub as the twister lifted their home through the air. Seth Wells and Danielle Theophile, who live in Cookeville, told CBS News about their ordeal. Wells said he was woken up in the early hours of Tuesday by a tornado warning on his phone, then heard the wind roar before he and Danielle ran to the tub. “We were flying in the air, into the trees back there, where once we hit those trees, the house… it just exploded...”

Image credit: CBS News.

Several Children Among 24 Dead in Nashville Tornado. USA TODAY has more perspective: “A preliminary survey indicated the tornado just east of Nashville was an EF-3 on the Fujita Scale, meaning it had winds of about 160 mph. The tornado was the third to tear through downtown Nashville. Twisters ripped through the city in 1933 and 1998, the National Weather Service said. In Putnam County, the number of deaths rose to 16. Three deaths were confirmed in Wilson County, two in Davidson County (where Nashville is) and one in Benton County. Several children were reported among the dead in Putnam County, which includes the town of Cookeville. “This is an absolutely tragic and devastating day for our city and county,” Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton said…”

Experts Suggest Tornado Alley is Shifting East. The Southern Illinoisan has perspective that popped out in light of the recent EF-4 tornado in Nashville: “...However, Trent Ford, Illinois state climatologist with the State Water Survey at the University of Illinois, said Tuesday that this zone has shifted east. Where once the majority of tornado activity was relegated to places like Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, he said, tornado activity has shifted over to Southern Illinois and northern Mississippi. Ford said several studies over the last decade have confirmed the shift. Research also shows the storms aren’t just one-and-done systems. Researchers are seeing an increase in the region in tornado outbreaks — systems that spawn more than one tornado. “The observations of tornadoes — most of the good observations going back to the late ’80s, they are showing that trend,” Ford said…”

Image credit: Climate Central.

Making Snow in a Minnesota March? Star Tribune has the story: “With the winter sports season melting fast, organizers of the World Cup cross-country ski race say they have enough snow stockpiled to keep the course frozen through mid-March. It’s the first race of its kind in the United States in almost 20 years, expected to bring up to 20,000 people to Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis…That’s why the snow guns have been firing all winter. Since November, the Loppet’s trails crew has made about 720,000 cubic feet of snow — with almost 5 million gallons of water — to make sure there is enough on the ground come race day. Most of it is spread out on the course already, groomed in a crisp corduroy pattern...”

Photo credit: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune. “Crews used 12 snow guns to make snow at Minneapolis’ Theodore Wirth Park, where the World Cup cross-country ski race will be held beginning March 14.”

Improvements to AerisWeather Mapping Platform (AMP). Full disclosure: this is one of the weather-tech companies I’m involved with. Here’s an excerpt of a recent press release: “This week we are excited to announce new updates and features for AMP – our AerisWeather Mapping Platform. Japan Radar Expansion Within the AerisWeather Mapping Platform, radar is consistently the most popular layer in our customer applications.  With this knowledge in mind, we are continuing to invest resources into improving its accuracy and coverage.  Today, we are excited to announce we have expanded radar imagery coverage to include Japan. The radar information will update every 15 minutes and is available as part of our standard radar layer, thus immediately available to all AMP subscribers.  Check out this example below and add…”

The Heat is On. Only a 12 year data set but interesting nonetheless. Thanks to climatologist Brian Brettschneider for creating this.

Children as Young as Eight Picked Coffee Beans on Farms Supplying Starbucks. The Guardian hasdetails: “High street coffee shop giant Starbucks has been caught up in a child labour row after an investigation revealed that children under 13 were working on farms in Guatemala that supply the chain with its beans. Channel 4’s Dispatches filmed the children working 40-hour weeks in gruelling conditions, picking coffee for a daily wage little more than the price of a latte. The beans are also supplied to Nespresso, owned by Nestlé. Last week, actor George Clooney, the advertising face of Nespresso, praised the investigation and said he was saddened by its findings. The Dispatches team said some of the children, who worked around eight hours a day, six days a week, looked as young as eight. They, were paid depending on the weight of beans they picked, with sacks weighing up to 45kg…”

New Mayor of Fair Haven, Vermont is a Therapy Dog? clears up the confusion: “While people headed to the polls for Super Tuesday, there was an election in a small Vermont town where even children could vote. And the people there chose a new mayor — a therapy dog.  It was a tight race in the election in Fair Haven, Vermont. But Murfee, a 3-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, came out on top. Eighteen animals were on the ballot and Murfee edged out the incumbent, a 3-year-old Nubian goat named Lincoln, by 25 votes.  It’s been a two-year tradition to have a four-legged animal as mayor in Fair Haven...”

44 F. high in the Twin Cities on Thursday.

36 F. average high at MSP on March 5.

16 F. high on March 5, 2019.

March 6, 1836: Unusual cold for March lasts for 12 days at Ft. Snelling. During this time, 7 nights were in the double-digits below zero.

FRIDAY: Sunny, light winds. Winds: S 5-10. High: 42

SATURDAY: Sunny, springy and pleasant. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 35. High: 57

SUNDAY: What March? Lukewarm sunshine. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 44. High: 62

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy and cooler. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 41. High: 48

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, late shower? Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 29. High: 41

WEDNESDAY: Sunny peeks, a little milder. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 30. High: near 50

THURSDAY: Unsettled, risk of rain showers. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 36. High: 52

Climate Stories…

No, We Can’t Blame Tornadoes on Climate Change….Yet. Attribution is sketchy, confidence levels are low that a warming atmosphere and oceans are triggering more frequent or more intense tornadoes. Here’s a clip from Grist: “…Observations show that even though the overall number of serious tornadoes has remained fairly stable — around 500 every year in the United States — the volatility of twisters has increased. Compared with the 1970s, there are now more days in the year without a single tornado, as well as more days in which the number of twisters across the country tops a whopping 30 (!). “This is a strong result,” Brooks said. “But how it relates to the planet warming is an open question.” He thinks that atmospheric changes tied to climate change could play a role, but cautions that there’s no completely satisfactory explanation yet…”

Graphic credit: Climate Central.

Yes, Climate Change Did Influence Australia’s Unprecedented Bushfires. Scientific American has a summary of recent research; here’s an excerpt: “…The flames were fanned by a rare perfect storm of conditions, including strong winds, prolonged drought and scorching temperatures—along with a boost from climate change. Global warming has pushed up the odds of such extreme fires events occurring in southeastern Australia by at least 30 percent—and likely by much more—according to a preprint study released on Wednesday. It is the most thorough analysis to date of the role of climate change in a particular wildfire event. The examination began as the blazes were still scorching forests and blanketing cities in smoke, impacting some of the researchers involved in the work. The analysis, which has also been submitted to the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, suggests that while events of this magnitude will remain relatively rare in the future, firefighting efforts and other disaster-response systems need to prepare for rising odds or they risk being overwhelmed…”

Can the Military’s Take on Climate Change Win Over More Hearts and Minds? Here’s an excerpt from a post at GreenBiz: “…I’ve studied military and security issues for decades. Although President Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax and worked to reverse the Obama administration’s climate initiatives, senior U.S. military officers have long been aware of warming’s detrimental effects. Military leaders believe climate change seriously threatens U.S. national security. They contend it is stirring up chaos and conflict abroad, endangering coastal bases and stressing soldiers and equipment, which undermines military readiness. But rather than debating the causes of climate change or assigning blame, they focus on how warming undermines security, and on practical steps to slow its advance and minimize damage…”

Wall Street is Falling Out of Love With a Once-Coveted Fossil Fuel. Bloomberg reports: “For years investors were willing to pay more for shares of natural gas utilities compared to electric ones. That’s no longer the case. In the past few days, electric utility valuations blew past those for gas, a sign that investor confidence in the future of fossil fuels has reached a tipping point. With climate advocates pushing to eliminate natural gas from homes and businesses and lawmakers from New York to California taking a stand against greenhouse gas emissions, pipeline developers are facing an uncertain future. “Right now, anyway you look at it, natural gas is not seen as something that is very friendly,” says Shahriar Pourreza, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities LLC…”

Fossil Fuels More Deadly Than Cigarettes, Malaria, HIV/AIDS: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Breathing polluted air cuts life expectancy across the world more than other risk factors like smoking, violence, HIV/AIDS, and vector-borne diseases like malaria, a new study shows. Research published Monday in the journal Cardiovascular Research compares the loss of life expectancy from exposure to fine particulate matter to other leading causes of death worldwide. The study found that polluted air decreased global life expectancy by an average of nearly three years and led to 8.8 million premature deaths in 2015 – exceeding smoking, one of the leading causes of early mortality, which led to 7.2 million premature deaths in 2015. “We show that about two-thirds of premature deaths are attributable to human-made air pollution, mainly from fossil fuel use,” study author Thomas Münzel told InsideClimate News. “Five and a half million deaths worldwide a year are potentially avoidable.” (InsideClimate News, Vice, The Guardian).

File image: Paul Douglas.

The Corporate Responsibility Facade is Finally Starting to Crumble. Here’s the intro to a post at Quartz at Work: “Big Oil is talking a much better climate-change game these days, publicly committing to an energy transition and the aims of the Paris accords. But there is a yawning gulf between the rhetorical embrace of corporate responsibility and the industry’s arms-length deployment of political financing to maintain commercial advantage. It isn’t just the corporate critics who recognize this. BP itself recently announced plans to withdraw from three trade associations with stated positions deemed inconsistent with the company’s own pledges. Royal Dutch Shell and Total are also reviewing their industry memberships, as are mining majors. The pressure they face to take such steps is real; the industry’s years of reliance on hypocrisy, lobbying, and misleading public relations tactics is eerily reminiscent of the approach taken by tobacco companies…”