Lessons From The Recent Tornado Swarm

As of yesterday 549 tornadoes have been reported across the USA in the last 30 days. Local National Weather Service offices have issued 973 tornado warnings, the most in any month since April of 2011. America’s tornado drought is

A massive “wedge” tornado weakened before reaching Kansas City late Tuesday; a reminder that tornadoes can strike downtowns. A little concrete and asphalt won’t deter a large, violent tornado, pulling in warmth & moisture from a 10 mile radius.

If you here “Tornado Emergency” it’s time to move (very quickly). Doppler radar can detect tornadoes signatures and warnings are issued. An emergency means a large, confirmed tornado is on the ground.

Welcome to a spring-affirming Thursday with blue sky, low 80s and a light breeze. Mid-80s Friday (imagine
that!) give way to a T-storm risk late; a few showers spill over into Saturday morning. Sunday still looks like the nicer day to loiter outdoors.

The tornado risk to our south is weakening; we’re finally heading into a warmer, drier pattern.

At Least 225 Twisters in 12 Days: An Historic Tornado Outbreak Ravages the U.S. Ian Livingston puts things into perspective for Capital Weather Gang: “…And the tornadoes have been hitting residential areas, often after sunset. Towns like Golden City, Mo., where the deadliest tornado of the slew killed three people at night. Several other locations were tormented at bedtime. Jefferson City, Mo.; Dayton, and El Reno, Okla., among them. Others shrouded the sun as if it were dark, like the terrible wedge tornado that passed from near Lawrence, Kan., to Kansas City on Tuesday. So, what can we blame for the tornado bombardment? May is peak tornado season, but an extraordinary and persistent pattern has kept conditions conducive for tornadoes on a much longer time scale than normal...”

Deadly Dayton (Ohio) Tornado Packed 140 MPH Winds. Here’s How It Developed. Capital Weather Gang has a good chronology of the supercells that spawned the EF-3 tornadoes: “…At first, it was expected that the storms near Chicago would merge into a line that would eventually sweep eastward and decay with time. Squall lines don’t usually produce high-end tornadoes; instead, they’re like an atmospheric snowplow, heralded by a swath of damaging straight-line winds. But later Monday, meteorologists at the Storm Prediction Center zeroed in on something the computer models weren’t quite capturing. “There may be a period with sustained discrete storm development, including supercells,” they wrote, emphasizing that these loner storms would “pose a more substantive risk for a strong tornado or two.” It was a low-probability event, but if it occurred it would have an extremely high impact. And that’s exactly what happened…”

Image credit: “Three-dimensional view of tornadic storm just north of Dayton Monday night.”

11 Straight Days of Tornadoes Have U.S. Approaching “Uncharted Territory”. Perspective from The New York Times: “…It was a scene that has played out in state after state this spring. In the last week alone, the authorities have linked tornadoes to at least seven deaths and scores of injuries. Federal government weather forecasters logged preliminary reports of more than 500 tornadoes in a 30-day period — a rare figure, if the reports are ultimately verified — after the start of the year proved mercifully quiet. “From mid-April on, it’s just been on a tear,” said Patrick Marsh, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. “What has really set us apart has been the last 10 days or so. The last 10 days took us from about normal to well above normal…”

Map credit: National Weather Service | “Note: Tornadoes reported during Monday 8 a.m. (EST) and Tuesday 8 a.m. (EST) are shown.” | By The New York Times.

No End Seen to Struggle as Mississippi Flood Enters Month 4. The Washington Post reports on a flood many are (increasingly) comparing to The Great Flood of 1927: “…Floodwater has swamped 860 square miles (2,200 sq. kilometers) north of the Mississippi River city of Vicksburg, an area larger than the cities of New York and Los Angeles combined. Residents say it’s the worst flood since 1973. Gov. Phil Bryant last week went further, likening it to the 1927 flood that lives on in books, songs, movies and the folk memory of the Magnolia State. “1927 was a line of demarcation for most of us who lived in the Delta,” Bryant, a Republican, said. “This may replace that.” Levees and floodgates near Vicksburg were built to prevent water from overflowing into the Delta when the river rises. This year, it has been above flood stage at Vicksburg for 102 consecutive days , with the floodgate closed much of that time…”

Photo credit: “In this Thursday, May 23, 2019 photo, Larry Walls, a farmer and businessman stands at the edge of a backwater flooded road leading to his 560 acres of rented farm land near Louise, Miss. Walls can no longer drive to the property without the possibility of getting flooded or stuck. Four months into what seems like a never-ending flood, he’s been trying to stay busy. He pressure-washed his church, and he’s been shooting the snakes that slither out of a swollen creek submerging his backyard.” (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)

Cost of Buying Out Flood-Prone Homes: $5 Billion and Rising. Here’s a clip from AP: “Over the past three decades, federal and local governments have poured more than $5 billion into buying tens of thousands of properties that are susceptible to flooding. An analysis of federal data by The Associated Press shows those buyouts have been getting more expensive. Many of the costliest have come during the last decade after strong storms pounded heavily populated coastal states such as Texas, New York and New Jersey...”

File image: Don Becker, USGS.

“Slow Motion Disaster” Along Arkansas River: Every Large Community Will See Major Flooding Next 7-10 Days. USA TODAY has an update on a grim situation: “Every large community along the Arkansas River will see major or record flooding within the next week to 10 days as swift-moving water from weeks of heavy rain challenges Arkansas’ aging levee system, the National Weather Service said Wednesday. Worse, more heavy rain is on the way.  Arkansas is not alone. Record flooding is also creating havoc in Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and northeast Oklahoma, both from locally heavy rainfall and from swollen rivers bringing water south from the north-central U.S...”

The Military is Locked in a Battle with Wind Farms. Who knew? Here’s an excerpt from WIRED.com: “…Although Pentagon officials don’t see wind power as an obstacle to military readiness, in the past two years, a growing number of state lawmakers are citing national security to block wind farms. That’s what’s happening along the North Carolina coastline, which is home to Marine Corps and Naval aviation facilities as well as a burgeoning wind industry. North Carolina’s state legislature is considering a bill to ban all wind farms within 100 miles of the coast from Virginia to Camp LeJeune. The bill’s sponsor, state senator Harry Brown (R), was also behind an 18-month moratorium on North Carolina wind farms that expired in December 2018. At a legislative hearing on the bill last month, some military experts said prohibition goes too far…”

File image: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune.

World’s Rivers Are Contaminated with Antibiotics. CNN reports: “The world’s rivers are widely contaminated with antibiotics, according to a new global study, the first of its kind. Researchers from the University of York in the UK analyzed samples from rivers in 72 countries and found that antibiotics were present in 65% of them. Dangerous levels of contamination were most frequently found in Asia and Africa, the team said, with sites in Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria exceeding safe levels by the greatest degree...”

Nearly 30% of Teens Sleep with Their Phones, but Parents’ Device Use May Be More Problematic. Quartz has a short, interesting read – are you hopelessly hooked? “Common Sense Media surveyed parents and teens about their media use: Nearly half (45%) of parents now say they feel addicted to their devices, up 18 points from 2016. Only 39% of kids feel the same, down 11 points from three years ago. Similarly, a whopping 52% of parents say they spend too much time on their devices, up sharply from 2016, while teens seem increasingly comfortable with their phone use…”

Our Prayers Have Been Answered – The “Towelkini” is Here! Radio.com has the head-scratching story: “Forgetting your towel during an impromptu trip to the beach is now a thing of the past. The Towelkini has arrived to make your summer days “easier” and weirder. Designed as a combination bathing suit and beach towel, the ensemble is supposed to make it easy to lay in the sun while still keeping you covered…While the Towelkini looks like a lot of fun, there are a few things you should be aware of before slipping into one. The Towelkini has cutouts for your head and legs with your arms free at your sides. When laying down, your head will have a towel to rest on and your legs will be free to tan…”

74 F. maximum Twin Cities temperature yesterday.

73 F. average high on May 29.

94 F. high on May 29, 2018.

May 30, 1998: A devastating line of storms hits east central Minnesota. 100 mph winds rip through Scott and Dakota County. Over 500 homes are damaged in Washington County. 15,000 trees are lost in the Twin Cities metro area, and 500,000 people lose power in Minneapolis.

May 30, 1985: A tornado hits Lakefield, and the Twin Cities report 67 mph winds.

THURSDAY: Sunny and warm. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 82

FRIDAY: Warm sunshine, late-day T-storm. Winds: W 10-15. Wake-up: 60. High: 85

SATURDAY: Showers taper, PM clearing. Wake-up: 59. High: 73

SUNDAY: Partly sunny, nicer day of weekend. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 57. High: 77

MONDAY: Intervals of sun, more humid. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 62. High: 79

TUESDAY: Sticky, showers and T-storms. Winds: SW 10-20. Wake-up: 65. High: 78

WEDNESDAY: Sunny, almost hot! Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 65. High: 85

Climate Stories….

Putting a Price on the Risk of Climate Change. Bloomberg delves into the touchy topic of “stranded assets”: “…A drop in consumption of coal, oil, and gas would have knock-on effects felt throughout the global economy, potentially spurring a decline in the value of companies sitting on stranded assets. About a third of the almost $5 trillion in planned fossil fuel capital investment from 2018 to 2025 risks being rendered near-worthless under policies that achieve the 2C target, according to Carbon Tracker, an environmental group that advises institutional investors. It coined the term “stranded asset,” not to argue against such policies, but to get financial markets to consider the economic risks of climate change…”

Meet the Amazon Employees Challenging Jeff Bezos on Climate Change. Here’s the intro to a story at Forbes: “…The proposal would have required Amazon’s board of directors to prepare a public plan for “disruptions posed by climate change” and demonstrate how the company would reduce its dependency on fossil fuels. Although Amazon has previously invested in renewable energy, employees argue that it is insufficient given the company’s role in global carbon emissions. Amazon previously launched programs to address emissions, such as its Shipment Zero plan to have 50% of all deliveries with net zero carbon by 2030. There are also plans to make public the company’s total carbon footprint after years of secrecy…”

Photo credit: “Scores of Amazon employees confronted CEO Jeff Bezos at the annual shareholder meeting over the company’s lack of climate leadership.” Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.

Talking Twisters & Climate: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “A spate of recent tornadoes across the United States have many questioning how climate change may be impacting twisters. Seven are dead after states in the Midwest have clocked at least eight tornadoes per day for a nearly two-week stretch, and 55 tornadoes may have torn across eight different states on Monday alone. Climate scientists stressed to multiple outlets that while climate change is enhancing many extreme weather patterns, there has not been enough research to conclusively establish a link between warming and tornadoes. MIT’s Kerry Emmanuel called the relationship between climate change and tornadoes “absolutely complicated,” telling the New York Times that there are so few studies because “it’s almost impossible to see any signal in the data” and noting that data from current radar technology is much newer for tornadoes compared to data used in the study of how climate impacts hurricanes.” (AP, New York Times $, The GuardianNBC)

File image: Homeland Security.

Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “…The attack on science is underway throughout the government. In the most recent example, the White House-appointed director of the United States Geological Survey, James Reilly, a former astronaut and petroleum geologist, has ordered that scientific assessments produced by that office use only computer-generated climate models that project the impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously. Scientists say that would give a misleading picture because the biggest effects of current emissions will be felt after 2040. Models show that the planet will most likely warm at about the same rate through about 2050. From that point until the end of the century, however, the rate of warming differs significantly with an increase or decrease in carbon emissions…”

Photo credit: “President Trump has pushed to resurrect the idea of holding public debates on the validity of climate science.” Doug Mills/The New York Times.

“Startling” Inaction of Climate Change Must End, Pope Says. National Catholic Reporter has the story: “If the world is to win the fight against climate change, its leaders must stop profiting from fossil fuels that threaten the survival and well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, Pope Francis said. Addressing a Vatican climate change conference for finance ministers from around the world May 27, the pope said that the current crisis is “caused by a confusion of our moral ledger with our financial ledger.” “We live at a time when profits and losses seem to be more highly valued than lives and deaths, and when a company’s net worth is given precedence over the infinite worth of our human family,” he said…”

Photo credit: “Raoni Metuktire, chief of the Kayapo indigenous group in the Brazilian Amazon region, right, shows Pope Francis a map of the Amazon rainforest during a private audience at the Vatican May 27, 2019. The indigenous chief met with the pope to discuss the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, which will be at the Vatican in October.” (CNS/Vatican Media).

How Citizens’ Assemblies Could Be Used to Tackle Climate Change. Truthout explains: “...Allen describes citizen’s assemblies as plugging a democratic gap. “When an issue is complicated like climate change and has becoming politically stuck, the best way to unblock it and make a decision on the future of the country is a citizens’ assembly because it’s a representative sample of the population; people get to learn about the issue first and discuss it with one another and get to a detailed and nuanced position. You can’t do that with the other democratic tools we have,” so they. They can also be used to kick-start wider participation. In Canada for example, citizens’ assemblies supported participants to go back to their communities and run town hall meetings to engage more people about the issues…”