Mar 4, 2012

"Worst Tornado Outbreak in US History"

Last Friday's tornado outbreak boggles the mind. Some are calling it the worst tornado day in US history. Economic devastation (and some death) struck millions of Americans via hail, high winds, and tornadoes from as far south as Georgia to as far north as Illinois. I have an 83 year old Aunt in Tennessee who spent her week on high alert, ready to climb into her bathtub for shelter as storms swirled around her home on Feb. 28, Feb. 29, Mar. 1, and Friday Mar. 2.
3/2/11 -- "There were 86 tornadoes reported today, normally there are 87 tornadoes during March this time of year." Chief Meteorologist Mark Murray, 6pm news, KVUE Austin.
For one thing, this is exactly the kind of activity predicted by the climate change books I read ten years ago. This trauma and awe is actually part of what was projected to occur this decade under the worst case, highest emissions scenarios. (During the 2000's, climate scientists often said we had until 2010 to "take serious action" if we are to avoid serious problems. We have yet to take serious action.) I mean, it was just a little over two years ago Thomas Friedman tried to coin the term "global weirding" to convey what climate scientists are trying to tell us is looming if our economy doesn't stop burning les combustibles fossiles. According to their computer models, the amount of greenhouse gasses we're emitting everyday has put our planet over critical thresholds. And, life as we know it in 2012 is making these problems worse. And, 2011's epidemic of destructive weather will not be the last. And... yes, yes, you know the rest: Unless we reverse course (stop burning fossil fuels, and find ways to reduce GHG concentrations in our atmosphere) -- violent weather, radical shifts in the distribution of the planet's precipitation (aka. drought and flooding), and the end of Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring seasonal cycle reliability -- will become our way of life.1 In short, we're getting a late start on managing this problem, but the longer we wait the more "weather" we have in store.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association
Severe Weather Summary 2012.

Extreme weather phenomena are happening all over the world; the number of events is disturbing, too. For instance, bere in the US more than 120 tornadoes had already occurred this year before Friday March 3rd, that's 50% more than the historical norm. A few press clippings about this week's tornado outbreak:
"As of Friday morning, the severe storm risk area covered an estimated 162 million people, or 56 percent of the United States, according to weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Storm Prediction Center received 311 reports of severe weather Friday, including 48 reported tornadoes and a few reported fatalities. This massive storm system also spawned deadly tornadoes on Leap Day, which raked Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee. The severe storms killed at least 12 people and included a strong EF-4 twister in Harrisburg, Ill., a rarity for February." -- Why So Many Tornadoes Are Striking the US, Yahoo!/LiveScience.
Unusually high heat (70/80sF) and warm winds met with 
seasonal cold (30s/40s) to create atmospheric chaos this week.
"Friday, March 2, 2012 may be known as one of the worst tornado outbreak for early March on record. Eighty sightings of tornadoes were reported between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. Friday. Friday's outbreak could include more tornadoes in one day than typically occur over the entire month of March in the United States." The Science Behind the Tornado Outbreak, Accuweather.
"Emergency crews desperately searched for survivors Saturday after a violent wave of Midwest and Southern storms flattened some rural communities..." Storms demolish small towns in Indiana, Kentucky; 38 dead. Associated Press
Home video of massive tornado as it tears through neighborhood in Henryville, Indiana, CNN. 
"Calm weather gave dazed residents of storm-wracked towns a respite early on Sunday as they dug out from a chain of tornadoes that cut a swath of destruction from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico, killing at least 39 people." Calm weather a respite in tornado zone where 39 died, Reuters.
Extreme Weather 2012 photo gallery, Christian Science Monitor.


1. After last summer's devastating drought in Texas and this summer looking at least as harsh, I'll go on record saying I expect we'll have extremely high temperatures down here in Texas April thru October, this year. 

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