by Doctor Science
It's going to be another very, very bad weather day in the Midwest:
From Weather.com; more details there.
If you are in the zone, please make sure you are never more than 15 minutes from a solid, preferably underground tornado shelter this afternoon. Monitor local TV/radio closely! And when the sky gets that sickly greenish color, you know what to do. I did part of my growing-up in Champaign-Urbana, IL, and I've never forgotten what tornado weather looks like.
At Balloon Juice, ABL pulled out a quote from commenter jinxtigr:
Weather is a chaotic system. Climate is a gauge of the energy in that system.Jeff Masters of Weather Underground is more circumspect:
Chaos works like this: if you have very little energy, things are stable. As the energy in the system increases, the range of possible states expands. At some points, the system can fall into predictable chaotic patterns: in weather, this would be knowing the general force of storms and cyclones, having a basic idea of how big these things are.
As the energy increases, the range of possible states continues to expand, and what you used to know about 'how big tornadoes are' stops being useful.
I'll repeat that: as the energy increases (as the climate imperceptibly creeps upward in temperature), you stop being able to predict how big things like storms and cyclones will be.
For anyone who can't read long posts, here's your take-away:
Next year's tornado will be worse.
this year's incredibly violent tornado season is not part of a trend. It is either a fluke, the start of a new trend, or an early warning symptom that the climate is growing unstable and is transitioning to a new, higher energy state with the potential to create unprecedented weather and climate events. All are reasonable explanations, but we don't have a long enough history of good tornado data to judge which is most likely to be correct.He emphasizes the role of bad luck, and of good warnings:
So what's going on? Why are there so many tornadoes, and so many people getting killed? Well, the high death toll this year is partly just bad luck. Violent EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes usually miss heavily populated areas, and we've had the misfortune of having two such tornadoes track over cities with more than 50,000 people (the Joplin tornado, and the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham EF-4 tornado in Alabama, which killed 61 people on April 27.) This sort of bad luck occurred in both 1953, when F-5 tornadoes hit Flint, Worcester, and Waco, and in 1936, when F-5s hit Tupelo and Gainesville. However, this year's death toll is more remarkable than the 1953 or 1936 death tolls, since in 2011 we have Doppler radar and a modern tornado warning system that is very good at providing an average of twelve minutes of warning time. The warning time for the Joplin tornado was 24 minutes. The first tornado warning wasn't issued until 1948, and virtually all tornadoes from the 1950s and earlier hit with no warning. On average, tornado deaths in the United States decreased from 8 per 1 million people in 1925 to 0.12 per 1 million people in 2000. Had this year's tornadoes occurred 50 years ago, I expect the death toll would have exceeded three thousand.[my emphasis].
The following "video" (it's actually mostly audio) was shot in a convenience store in Joplin, MO:
Masters calls it "The most remarkable audio I've ever heard of people surviving a direct hit by a violent tornado". What's notable about it to my mind is how it's *not* like a movie. Yes, people are crying, screaming, praying. But they're also taking care of each other while they're all crammed together in the store's walk-in fridge, trying to make sure no-one is being crushed. Speaking of love.
Be careful out there.