Invest now to improve tornado warnings; an early start to hurricane season?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 04:24 PM GMT die 27o May, anno 2011

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The Atlantic hurricane season officially begin on Wednesday, June 1, and recent computer model runs predict that we may have some early-season action in the Central Caribbean Sea to coincide with the start of this year's season. The GFS, NOGAPS, and ECMWF models have all indicated in some of their recent runs that a tropical disturbance may form between Jamaica and Central America sometime in the May 31 - June 2 time frame, as a lobe of the Eastern Pacific Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) pushes across Central America into the Caribbean. Up until now, wind shear has been too high to allow tropical storm formation in the Caribbean, due to the presence of the Subtropical Jet Stream. However, this jet is expected to push northwards over Cuba over the coming week, allowing a region of low wind shear to develop over most of the Caribbean. Water temperatures in the Central Caribbean are about 1°C above average, 29°C, which is plenty warm enough to support development of a tropical storm. The main impediment to development will probably be lack of spin, as we don't have any African tropical waves that are expected to enter the Caribbean Sea next week, to help get things spinning. Stay tuned.


Figure 1. Satellite image of Typhoon Songda.

Typhoon Songda heads for Okinawa and Japan
Typhoon Songda brushed the Philippines yesterday, bringing heavy rains that killed at least two people. Fortunately, the brunt of this year's first Category 5 storm missed the islands, and Songda has weakened slightly to a Category 4 storm with 145 mph winds. Songda is turning northwards and will threaten the island of Okinawa on Saturday. Sea surface temperatures decline rapidly north of the Philippines, and Songda is expected to weaken significantly before reaching Okinawa, where sea surface temperatures are approximately 26°C. Wind shear will also increase to high levels by Saturday, and Songda should be at most a Category 2 typhoon by the time it reaches Okinawa. On Sunday,

Invest now for better tornado warnings
National Weather Service forecasters issued a tornado warning 24 minutes in advance of the Joplin, Missouri tornado this.week, which is now being blamed for at least 132 deaths--the deadliest U.S. tornado since at least 1947. However, we can do better, and the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) put out a press release on May 23, arguing that investments in weather service forecasting technology are needed to reduce loss of life in future violent tornadoes:

"The 24-minute lead time is a great improvement over the average lead time of 13 minutes for tornado warnings. The meteorologists in the Springfield Weather Forecast Office are commended for their lifesaving work," said Dan Sobien, NWSEO President. "But in our age of advanced technology and communication, when new radars and modeling opportunities exist that can provide more lead time to get people out of the path of a storm, hundreds of people do not have to die because of a tornado event."

Sobien says the Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes are examples of how the government's neglect to invest in NWS related infrastructure over the last 10 to 15 years has failed to provide the tools necessary to protect lives and property. He says that the tools forecasters use to issue tornado warnings are woefully inadequate and that the technology exists to provide lead times so far in advance of the storm that it would make the need for tornado warnings as we know them obsolete. "The much touted Doppler Weather Radar, also known as the Weather Service Radar or WSR-88D, was developed in 1988. Since that time, technological advances, including phased array radars developed by the Department of Defense, have been shown to increase the current lead time on tornado warnings by almost 50 percent."

"The much touted Warn on Forecast process utilizes Meso-scale modeling and has the potential to let forecasters know hours in advance where a thunderstorm would form and if it is likely to contain strong winds, hail, or even a tornado. With adequate staffing, local National Weather Service forecasters who understand local terrain and the model output, could be embedded with emergency managers and decision makers. In the event of a storm, the forecaster could provide emergency managers with the tornado track with some margin of error and people in the way of the storm could be evacuated hours before the tornado hits. This technology is being developed and tested right now, however without funding it will never be available."

"The art and science of severe weather warnings made considerable progress during the 1980s and 90s, going from almost zero lead time to average of about 13 minutes for tornado warnings. However, in recent years, that progress has stalled, even while the technological advancements have accelerated. If the country made the type of investment in the National Weather Service that it did in the 1980s, scenes like the ones in Missouri this week and in Alabama and Mississippi last month could be a thing of the past."

"I am very proud of my co-workers at the National Weather Service this tornado season. They saved many lives and having been there myself, I can assure you, they feel personally about every lost life," said Sobien. "I know that budgets are tight and there are many priorities, but if you put investing in the National Weather Service up to a vote today in tornado alley, I think the approval would be a landslide."


I wholeheartedly agree with this view--investments in better tornado forecasts and tornado observing technology will potentially give us a huge return in lives saved. Have a great holiday weekend, everyone, and I'll be back Monday or Tuesday with a new post.


Jeff Masters

Tornado Power (Betty2)
Sunday, LaCrosse, WI a tornado hit. This is a photo of a 2x4 board that slammed through a tire.. and, freaky, but it left the air in the tire! Photo was taken by my neighbor, Lori Hines, Gays Mills WI.
Tornado Power
25 May, (rdjgonzo)
May 25, 2011 at 7:10pm. Picture taken from Bartlett (Shelby County) TN.
25 May,
What A Storm (llpj04)
What A Storm

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386. Skyepony (Mod)
Levi~ even your model there has trended up with the ensemble mean up to weak El Nino conditions for Aug & maybe Sept. Though I take them with a grain of salt as well. Overall, they are all over the place & spring is their worst time of year. Climo is about the only thing I see giving us a chance to slide back in La Nina for next winter.
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Quoting Levi32:


The Loop Current is part of the primary west boundary current of the Atlantic Ocean. Every major ocean basin has boundary currents flowing close to their edges. When the AMO is positive, the meridional overturning circulation is stronger, which means that warm water from the equator is flowing northward at a greater rate. The Loop Current and the Gulf Stream are usually flowing faster than normal under these conditions.

Naturally, a greater flux of warm water into the Gulf of Mexico adds to the overall heat content of the gulf. Additionally, a stronger Loop Current forms a larger loop when it flows faster, as only so much water can leave the gulf through the Florida Straights. This provides a larger eddy of warm water for gulf hurricanes to feed off of, as a few of the famous 2005 hurricanes did, most notably Katrina and Rita.
plus 1 thanks.

Btw, sorry to keep on bugging you levi, but you're in college perusing some sort of degree in meteorology, right? What type of degree are you going for ecactly? How's that going? How many years in are you?

I am just curious since I am considering perusing something related in meteorology since I find it so fascinating.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
381. 7544
Quoting jasonweatherman2010:
wow!! something going on next to 98 west!!


and look at the one this is showing looks interesting this run


Link
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Quoting Neapolitan:
A quick pair of Joplin items: a very telling backyard security camera video, and a steel chair embedded into a concrete wall.



Appropriate tropical weather-related image.

Fantastic video there.
That's scary stuff, which I hope never to see in real life...
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If anything forms across the caribbean it will be some half-baked STC/TC that will be sheared from the sw & w and battle dry air entrainment from the west. Can't rule out a 35-40 kt TS, but conditions won't be favoable for much more than that...if it forms at all. This system will be induced by the right-rear quad of a mod/stg anticyclonically curved upper-level jet, and the RR quad is the most divergent portion of the jet max, and that will act to drop sfc pressures across the western Carib Sea. HOWEVER...those 35-50 kt swly 200 mb winds will create very unfavorable/hostile wind shear conditions that will prevent significant TC development from occurring.
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Quoting Skyepony:


I'd say it is possible. ESPI is -1.19. It's averaged around -.90 over the last 2 months. That should bring us to or near El Nino. Fallen off again the last few days, if the trend holds or even just stays this low a few more weeks it would seem definite.

Atmosphere lags so the effects of neutral should be felt atleast to peak 'cane season.


I still kind of doubt it. I seem to recall the models calling for El Nino in 2008 as well, but the PDO was negative, something they aren't used to. It's really hard to get an El Nino off of a moderate/strong La Nina in the same year when the PDO is cold. I have a feeling this year will follow history and stay neutralish and perhaps resume a weak La Nina this fall/winter.

CFS from May, 2008:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
375. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting stormhank:
thanks levi.. I was just remembering how rapidly the 1997 El nino formed


The polar vortex of '97 was likely a precursor to the huge El Nino that followed. After a really slow start to winter this year & the atmosphere expanded, so that once the vortex raged it did so comparable to '97..another reason it's hard to say El Nino conditions even briefly this year aren't possible.
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Quoting spathy:


?
Are you speaking of the Gulf Of Mexico?
If so.
Didnt the Gulf Loop current Eddy last year just in time to save many from the oil?

But my bigger question is.... what does that mean for season?


The Loop Current became quite weak last year, and was nearly non-existent during the hurricane season. That's what saved the oil. This year, it appears that it should remain strong, and that leaves a bigger "puddle" of warm water for hurricanes to feed off of. That is obviously not great news, but it is typical of the warm AMO era that we have been in since 1995.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
373. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting stormhank:
Good evening everyone...Ive read we wil be in a neutral ENSO phase for this summer but Ive noticed how the SOI has crashed the past month and that cloudiness near the dateline has increased?? Is it possible a El Nino could form this summer?? Or stay in neutral phase through hurricane season?? Thanks for any input!!


I'd say it is possible. ESPI is -1.19. It's averaged around -.90 over the last 2 months. That should bring us to or near El Nino. Fallen off again the last few days, if the trend holds or even just stays this low a few more weeks it would seem definite.

Atmosphere lags so the effects of neutral should be felt atleast to peak 'cane season.
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Quoting stormhank:
thanks levi.. I was just remembering how rapidly the 1997 El nino formed



that was KoritheMan:

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Quoting stormhank:
thanks levi.. I was just remembering how rapidly the 1997 El nino formed


You mean Kori...lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting TomTaylor:
Pardon my ignorance levi, but I got another question, why is the loop current so important? Does it just distribute heat from the Caribbean to the gulf or is there something else more important going on?

Thanks in advance, I appreciate your responses, its all one big learning experience for me


The Loop Current is part of the primary west boundary current of the Atlantic Ocean. Every major ocean basin has boundary currents flowing close to their edges. When the AMO is positive, the meridional overturning circulation is stronger, which means that warm water from the equator is flowing northward at a greater rate. The Loop Current and the Gulf Stream are usually flowing faster than normal under these conditions.

Naturally, a greater flux of warm water into the Gulf of Mexico adds to the overall heat content of the gulf. Additionally, a stronger Loop Current forms a larger loop when it flows faster, as only so much water can leave the gulf through the Florida Straights. This provides a larger eddy of warm water for gulf hurricanes to feed off of, as a few of the famous 2005 hurricanes did, most notably Katrina and Rita.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting KoritheMan:

El Nino rarely develops in the year following a La Nina. Even if it were the case, there is a typical lag time of 3 - 5 months regarding the atmospheric response to the observed oceanic conditions.

In short, even if El Nino does develop during the season, it will have very little impact on the basin until the season is essentially done.
thanks levi.. I was just remembering how rapidly the 1997 El nino formed
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Maybe not even the worst part. Notice how the background trees still have libs, at best that was 140 mph winds.


Quoting Neapolitan:
A quick pair of Joplin items: a very telling backyard security camera video, and a steel chair embedded into a concrete wall.



Appropriate tropical weather-related image.
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Quoting spathy:


If I may..
Picture a round post in the middle of a stream.
How does the water react around the post.
Now picture a flat wall perpendicular in said stream flow.
How does the water pile up in front of wall and eventually over it.

Very Good.
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Quoting stormhank:
Good evening everyone...Ive read we wil be in a neutral ENSO phase for this summer but Ive noticed how the SOI has crashed the past month and that cloudiness near the dateline has increased?? Is it possible a El Nino could form this summer?? Or stay in neutral phase through hurricane season?? Thanks for any input!!
El Nino rarely develops in the year following a La Nina. Even if it were the case, there is a typical lag time of 3 - 5 months regarding the atmospheric response to the observed oceanic conditions.

In short, even if El Nino does develop during the season, it will have very little impact on the basin until the season is essentially done.
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Quoting Levi32:
The loop current has been stronger than normal all year so far.

Pardon my ignorance levi, but I got another question, why is the loop current so important? Does it just distribute heat from the Caribbean to the gulf or is there something else more important going on?

Thanks in advance, I appreciate your responses, its all one big learning experience for me
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
The loop current has been stronger than normal all year so far.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Good evening everyone...Ive read we wil be in a neutral ENSO phase for this summer but Ive noticed how the SOI has crashed the past month and that cloudiness near the dateline has increased?? Is it possible a El Nino could form this summer?? Or stay in neutral phase through hurricane season?? Thanks for any input!!
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Some pretty amazing footage of this week's Chickasha, Oklahoma, twister:

Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13800
WV Flaring up in Central America....

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Quoting KoritheMan:

Likely because the West Pacific is vastly larger, both in terms of areal coverage and in terms of heat content, so the storms that form are generally exponentially larger than those found in the Atlantic. Larger storms take much longer to spin up.
ok thanks, kori

Edit-
Quoting Levi32:


Partly because the WPAC is so warm, the air pressure over that basin is very low during the summer, much lower than over the Atlantic. Wind is generated by pressure gradients, and with a lower average pressure in the WPAC, it takes a lower central pressure in a hurricane to generate the same pressure gradient and thus the same wind speed. For example, compared to a 950mb hurricane in the Atlantic within an environment averaging 1015mb, a WPAC typhoon within an environment averaging 1005mb will have to attain roughly 940mb central pressure in order to generate the same wind speed.

Other factors such as the lack of land masses in the WPAC also contribute, as it allows storms to get quite large, and the larger they are, the slower the wind speed for a given pressure.

Observe the climatological differences between the western Pacific and Atlantic during the summer months:

thank you too, levi
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
Quoting TomTaylor:
can someone explain why that is?


Partly because the WPAC is so warm, the air pressure over that basin is very low during the summer, much lower than over the Atlantic. Wind is generated by pressure gradients, and with a lower average pressure in the WPAC, it takes a lower central pressure in a hurricane to generate the same pressure gradient and thus the same wind speed. For example, compared to a 950mb hurricane in the Atlantic within an environment averaging 1015mb, a WPAC typhoon within an environment averaging 1005mb will have to attain roughly 940mb central pressure in order to generate the same wind speed.

Other factors such as the lack of land masses in the WPAC also contribute, as it allows storms to get quite large, and the larger they are, the slower the wind speed for a given pressure.

Observe the climatological differences between the western Pacific and Atlantic during the summer months:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
I should have googled first. Fairbanks sunrise 3:48am, sunset 11:58pm.
Only 3hours50minutes of night
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A quick pair of Joplin items: a very telling backyard security camera video, and a steel chair embedded into a concrete wall.



Appropriate tropical weather-related image.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13800
Quoting aspectre:
319 Levi32 "It happens. Being from the coast I've personally never felt above 75F until these last two weeks here in the interior. Alaska can get much hotter than many realize."

I can see 91F(33C) in very lateJune through earlyAugust -- ie after "nearly all-day sun"s, before too much shortening of daylight -- but this is May.
Don't even get 15hours between sunrise and sunset yet in Fairbanks, do you?


20 hours and 2 minutes of daylight today.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700

Quoting pottery:

Yeah, I should have qualified my statement..
Haha, no worries. Hindsight tells me I should have clarified my own statement as well.
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Quoting spathy:


Ouch.
Thats a large population even if it is spread out over a long range of islands.
Low lying islands at that!

You guys have 2 military bases there. About 30,000 servicemen.
Okinawa is home to several U.S. military installations, including Kadena Air Base, home to nearly 18,000 Americans, and Camp Courtney, home of the III Marine Expeditionary Force and its 16,000 Marines, according to U.S. Forces Japan.
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319 Levi32 "It happens. Being from the coast I've personally never felt above 75F until these last two weeks here in the interior. Alaska can get much hotter than many realize."

I can see 91F(33C) in very lateJune through earlyAugust -- ie after "nearly all-day sun"s, before too much shortening of daylight -- but this is May.
Don't even get 15hours between sunrise and sunset yet in Fairbanks, do you?
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Quoting KoritheMan:

It can be in localized areas, but certainly not widespread like we find on the mainland.

Yeah, I should have qualified my statement..
It's a problem, but not as big a problem as larger land masses.
Thanks.
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Quoting pottery:

I dont think that storm surge is an issue with small Islands?
It can be in localized areas, but certainly not widespread like we find on the mainland.
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Quoting TomTaylor:
can someone explain why that is?
Likely because the West Pacific is vastly larger, both in terms of areal coverage and in terms of heat content, so the storms that form are generally exponentially larger than those found in the Atlantic. Larger storms take much longer to spin up.
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Quoting KoritheMan:

And storm surge.

I dont think that storm surge is an issue with small Islands?
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Quoting spathy:
Does anyone have any data on the population/topography of the Ryokyu Retto Islands South of Japan?
They look to be getting the brunt of Storm Songda in the days to follow!

as of 1990 Population was 1.5mil
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Quoting spathy:

washovers are a concern.
And storm surge.
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Quoting Skyepony:




WPac is it's own setting. It also takes a lower pressure to achieve the same wind speed of a storm in the Atlantic.
can someone explain why that is?
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
Quoting spathy:
Does anyone have any data on the population/topography of the Ryokyu Retto Islands South of Japan?
They look to be getting the brunt of Storm Songda in the days to follow!


After a quick glance at Wikipedia, it appears that the topography is characterized by flat terrain.

Unsure about the total population, though.
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Quoting Gearsts:
Atlantic warmer?But arent the waters over the west Pacific 30c compare to 29c here...Dont get it:(
Quoting KoritheMan:

Relative to normal:


according to the anomalies, the Atlantic is more anomalous than the wpac, however, there is still far more heat in the wpac relative to the amount of heat in the Atlantic (see below). Therefore, I'd expect the Atlantic storm totals to better match those of the wpac than usual, but not surpass the numbers in the wpac.

North Atlantic heat content



West pacific

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
What's wrong with this???? is this going in reverse?
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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