Why so many tornadoes this year?
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Started by metmike - May 31, 2019, 1:05 a.m.

Roy Spencer: Why so many tornadoes this year? It’s not what AOC, Bernie Sanders (or maybe even you) think


"Very few thunderstorms produce tornadoes. In the hot and humid tropics, they are virtually unheard of. The reason why is that (unlike hurricanes) tornadoes require strong wind shear, which means wind speed increasing and changing direction with height in the lower atmosphere.

These conditions exist only when a cool air mass collides with a warm air mass. And the perfect conditions for this have existed this year as winter has refused to lose its grip on the western United States. So far for the month of May 2019, the average temperature across the U.S. is close to 2 degrees Fahrenheit below normal."

By metmike - May 31, 2019, 1:30 a.m.
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Some relevant things about these tornadoes.


  1. The current weather pattern that caused all these tornadoes. Blocking pattern with a strong heat ridge in the Southeast in combination with the natural El Nino(actually, the energy from this jet stream may have has origins in the Indian Ocean from almost a month ago).  This jet stream has been continuouly aimed towards the Plains/Midwest the last couple of weeks. Absolutely nothing to do with human caused climate change. That factor has been decreasing violent tornadoes with absolute certainty based on the physics of the atmosphere explained below.
  2. The unusual cold in the West and N.Plains for so late in Spring had everything to do with these tornadoes as the change in temperature between that and the very warm/humid air to the southeast is what supplied the energy for storms.
  3. What causes tornadoes? Strong jet streams and temperature contrast are always a factor for violent tornadoes and this is why violent tornadoes have plunged lower the last 4 decades because of climate change...........which has warmed the coldest places the most(highest latitudes) and reduced the meridional temperature gradient. Heat and moisture are factors that need to be present but 99.99% of the time when you have the heat and moisture, you don't have a tornado. It's only when you have the powerful jet stream and temperature contrast that increases the chances.   When you have warm/humid air, a cold front can get under it and lift it vertically. This buyont air mass that's rapidly rising in a severe thunderstorm, is than acted upon by the strong jet stream(that helps to amplify the lift) but the strong jet causes the horizontal winds to veer with height, which puts a spin/rotation of the air parcels that are rising from the warm/humid unstable air. Conditions favorable for this have decreased the last 40 years because there is less colder air available.....but have been present big time in May 2019  because of random variations in weather patterns. 
  4. This is  also why we've had the LEAST amount of violent tornadoes in history over the past  couple of decade. Violent tornadoes peaked in the 1970's because of global cooling(which cooled the coldest places the most and increased the temp disparity that causes stronger jet streams and tornadoes.
  5. Weak tornadoes have increased over the past 2 decades and we are hearing that there are MORE tornadoes in tornado outbreaks.  We should be clear on this. The observation and recording of weak tornadoes has increased. In the early to mid 1990's, the NWS installed NEXTRAD doppler radar systems across the country to replace the old 1950's vintage conventional radars that could only see the rain but not the wind.
    Doppler radars can detect tornadoes, including weak ones that don't do much damage out in the country and were never reported before because the old radars could not see weak tornadoes. There are also more people with camera phones and technology reporting these weak tornadoes that went unreported before.
    The violent tornadoes, previously all got reported for obvious reasons. If a tornado rips thru a town or even touches down in the country, it will leave one heck of a signature that it was there. So to fair, we need to compare violent tornadoes to violent tornadoes.  If we compare weak tornadoes reported with the old technology to weak tornadoes reported with the new technology then of course the new technology will see a big increase.
    One can make the case that there is more heat and moisture with climate change but 99.99% of the time, when we have enough heat and moisture, we don't have a tornado threat. It's only when we have a strong jet stream and temp contrast that goes with it.............that has decreased with the warming of the highest latitudes as mentioned earlier.
    More heat and moisture DOES cause heavier rains with absolute certainty those have increased. The atmosphere can hold around 6% more moisture than it did when we were 1 deg C cooler. Should we go back to the old atmosphere then?
    OK, then the 25% increase in greening on this planet goes away, drought increases and 1 billion people on the planet starve to death within 3 years under those conditions, as world food production/crop yields plunge from  that and the lower level of  beneficial CO2 over a century ago.
    I'll take the heavier rains.
  6. This years # of tornadoes is above average, especially compared to last years near record low number.  We   had around 400 tornadoes in the last 2 weeks and are well over 900 for the year. This is around 200 above average and more tornadoes than all of last year. Last year was the first year in recorded history of NO violent tornadoes.  That has never happened before. I noted that this was not reported in too many places. These tupe of tornadoes(violent), with winds above 166 mph, cause around 90% of deaths.  Only 10 people died in tornadoes last year, 2018 also a record low since records have been kept, 1950. This is not surprising as violent tornadoes and tornado deaths have been going lower since we started this climate optimum. The climate and weather over these last 40 years has been the best for life on this greening planet since the Medieval Warm Period 1,000 years ago.  Not quite as warm as the Holocene Climate OPTIMUM during the period of 5,000 to 9,000 years ago , when temperatures were 2 deg. warmer than this. There were likely even fewer violent tornadoes during that time frame.  Yes, we are having a climate optimum and until climate science was hijacked for political agenda, when temperatures were 2 degrees warmer than this(the peak was 8,000 years ago) we called it a climate optimum(Holocene Climate Optimum)  but now, the exact same thing, but not quite as warm is being called a climate CRISIS.



By metmike - May 31, 2019, 1:31 a.m.
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I was on Relevant Radio on Wednesday,  talking about this wet and stormy weather. 

This is hour 3 from May 29 and I'm on from the 6 minute to 16 minute mark.


By wxgrant - June 3, 2019, 11:11 p.m.
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More on point #5 from above.

I was chasing a storm that showed rotation on Doppler Radar in East Texas a few years ago. This storm had a large rotating wall cloud that appeared to produce weak vortices from time to time. The NWS Survey found 13 EF0 tornadoes along the path. 13! In my mind it should have been one 12 mile EF0 tornado but they broke up the track into 13 small, very small tacks. From my vantage point it looked like one large but weak tornado that only caused sporadic damage in thirteen places. But, records show 13 tornadoes occurred that day. Now if that storm would of hit in 1980 I doubt there would have even been wind damage reports because the damage that occurred only did so to trees and was very minimal. 

By metmike - June 4, 2019, 12:52 a.m.
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Wonderful comment Grant!

How many actual tornadoes(touching down) have you spotted/chased?

Here's more from climate scientist Dr. Spencer on the tornadoes.

You  already knew how cold this year has been in the N.Plains but I didn't realize that its been the coldest place on the planet vs average(anomolies) this year:

Recent Tornadoes are Due to Unusually Cold Weather



In fact, in terms of departures from normal, so far this year the Northern Plains has been the “coldest place on Earth”, averaging 5-10 deg. F below normal:


Dr. Spencer: "Or, phrased another way, the last half of the 65-year U.S. tornado record had 40% fewer strong to violent tornadoes than the first half.

 To claim that global warming is causing more tornadoes is worse than speculative; it is directly opposite to the clear observational evidence."

By wxgrant - June 4, 2019, 5:55 p.m.
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I have seen 10 tornadoes. Not a lot but I am always in the studio during severe weather. I guess if you count that large wall cloud in my previous post it's closer to 20 :-). But I only count it as one. 

By metmike - June 4, 2019, 11:55 p.m.
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10 tornadoes is not alot to you Grant but its probably 10 times more than most people.

I have never seen a tornado.

I flew into Hurricane Gloria in September 1985 though and wouldn't trade that for seeing any amount of tornadoes...........ok maybe 100 tornadoes(-:

Hurricane hunters fly into dangerous hurricanes in the name of science



NOAA's Lockheed WP-3D Orion Four-engine turboprop aircraft record low-altitude data from tropical storms and hurricanes. Photo by Valerie Smock/Accuweather.com



You've heard of storm chasers with their trusty getaway cars and gizmos. Now get ready for hurricane hunters, who dive nose-first into storms.

Like the storm chasers on land, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hurricane hunters collect data that meteorologists otherwise wouldn't be able to assess.

"Hurricane hunters are critical in determining the intensity of a tropical system by directly sampling the storm," AccuWeather Meteorologist Randy Adkins said. "The data that they collect, including radar information, wind speed, temperature, pressure, etc. are instrumental in the forecasting process."

This information is then used to determine the strength and category of the storm and goes into creating the models and warnings.

"The data that they collect is so instrumental in helping us make that forecast, the watches and warnings," Director of the National Hurricane Center Ken Graham said. "But not only that, it gets in the models. So if the models are better, it helps all of us do our job."

Tools of the trade

"If we didn't send hurricane hunters into the hurricanes, we'd be relying more on satellite data which can give us a general idea but can't be very specific about what's happening within a particular section of the hurricane," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller said.

Hurricane Gloria


By wxgrant - June 5, 2019, 9:08 p.m.
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Sounds like a neat experience. My goal is to one day film a slow moving supercell for time lapse. That is my favorite. 

By metmike - June 5, 2019, 10:09 p.m.
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I would enjoy watching it and am seriously impressed that you've tracked so many tornadoes.

Is this something that you did before your current job or do you travel alot on weekends to position yourself in the best places?

Storm chasing


"While witnessing a tornado is the single biggest objective for most chasers, many chase thunderstorms and delight in viewing cumulonimbus and related cloud structures, watching a barrage of hail and lightning, and seeing what skyscapes unfold."

By wxgrant - June 5, 2019, 10:38 p.m.
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When I was the morning met in Tyler Texas I would chase in the afternoon if there were storms. I love storms and would rather be out in the field than anywhere. When I retire I will chase and fish, and that's about it :-) . 

By metmike - June 5, 2019, 10:57 p.m.
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Sounds like a great life!

When my sons were little, I would do a bit of local storm chasing with them but never witnessed anything that impressive like what you saw.

We would go to areas with major flash flooding and saw some good river flooding....days after the heavy rains had stopped. 

In the Winter, we would drive up to 180 miles away for them to play in snow events that missed us entirely. 

By metmike - June 7, 2019, 9:19 p.m.
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Using  a drone to chase tornadoes takes it to another level!