Trending Wetter – Why are Mobile Home Parks Tornado Magnets?

68 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
64 F. average high on April 29.
42 F. high on April 29, 2014.

Trace of snow fell on April 29, 2014.

April 29, 1984: Late season snow blankets the Twin Cities with 6.6 inches.
April 29, 1940: Heavy rains in Duluth with 3.25 inches of rain. Source: MPX National Weather Service.
Tornado Magnets?

Fact can be much stranger than fiction. Yes, tornadoes CAN cross rivers, lakes and hills, and even hit downtowns. And no, trailer parks don’t “attract” tornadoes, but when they hit damage is often extreme.

Now comes new research at Purdue University suggesting that “transition zones”, regions where two distinct types of landscapes meet (farmland and suburbs for example) are more vulnerable to tornado damage. This is where trailer parks are often located. The nature of Earth’s surface may influence where tornadoes form and where they go on to inflict the most damage. Emerging science; more details on my weather blog below.

The only thing severe today is sunburn potential. Keep in mind the potential to fry has nothing to do with air temperature and everything to do with the date, the sun angle high overhead.
Test scores and job productivity will suffer once again today under a brilliant sun with light winds, low humidity and a lukewarm afternoon near 70F.

San Diego with lakes.

A growl of thunder arrives Friday; a few severe T-storms are even possible Sunday. A drought-denting storm is possible the middle of next week.

Yes, we’re having a real spring this year. Imagine that.

Why Tornadoes Find and Flatten Trailer Parks. No, mobile homes don’t “attract” tornadoes in some strange and supernatural way, but in most metro areas the regions where trailer parks are most likely to be located is also at heightened risk of tornadoes, as explained by azcentral.com; here’s an excerpt that made me do a double-take: “…This gets complicated, meaning I didn’t understand it very well, but the study showed some statistical evidence tornadoes cause the most damage in “transition zones.” Those are areas of the Earth’s surface where two distinct types of landscapes meet. That would include areas such as the fringes where urban sprawl and farmland or forests and plains meet. And those fringe areas tend to be where trailer parks are most frequently located…”

Photo credit above: “Mike Cook surveys the damage in what is left of his home at River Oaks mobile home community in Sand Springs, Okla., Thursday, March 26, 2015, after a tornado on Wednesday. Oklahomans salvaged soggy belongings Thursday after the Plains’ first tornado outbreak of the year.” (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Mike Simons).
What Facebook, Blue Jeans and Metal Signs Taught Us About Tornado Science. Nautilus has an amazing story; here’s an excerpt that got my attention: “…Knox and his team used data gathered from a Facebook page that connected people whose belongings had been whirled up into the April 27 tornadoes with the people who had found the belongings. Many items were found more than 100 miles away, including high school letter jackets, homemade quilts, metal signs, canceled checks, and photographs. One photograph, from a trip to Yellowstone, was picked up in Phil Campbell and deposited 219 miles away, in Lenoir City, Tennessee, the longest flight ever recorded for a piece of tornado debris. A 5-foot metal sign commemorating Lee Frederick, a resident of Smithville, Mississippi who died from bone cancer in 1998, was torn from its place above the Smithville High School football stadium bleachers and carried in the air 50 miles northeast to Russellville, Alabama, where Russellville resident Dan Morris found it…”

Image credit above: “Screen capture of Patty Bullion’s “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes” Facebook page.”
549.6 cm of Snow at Charlottetown, on Canada’s Prince Edward Island. Good grief. That works out to 216.4″ snow since November. Details from Canada’s CBC News.
Major Hurricane Drought Nears Decade Milestone – Will It Continue? All it takes is one. Here’s an excerpt from a story at The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang: “…Shockingly, for a state that is so geographically prone to tropical weather, Florida hasn’t seen a hurricane landfall of any intensity since Wilma in 2005. In that time, more than one million people have moved to Florida who might have no experience preparing for or responding to a landfalling hurricane. “This dangerous state of affairs is compounded by the potential for complacency and lack of recent experience,” Jason Samenow wrote in a story on Florida’s foreboding hurricane drought…” (Map: Category 3 and stronger hurricanes since 2000. Source: NOAA, Capital Weather Gang).

Half of Southern Minnesota Lakes and Streams Too Polluted For Safe Swimming, Fishing. The Star Tribune has the story – here’s the introduction: “Half the lakes and rivers in southern Minnesota are too polluted much of the time for safe swimming and fishing, according to a new state survey that could intensify efforts to protect Minnesota’s surface waters. The finding emerged from a five-year assessment of Minnesota’s watersheds by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), which concluded that the problems are worsening and will require 20 to 30 years to address…”

Getting Wetter. No weather-complaints again today with highs in the upper 60s to near 70F. A few showers are possible Friday, then a dry, reasonably nice, lukewarm Saturday before a few strong to potentially severe T-storms rumble across the state Sunday. A period of more significant rain is brewing for the middle of next week.

Severe Sunday? My confidence level is still low, but there may be sufficient low-level moisture (dew points approaching 60F) and low-level wind shear for a few strong to severe storms Sunday afternoon and evening, mainly southern Minnesota. If you’re out and about late in the weekend keep an eye on the sky, and the forecast. ECMWF model map valid Sunday evening courtesy of WSI Corporation.

Drought-Denting Rains? We’re still down 2-4″ across much of Minnesota – that’s how much additional rain it would take to pull out of moderate drought. All models suggest that next week will be slightly cooler, and significant wetter as Gulf moisture finally surges north. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some 1-2″ rainfall amounts next week.

Pacific Northwest’s “Wet Drought” Possible Sign of Future. What is a wet drought? I’m glad you asked. Climate Central has an explanation – here’s a clip: “…But the sky-high temperatures that marked the warmest winter on record for Washington and the second warmest for Oregon meant that much of the precipitation fell as rain, and not snow. Like California, parts of both these states depend on melting snowfall to fill their reservoirs, leaving them with potential shortages this year. Elevated temperatures also meant that what snow there was melted much earlier than normal. Three-fourths of snow survey sites in Oregon had record-low snow measurements as of April 1, and fewer than half of them had any snow on the ground, according to a report by the Natural Resources Conservation Service…”

Photo credit above: “Unusually low snow levels seen at Oregon’s Crater Lake on April 21, 2015.Credit: NPS
Lake Mead Water Levels, Records, Continue to Fall. Here’s an excerpt of an update from The Las Vegas Review-Journal: “…Federal forecasters expect the lake to stay in record territory and continue to drop through the end of June, when it could dip as low as 1,073 feet above sea level. After that, the reservoir should begin to inch back up as Lake Powell delivers more water downstream. This should give record keepers time to update their ledgers before next April, when the water level will likely to enter historic territory once again. Should Lake Mead start 2016 below the 1,075 mark, it will trigger the first federal shortage declaration on the Colorado and prompt Nevada and Arizona to cut back on the amount of water they take from the river...”

File photo above: “This photo taken, Aug. 18, 2014, shows a view of the white “bathtub” ring around Lake Mead. Taken in the area near Callville Bay Resort & Marina.” (AP Photo/The Sun, Steve Marcus).
Air Force’s Plan To Drop U.S. Forecast System For U.K. Model Draws Criticism. Meteorologist Jason Samenow has the interesting developments at Capital Weather Gang; here’s a clip: “The U.S. Air Force Weather Agency, which provides forecasts for Air Force and Army missions around the world, plans to replace its U.S.-based forecasting system with a model from the United Kingdom. The U.K. model selected by the Air Force, known as the Unified Model of the United Kingdom Met Office, is widely respected. The Air Force says it will improve its forecast capabilities and lower its costs. Within a single framework, this model is able to provide both short- and longer-range forecasts over large and small areas — which is not a seamless operation within the current U.S. system...”
Weather-Related Careers Are Hot. What you see on television with meteorology is merely the tip of a large and growing iceberg of career possibilities. Here’s an excerpt from The Chicago Tribune: “Everyone needs to know the weather and how to prepare for it; however, there are a growing number of job options other than weather forecasting for those interested in a career in atmospheric science. Only about 8 percent of those in weather-related professions actually work as on-air new personalities, according to the U.S. Department of Labor‘s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most weather-related careers, says the BLS, are in the scientific and technical services areas…” (Image credit: NOAA).
Steerable Bullets? Science fiction, stuff right out of The Matrix, is becoming a reality. Here’s a link to a video and story excerpt from The Verge: “We already have smart guns, but DARPA has taken the next logical step — the defense agency has built smart bullets. The military agency has shown off new footage of its Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance — shortened to EXACTO rounds — that show the smart bullets maneuvering in mid-air to hit moving targets. DARPA first showed off its EXACTO technology in a video released last year...”
Is Flying Greener Than Driving? An interesting analysis and article from Chris Mooney at The Washington Post; here’s a snippet: “…new analysis, just out from Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, offers a surprising answer. Namely, Sivak finds that driving today is actually considerably more “energy intensive” than flying, where energy intensity is defined as “the amount of energy needed to transport one person a given distance...”
Tesla’s Musk, Taking Cue From Apple’s Jobs, Prepares An Unveiling. Will our kids and grandkids think nothing of a house-powering battery in the garage? Here’s a snippet of a story at Silicon Valley Business Journal: “…Tesla’s home battery technology could, optimistically, power a home when the grid goes down or when night falls on a home using solar power. The battery will be housed in a cabinet which will be available in white or black and will be rented, not bought, for a $1,500 fee followed by small monthly payments, according to The Guardian. That plan is similar to the business model for Solar City, Tesla’s sister company, which breaks up payments to avoid sticker shock on a five-figure investment…”
People Don’t Know What’s Healthy. Amen to that. We know we should be eating our vegetables and more sugar is bad, but beyond that? Here’s an excerpt of a fascinating story at The Atlantic: “…There’s nothing inherently good about these changes, but there’s nothing terrible about them either. Splenda might not be any better than aspartame, but it’s probably not any worse, either. GMOs are in 80 percent of our food, so eating a non-GMO burrito bowl or Chunky Monkey cone won’t make much of a dent. If consumers really wanted to make packaged food healthier, they could pressure snack companies to produce smaller portions, or to not market so aggressively to children...”
Coming To A Golf Course Near You? Maybe not. Here’s more information on the GolfBoard, which looks like a lot more fun than my golf game: “GolfBoard is undeniably the most exciting and enjoyable way to experience any course. Easy to learn, safe, and exciting, Golfboard can be mastered by most anyone in just a few minutes. After just a few holes, you will quickly agree that GolfBoard is by far the most fun you have ever had on a golf course. GolfBoard eliminates the sedentary activity of sitting in a cart, while improving speed of play, reducing turf wear, and offering golfers the chance to experience the natural terrain in way previously reserved for surfers and snowboarders…”

TODAY: Sunny, distractingly nice. Winds: East 5-10. High: 71
THURSDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase. Low: 48
FRIDAY: Few showers likely, cooler. High: 68
SATURDAY: Some sun, nicer day of the weekend. Wake-up: 52. High: 76
SUNDAY: PM T-storms, strong to severe. Wake-up: 60. High: 77
MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, a bit cooler. Wake-up: 55. High: 68
TUESDAY: Showery rains southern Minnesota. Wake-up: 50. High: 65
WEDNESDAY: Showers and T-storms, some heavy? Wake-up: 55. High: 66

Climate Stories…
Minnesota House Says “What Climate Change”? I honestly thought we were better and smarter than this. I’m a recovering Republican, one who still responds to evidence, data and science. Call me crazy but conservatism should probably apply to the environment, God’s Creation, the very thing that sustains us. What’s the most important thing you can do as a citizen to address climate volatility, a scientific reality that will impact our families for generations to come? Vote persistent science luddites in St. Paul out of office. No, they’re not scientists, but many of these (alleged) representatives aren’t listening to the real scientists either. They’re sticking their fingers in their ears, protecting special interests and a campaign donations, not the common good. They certainly aren’t looking out for your long-term interests. Here’s an excerpt from The Star Tribune: “…And yet they did, voting almost exactly along party lines against admitting that climate change even exists. They aren’t scientists, after all. Well, most of them aren’t. Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said that the very next day the same House passed a bill legislating that these members will have the final say on complicated, scientific, water quality levels set by pollution control experts. “This was the essence of last week,” Hornstein said ruefully. “This is your government at work.”

Vatican Spells Out Vision For Zero-Carbon World. Once again Pope Francis is assuming a true leadership role, according to a story at The Carbon Brief; here’s the intro: “The Vatican has gathered religious leaders, scientists, politicians and businessmen under one roof to agree that acting on climate change is a “moral and religious imperative for humanity”. This was the essence of a declaration signed by the attendees of a one-day meeting hosted yesterday by the Holy See. It outlines a vision for the future of the planet, including the adoption of low-carbon energy systems, a shift of investment away from the military and towards sustainable development, and the transfer of money from the rich to the poor...”

The Pope Joins The Climate Wars. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed from The New York Times Editorial Board: “…Catholic conservatives have argued that the pope has no special authority to delve into matters of scientific fact. But that is no more than another attempt by climate-skeptics to pretend that there remains serious doubt about why the world is warming up or about the potential consequences. What remains is to acknowledge that we all have a moral responsibility to do something about it. As Francis put in a Twitter post this month, “We need to care for the earth so that it may continue, as God willed, to be a source of life for the entire human family...”

Photo credit above: “Pope Francis is cheered by faithful as he leaves St. Peter’s Square at the end of the weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 29, 2015.” (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pope Francis Steps Up Campaign on Climate Change, To Conservatives’ Alarm. The New York Times reports; here’s the introduction: “Since his first homily in 2013, Pope Francis has preached about the need to protect the earth and all of creation as part of a broad message on the environment. It has caused little controversy so far. But now, as Francis prepares to deliver what is likely to be a highly influential encyclical this summer on environmental degradation and the effects of human-caused climate change on the poor, he is alarming some conservatives in the United States who are loath to see the Catholic Church reposition itself as a mighty voice in a cause they do not believe in...” (File photo: AP).

College Students Are Making Global Warming A Moral Issue. Here’s Why That Scares People. Dave Roberts has a superb essay at Vox; here’s a snippet: “…But the climate movement’s message, despite back-to-the-land stereotypes still floating around, is not that humanity ought to return to a pastoral, pre-modern, low-energy lifestyle, or that the global poor ought to remain poor. It’s that a better world is possible — clean, high-tech, prosperous, and just — and that fossil fuel companies are using their enormous legacy wealth and power to prevent the transition to that better world. Doing so is immoral, as is supporting the enterprise with investment dollars. It is that narrative behind which activists are seeking to brand fossil fuel companies as social pariahs…”

More Fatal Earthquakes To Come, Warn Climate Change Scientists. It took me some time to wrap my brain around this – how does climate volatility possibly impact the clashing, grinding fault lines that result in tremors. Newsweek has some answers that are non-obvious; here’s an excerpt: “The untold – and terrifying – story behind the earthquake that devastated Nepal last Saturday morning begins with something that sounds quite benign. It’s the ebb and flow of rainwater in the great river deltas of India and Bangladesh, and the pressure that puts on the grinding plates that make up the surface of the planet. Recently discovered, that causal factor is seen by a growing body of scientists as further proof that climate change can affect the underlying structure of the Earth. Because of this understanding, a series of life-threatening “extreme geological events” – earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis – is predicted by a group of eminent geologists and geophysicists including University College London’s Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards…”

Photo credit above: “In this Monday, April 27, 2015, photo provided by the International Nepal Fellowship, an elderly woman is seen standing at her collapsed home in the village of Pokhridada, in Gorkha district, about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the epicenter of Saturday’s massive earthquake in Nepal.” (Thomas Meier/International Nepal Fellowship via AP)

Fossil Fuel Industry Must Change Profoundly, Says Former Shell Boss. Could new breakthroughs and technologies we can’t even dream of today clean up coal, gas and oil and reduce or even eliminate harmful emissions of CO2 and methane? I wouldn’t rule anything out, however unlikely. Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian: “The former chairman of Shell UK has argued the entire oil and gas industry needs to “strengthen its voice” in its response to climate change and step up efforts to develop low carbon technologies. Writing in BusinessGreen, James Smith, who now serves as chairman of green consultancy Carbon Trust, warns that the increasingly high-profile divestment and “unburnable carbon” campaigns had focused attention on whether oil and gas companies can survive in their current form...”
Vatican Official Calls for Moral Awakening on Global Warming. The Guardian has the story; here’s the introduction: “Increasing use of fossil fuels is disrupting Earth on an “almost unfathomable scale”, a top Vatican official has said, warning that a “full conversion” of hearts and minds is needed if global warming is to be conquered. The statement by Cardinal Peter Turkson, Pope Francis’s point man for peace and justice issues, was made at a Vatican summit on Tuesday, which focused on climate change and poverty...”