A Tornado Conundrum

The media has a nagging double standard when it comes to airing tornado video. It’s good for ratings and clicks, but are we encouraging people to drive into raging storms – in search of video clips that may cost them their lives?

In light of the 2013 El Reno EF-5 that killed several tornado researchers, including veteran Tim Samaras, many storm chasers have backed off, not as willing to risk life and limb.

Kory Hartman heads up Severe Studios, a network of professionally trained spotters and chasers. “They all have at least 2-3 years of National Weather Service spotter training” he explained.

No, you can’t fix stupid, but live tornado footage – from trained professionals on the scene – serves a purpose: “It provides critical confirmation – it gets people to take action” Hartman said.

Warm, dry weather spills over into Saturday morning but a slow-moving front sparks numerous T-storms from Saturday afternoon into Tuesday of next week. The front stalls nearby, repeated rounds of storms may spark localized flooding in some towns. Yes, lake water levels may rise a little more.

In today’s blog: 80s and ice on Lake Superior, and global CO2 levels pass the 400 ppm milestone.

Tornado Titillation or Public Service? So is airing tornado footage, after the fact, a good idea? Does it tempt others, without training or experience, to rush headlong into supercells with iPhones held high, tempting fate in the process? There’s anecdotal evidence that streaming LIVE tornado footage from webcam, spotters or chasers confirms the fact that there’s a life-threatening storm moving in, prompting people to take action and head for the basement or another shelter. I asked Severe Studios founder Kory Hartman for his thoughts in the wake of the (reckless) tornado footage from Watford City, North Dakota: “El Reno killed some of the best and most knowledgeable chasers of all time. If that somehow inspires people to grab a Camaro and a camcorder and go flying after storms at 90mph with no experience, then God help them.” He added “live video is very valuable as the “social science” confirmation that a tornado is heading toward a person’s house. The video of chasers getting hit by tornadoes should be a “caution” to people. After El Reno, most of my chasers have learned to leave earlier, have more escape routes, stay to the south/southeast of the storm, take others with for navigation, etc.”

* image above is a Doppler radar velocity field showing the enormous EF-5 tornado that hit El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31, 2013, killing at least one amateur storm chaser and 3 tornado research veterans, including Tim Samaras. The red dots are locations of storm spotters relative to the tornado vortex.

North Dakota Tornado Prompts Safety Discussion. No basements, no permanent structures, nothing but wide-open fields. Where do you go? The recent tornado near Watford City, North Dakota has prompted a discussion about safety – here’s a clip from Manteca Bulletin: “No sirens or local alert system warned an RV park housing workers in North Dakota’s oil patch about a Memorial Day tornado that injured nine people and damaged or destroyed 15 trailers. Even with warning, there are scant places to take cover in the wide-open plain. Though such weather is rare in the area, officials say the twister already has prompted discussion among companies and others about how to better protect the thousands of workers who have taken to temporary homes as they cash in on the region’s booming industry…”

Video: “Dramatic” North Dakota Tornado Footage. Is it irresponsible to show this or link to this clip? Perhaps. Is it news? My fear is that highlighting these clips encourage others to take unnecessary risks to get a “tornado money shot” – which will put a lot of people in harm’s way. With mixed feelings here’s an excerpt from Stranger Dimensions: “Warning: the above video contains strong language, nervous laughter, and some seriously awe-inspiring tornado footage. The tornado touched down in Watford City, North Dakota on Monday evening, and Dan Yorgason not only lived through it, he captured some pretty incredible footage…”

* Here is a G-rated version of the tornado video clip from North Dakota, courtesy of GMA and Yahoo News.

Sloppy Holding Pattern. Precious little rain is forecast west of the Rockies over the next 84 hours. NOAA’s 12 km NAM shows a moist fetch from the Gulf of Mexico fueling a slow-moving cool front pushing across the Dakotas into Minnesota by Saturday. Numerous showers and T-storms are expected across the Gulf Coast and Southeast. NAM Future Radar: HAMweather.

All or Nothing. Little or no rain is predicted from California into west Texas over the next 7 days, but torrential rains will linger over Louisiana and southern Mississippi, another area of potentially excessive rainfall from the Dakotas into the Upper Midwest this weekend, where some 2-4″ rainfall amounts are possible. Source: NOAA.

Tropical Whispers. The GFS has shown a similar solution for a few runs now, so although it’s far from a slam-dunk, our confidence level continues to grow regarding possible tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico by the end of next week. The GFS model brings a tropical depression or possible tropical storm (Arthur?) into the Florida Panhandle next weekend, around Sunday, June 8. The official NOAA outlook calls for fewer tropical systems in 2014, largely the result of El Nino increasing wind shear over the tropics. It would be ironic if we had a busy season for tropical storms and hurricanes. At this point nothing would surprise me. Map above: WSI.

Record Heat and Record Ice: Astonishing Scenes from Lake Superior. This takes weather whiplash to an entirely new level – sunbathing in record 80-degree heat with chunks of ice floating behind you. Meteorologist Jason Samenow reports at The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang: “…Near the southern shores of Lake Superior, fragments of ice  still speckled the water’s surface this Memorial Day weekend.  These vestiges from the polar vortex winter presented an amazing contrast with the actual air temperature – which surged into the 80s in some areas just a few miles inland.  Heat records were set in a region with record-setting ice extent – quite the incongruity…” (Image above: NASA).

Tropical Pattern East of Rockies. While a stubborn bubble of Canadian high pressure keeps much of New England cooler than average, an expanding dome of hot, humidified air sparks numerous T-storms from Montana and the Upper Midwest into the Ohio Valley and Southeast. Locally heavy rains are likely along the Gulf Coast. Dark green-shaded areas show a probability of precipitation greater than 60%. Source: NOAA.

Researchers Turn To Drones To Gather Hurricane Information. Because drones can capture real-time data that Hurricane Hunter aircraft can’t. Here’s an excerpt of a great article from AP and Longview’s News-Journal: “…Hurricane hunter aircraft typically don’t fly below 5,000 feet and can’t descend below 1,500 feet, and real-time radar doesn’t provide information about the thermodynamics at work inside a storm’s cloudy core. Canisters stuffed with electronics dropped from the planes transmit data about a storm’s pressure, temperature, winds and moisture as they fall to the ocean, but they remain airborne for only a few minutes. The kind of drone that Cione plans to launch from the hurricane hunters will spend hours descending slowly, cruising on the air currents spinning through a storm, possibly even orbiting a hurricane’s eyewall…”

London’s Dirty Secret: Pollution Worse Than Beijing’s. This comes as a surprise to me – I was just in London in late December and the air quality was pretty good, overall. It may have been a fluke, according to a story at Bloomberg, which examines the downside of diesel; here’s a snippet: “London has a dirty secret. Levels of the harmful air pollutant nitrogen dioxide at a city-center monitoring station are the highest in Europe. Concentrations are greater even than in Beijing, where expatriates have dubbed the city’s smog the “airpocalypse.” It’s the law of unintended consequences at work. European Union efforts to fight climate change favored diesel fuel over gasoline because it emits less carbon dioxide, or CO2...”

125 Years After Johnstown: Facts About The Flood. Here’s a snippet of an interesting piece from AP and seattlepi.com: ” A privately owned dam collapsed in western Pennsylvania 125 years ago on May 31, 1889, unleashing a flood that killed 2,209 people. The terrible stories from the Johnstown Flood of 1889 are still part of lore because of the gruesome nature of many of the deaths and the key role it played in the rise of the American Red Cross. Here’s some of what’s known about the flood, one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history…”

File photo credit: “In this 1889 file photograph, people stand atop houses among ruins after disastrous flooding in Johnstown, Pa. Facts, figures and anecdotes about the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania, which killed 2,209 people 125 years ago, gave the Red Cross its first international response effort and helped set a precedent for American liability law.” Photo: Uncredited, AP

The Internet As We Know It Is Dying. I read it on the Internet, so it must be true. Here’s a clip from a story at Salon: “…All is not well on the Web. While the particulars of each outburst of consternation and anger vary significantly, a common theme connects them all: The relentless corporatization and centralization of control over Internet discourse is obviously not serving the public interest. The good stuff gets co-opted, bought out, or is reduced to begging for spare change on the virtual street corner. The best minds of our generation have been destroyed by web metrics, dragging themselves across a vast wasteland in search of the next clickbait headline…”

On the other hand…

State of the Internet: Still Growing but More Mobile Than Ever. Mary Meeker has a few interesting observations about mobile trends in this New York Times article; here’s an excerpt: “…People are media junkies, sharing articles via social media and tapping into streaming services. Apps are replacing linear TV channels as the way to consume video, with Americans aged 16 to 34 watching just 41 percent of their TV live, she said. Google’s YouTube is also booming with consumers. “They are increasingly loving short-form video,” she said. “Consumers even love ads.” And 22 percent of video watching globally is done on mobile devices…” (image above: blazevideo.com).

What the Meeker Report Doesn’t Say: An Internet Tsunami is Coming. Moore’s Law apparently applies to the Internet too. Will it reinvent and prove resilient over the long haul? Please don’t take amazon.com away from me. Here’s a link to the story at inc.com.

BMW’s Techo-Flagship i8. Here’s more information on BMW’s new drool-worthy plug-in hybrid from the future. I can be yours – if you get a second mortgage on the house. Details from Gizmag: “BMW’s “sportscar of the future” is about to begin customer deliveries. The i8 is a plug-in hybrid with a short fully electric range, 112 miles per gallon hybrid efficiency and a very feisty, 357 horsepower, all wheel drive sports mode that fires it to 60 mph in four and a half seconds. It’s a very clever piece of engineering and a beautiful piece of futurist auto art – a stepping stone between the oil age and the electric future. Take a closer look in our huge photo gallery and video overview...”

A Cartographic Guide To Starbuck’s Global Domination. I’m more of a Caribou-guy, but I’ve spent a small fortune at Starbucks as well – they’re getting harder to avoid, worldwide. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting piece at Quartz: “…Unsurprisingly, Starbucks shops tend to pop up around densely populated areas of the US. But outside of urban centers in wealthier countries, there’s plenty of territory that the vanillia-chai-skinny-latte has not yet claimed. Vast swaths of the US, not to mention the rest of the world, are untouched by the Starbucks green-siren logo…”

81 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.

73 F. average high on May 28.

62 F. high on May 28, 2013.

May 28 in Minnesota Weather History. Source: Twin Cities National Weather Service.

1949: Downpour dumps over 7 inches of rain at Thief River Falls.

1947: Freak snow storm over far southern Minnesota, northern Iowa, and southern Wisconsin. Worthington, MN picked up an inch, while some places in southern Wisconsin got a half-foot.

TODAY: Warm sunshine. Winds: SE 10 Dew point: 55. High: 83

THURSDAY NIGHT: Clear and mild. Low: 61

FRIDAY: Plenty of sun, even warmer. Dew point: 63. High: 87

SATURDAY: Sticky, PM T-storms likely. Dew point: 66. Wake-up: 64. High: 84

SUNDAY: Still steamy, more heavy T-storms. Wake-up: 65. High: 83

MONDAY: Front stalls, more T-storms nearby. Wake-up: 66. High: 81

TUESDAY: Showers linger, turning cooler. Wake-up: 63. High: 76

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, less humid. Wake-up: 59. High: 77

Climate Stories…

Carbon Dioxide Passes Global 400 ppm Milestone. Climate Central has an update; here’s the introduction: “…A new carbon dioxide milestone has been reached according to the World Meteorological Agency. Average carbon dioxide measurements at all monitoring stations in the northern hemisphere were above 400 parts per million for the month of April, the first time that’s been recorded in human history. Previous reports from the Mauna Loa Observatory, the longest continually running CO2 monitoring site in the world, showed that the average CO2 concentration for April was above 400 ppm. On Monday, the WMO reported that the 11 other northern hemisphere monitoring stations that continuously monitor CO2 also surpassed the 400 ppm mark for the month…”

Graphic credit above: “The location and April average CO2 levels measured at 12 World Meteorological Organization monitoring stations around the globe.” Data: World Meteorological Organization.

Obama To Offer Rules To Sharply Curb Power Plants’ Carbon Emissions. The New York Times has an update; here’s the introduction: “President Obama will use his executive authority to propose a global warming regulation that would cut carbon pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent and pave the way for the creation of state cap-and-trade programs without having to go through a reluctant Congress, according to people familiar with the rule. The proposed regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency and set to be unveiled Monday by Mr. Obama at the White House, would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy...”

Climate Change a Top Priority, Says ExxonMobil CEO. I had to pick myself up off the floor after reading this one. The CEO of ExxonMobile acknowledging man-made climate change? I want to give anyone the benefit of a doubt, and the ability to change their mind based on data and facts on the ground. Will technological innovation save us from ourselves? Here’s an excerpt from Natural Gas Intelligence: “…He (ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson) asked shareholders to “rightfully acknowledge” that climate change “is the most complex area of scientific and social conversation anyone’s having today. It is extremely complex. And it is one that’s not going to be a ready set of solutions that are going to fit the world’s peoples because the world’s peoples all have varying needs in this stage of their development, which is why it makes it so complex. “We do support and engage in, and will continue to engage in, active dialogue.” Among other things, ExxonMobil scientists have continued to be actively engaged with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Tillerson...”

Beetles and Climate Change Helped Create This Huge Wildfire in Alaska. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus explains at Slate; here’s a clip: “…This particular fire has grown so large as a result of “years of spruce bark beetle infestation,” he told me. The bugs have killed and weakened countless trees in this area, creating more kindling. That’s forced fire command agencies to take a step back and essentially let the fire burn, for safety reasons: “You can’t put people into an area where a bunch of trees have died and fallen.” The U.S. Forest Service predicts that “the greatest risk to spruce forests over the next 30 years will be in Alaska,” as spruce beetles expand their attack on trees…”

File photo above: “Trees turning red in forests that have been attacked by the mountain pine beetles in Montana, July 7, 2011. Some scientists are increasingly worried that as the warming accelerates, trees themselves could become climate change victims on a massive scale.” (Josh Haner/The New York Times).

Government’s Weather Forecasters Shouldn’t Discuss Climate Change, Says Environment Canada. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting post from Mike De Souza: “Weather forecasters at Environment Canada aren’t supposed to discuss climate change in public, says a Canadian government spokesman. Environment Canada made the comments in response to emailed questions about its communications policy. The department defended its policy by suggesting that Environment Canada meteorologists – among the most widely-quoted group of government experts in media reports and broadcasts – weren’t qualified to answer questions about climate change. “Environment Canada scientists speak to their area of expertise,” said spokesman Mark Johnson in an email...”

Water and Conflict in Syria. Can prolonged drought, made worse by climate change, increase the potential for hunger-fueled revolution? Our military seems to be taking the threat seriously; here’s an excerpt of an article at Huffington Post: “Starting in 2006 and lasting through 2011, Syria suffered the worst long-term drought and the most severe set of crop failures in recorded history. In a new research paper, I’ve looked at the role of regional drought, unsustainable water management policies, and climatic conditions in contributing to the severe conflict in Syria in the past few years (see the peer-reviewed paper “Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria” by Dr. Peter H. Gleick, coming out in the July issue — and here online — in the American Meteorological Society journal Weather, Climate, and Society. A press release on this paper is now available, here). Many factors influenced the civil war in Syria, including long-standing political, religious, and ideological disputes; economic dislocations from both global and regional factors; and the consequences of water shortages influenced by drought, ineffective watershed management, and the growing influence of climate variability and change…”

As Trends Worsen, Time To Plan For Wildfire In The West. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed in The Denver Post: “…Already, wildland firefighting costs the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management an average of $3 billion per year. That’s triple the amount from a decade ago. At least a third of the bill goes to defend private homes. In the last 10 years, the acres burned per fire doubled and the average fire burned twice as long. Since 2010, the number of structures destroyed tripled and firefighter fatalities rose fourfold. These trends will worsen because of climate change and continued home building of fire-prone lands. The fire season is on average two months longer since the 1970s. In Montana, recent records show a one-degree Fahrenheit increase in summertime temperatures more than doubles both the area burned and the cost to defend homes…”

File photo: Rick Rycroft, AP.

Why “Global Warming” is Scarier than “Climate Change”. Which term is most likely to get the attention of the public, and why? Here’s an excerpt from Time Magazine: “The two terms may seem synonymous, but one generates much more engagement than the other. A quick check of the TIME.com archives reveals that I’ve used the term “global warming” in 545 posts, videos and articles—not counting this one. And the term “climate change”? 852 times. That’s not surprising. While the two terms are largely synonymous—which is why there are 472 posts where I use both—”climate change” has become the preferred term for scientists because it better describes the long-term changes in the planet’s climate, which go well beyond simple temperature increase. Scientists use it, and so have I, but most of the time I simply rotate the two terms for variety’s sake…”

The Wall Street Journal Denies The 97% Scientific Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming. Here’s a snippet from a story at The Guardian: “Rupert Murdoch’s The Wall Street Journal editorial page has long published op-eds denying basic climate science. This week, they published an editorial denying the 97% expert scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming. The editorial may have been published as a damage control effort in the wake of John Oliver’s brilliant and hilarious global warming debate viral video, which has now surpassed 3 million views. After all, fossil fuel interests and Republican political strategists have been waging a campaign to obscure public awareness of the expert consensus on global warming for nearly three decades…”

Rick Scott Won’t Say If He Thinks Man-Made Climate Change Is Real, Significant. Here’s an excerpt of an interview with the governor of Florida at The Miami Herald Blog: “…Q: In 2011 or 2010, you were much more doubtful about climate change. Now you’re sounding less doubtful about man-made climate change because now you’re not saying ‘Look, I doubt the science.’ Now you’re saying: ‘I’m not a scientist.’ Am I right in guessing that?

Scott: “Well, I’m not a scientist. But I can tell you what we’ve accomplished. We put a lot of effort into making sure that we take care of our natural treasures – the Everglades, making sure water flows south, any flooding around our coast. So we’re doing the right thing.”

Question (asked by citizen-activist): So do you believe in the man-made influence on climate change?

Scott: “Nice seeing you guys.”
Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2014/05/rick-scott-wont-say-if-he-thinks-man-made-climate-change-is-real-significant.html#storylink=cpy

Bill Maher Responds to Pat Sajak. Here’s a clip from an online rebuke of Pat Sajak’s moronic tweet last week – courtesy of HBO and Mediaite: “…Maher found it ironic how Sajak’s show is basically about pieces of a puzzle pointing to one obvious answer, but “when that happens with scientific consensus, he wants to take another spin.” He told Sajak when his grandchildren solve the puzzle that is climate change, it’ll read, “Granddad was an idiot.”