May 21

Flooding Rains Plague Gulf Coast – NOAA Predicts Above Average Atlantic Hurricane Season – Anniversary of Moore, Oklahoma EF-5 Tornado

Paul Douglas

Tracking a Welcome Weekend Hot Front

Wednesday evening’s freakish tornado outbreak from Owatonna to Lakeville was a rude reminder that unexpected weather can come out of left field (or Iowa) when you least expect it.

Conditions for tornadoes were marginal at best. There were no watches in effect. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center didn’t have southern Minnesota under a “slight risk” of severe storms. But the atmosphere didn’t seem to care, with enough instability and spin to support a tornadic “supercell” thunderstorm pushing up I-35.

Take- aways? We know when the atmosphere is ripe for severe. MOST of the time. Situational awareness is critical. If you see a funnel or debris swirling around, head for the basement, even if sirens aren’t sounding.


Funnels or possible dual tornadoes near Owatonna.
Credit: Matt Knudson, via Sven Sundgaard

7 Tornado Touchdowns South of MSP Wednesday Evening? That has yet to be confirmed, but a single rotating “supercell” thunderstorm dropped a series of funnels and smaller tornadoes from Owatonna northward to Lakeville. Here’s an excerpt from Bring Me The News: “An unexpected night of twisters stunned Minnesotans south of the Twin Cities Wednesday night, with at least seven tornadoes confirmed by law enforcement and trained spotters. The National Weather Service is expected to conduct damage surveys on Thursday, but early reports show some tree damage from the storms, though no structures have been reported as being damaged by the tornadoes…The weather service has yet to confirm all of the reported tornado touchdowns, but based on the storm reports there were two tornadoes simultaneously on the ground near Owatonna and Morristown, while the Elko New Market area was impacted by two tornadoes 15 minutes apart…”


Doppler radar at 7:45 pm Wednesday Evening
Paul Douglas

Here is What It Looked Like on Doppler. That red/green swirl at the bottom of the image is evidence of strong rotation in a spinning “supercell” thunderstorm. This is what Doppler does, it detects not only raindrops and hailstones, but it can derive wind direction and speed. The bright green-shaed area is moving toward the NWS radar site in Chanhassen, the red blob is air moving rapidly away from the site. We can’t detect the individual tornado, but we can see the parent (rotating) thunderhead that spawned a series of tornadoes south of MSP Wednesday evening.



Erratic GFS Guidance = Low Confidence. We want to look over the horizon, even when we know it’s a bad idea and our hearts will be broken. The latest run of NOAA’s model spins up a big closed low over the Great Lakes, which implies a cool bias for much of the eastern half of the USA the first week of June. The only problem: I’m not sure it’s real, not yet.


NOAA’s GOES-East satellite captured this image of Hurricane Laura on August 26, 2020 as it approached the Gulf Coast.
NOAA

NOAA Predicts Another Active Atlantic Hurricane Season. Here’s an excerpt and link to the latest prediction from NOAA: “NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. Forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020. For 2021, a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 5 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher) is expected. NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. The Atlantic hurricane season extends from June 1 through November 30…”

NOAA National Hurricane Center

Philip Klotzbach, Twitter

Collin Gross, Twitter

KOCO-TV, Oklahoma City

May 20, 2013: Moore, Oklahoma Devastated by EF-5 Tornado. There hasn’t been another EF-5 since in the U.S. Check out the video from KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City: “On May 20, 2013, a massive EF-5 tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma. Twenty five lives were lost, including seven children who died while trying to take shelter at Plaza Towers Elementary. The tornado formed at 2:56 p.m. and was on the ground for 39 minutes. The tornado path was 17 miles long, 1.3 miles wide at the widest point. The tornado caused billions of dollars of damage…”


James Spann, Twitter

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Thursday, May 20th, 2021:

NOAA

Past 24 Hour Heavy Rain. Over the past day more rounds of heavy rain have fallen across the Gulf Coast, with additional reports of flooding in the region. Yesterday we did see record rainfall amounts in Texas in Corpus Christi (4.44”), Harlingen (2.95”) and Victoria (2.60”).

Heavy Rain Risk Continues. The heavy rain threat continues today, especially through the evening hours, with Flood/Flash Flood Watches in place through 7 PM including Little Rock, Shreveport, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. In some areas, especially near the coast, at least another 3” of rain could fall the next few days. That will be on top of already saturated grounds, which helps lead to that flood risk.

NOAA WPC

Excessive Rain Outlook Thursday. Across south-central Louisiana a Moderate Risk of excessive rain leading to flash flooding is in place today and tonight. Rainfall rates of 2-3” per hour will be possible, and 24-hour totals of at least up to 5” of rain will be possible. Once again, since the Gulf Coast has been extremely wet the past week or so, any heavy rain could lead to flash flooding due to saturated soils.

Month To Date Precipitation. It has been extremely wet so far this month (especially the past few days) across portions of the Gulf Coast, with several climate sites already receiving at least a foot of rain. Out of the cities listed above, if the month had ended Wednesday it would already be:

  • The wettest May in Victoria
  • The 3rd wettest May in Lake Charles and Lafayette
  • The 4th wettest May in Beaumont
  • The 5th wettest May in New Orleans

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix


Climate Stories…

A satellite image shows the long flow lines as a glacier moves ice into Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, on the right. The red patches mark bedrock.
USGS

Antarctica Heading for a Climate Tipping Point by 2060? Remind me to pass on coastal real estate for the foreseeable future. Here’s an excerpt from MarketWatch: “…New research shows it is Antarctica that may force a reckoning between the choices countries make today about greenhouse gas emissions and the future survival of their coastlines and coastal cities, from New York to Shanghai. That reckoning may come much sooner than people realize. The Arctic is losing ice as global temperatures rise, and that is directly affecting lives and triggering feedback loops that fuel more warming. But the big wild card for sea level rise is Antarctica. It holds enough land ice to raise global sea levels by more than 200 feet (60 meters) – roughly 10 times the amount in the Greenland ice sheet – and we’re already seeing signs of trouble…”


An enormous iceberg has calved from the western side of the Ronne Ice Shelf, lying in the Weddell Sea, in Antarctica.
European Space Agency (ESA)

World’s Largest Iceberg Breaks Off From Antarctica. CNN.com has details: “The world’s largest iceberg has calved from Antarctica over the past few days, a giant floating piece of ice close to 80 times the size of Manhattan. The iceberg broke off the western side of the Ronne Ice Shelf in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, the European Space Agency (ESA) said Wednesday. The iceberg is shaped like a giant ironing board, measuring around 170 kilometers (105 miles) in length and 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) in width. That makes it slightly larger than the Spanish island of Majorca, ESA said…”


Wildfires burn in northern Russia in early May, 2021. When fires burn this early in the season, scientists try to figure out whether they were sparked by “zombie fires’” that started the previous year.
Photograph by Copernicus Sentinel/Sentinel Hub processed by Pierre Markuse.

“Zombie Fires” in the Arctic Linked to a Rapidly Changing Climate. Here’s an excerpt from an explainer at National Geographic: “…What he saw on the satellite images were “zombie fires,” remnants of burns from the previous year that somehow stayed alive, smoldering underground, through the long, cold winter. Zombie fires aren’t an entirely new phenomenon in the Arctic; fire managers have noted occasional flare-ups in past decades. But Veraverbeke’s team found that their occurrences are tightly linked to climate change, happening more often after hot, long summers with lots of fire and suggesting that these still-rare events could become more frequent. “The sheer fact that this is happening is a testament to how quickly the region is changing,” he says…”


Scott Kelley, NASA ISS

Climate Change Makes Zombie Fires More Common, Fueling Climate Change: More perspective, headlines and links via Climate Nexus: “As if drought, flooding, extreme hurricanes, and deadly heat waves weren’t enough, climate change could make zombie forest fires more common, scientists say. Research published Wednesday in Nature found zombie fires — wildfires in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, so-called because they continue to smolder under winter snows and reignite once the snow melts — are becoming more common as global temperatures rise due to humans’ extraction and combustion of fossil fuels. Making matters worse, the Arctic is heating faster than the rest of the planet. The fires and warming fuel a vicious cycle: Higher temperatures enable longer fire seasons and more zombie fires, which lead to the release of more methane and CO2 from carbon-rich peatlands — just 10% of CO2 from Alaskan fires comes from burning trees — which further accelerates global warming. “Ten years ago, someone asked me, ‘How often do these happen?’ And I said, ‘Ehhh, they’re interesting but they don’t happen very often,’” Randi Jandt, a fire ecologist with the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, told National Geographic. But, she added, “We definitely seem to be seeing them more, in my 30 years of observation and asking people up there about [overwintering fires] before that.” (New York Times $, National Geographic, CNN, Axios, The Guardian, Reuters, BBC, Vice, ABC, Wired, Popular Mechanics, E&E $)


Anonymous Donors Keep the Climate Denial Machine Chugging. Gizmodo Earther has the post: “There’s lots of talk from the GOP and fossil fuel companies these days about changing their tune and finally getting really serious about climate change. But new research shows that not much has changed in the world of organized climate denial: It’s still massively funded by mostly anonymous donors shielding major conservative actors, and money has increased at a steady churn of around 3.4% per year over the past two decades. This consistency could be the key to climate denial’s continued success. The research, which was published Tuesday in Climatic Change, is an update to research published in the early 2010s by Robert Brulle, a Visiting Professor of Environment and Society at Brown University. Brulle’s earlier work on the “climate change counter-movement,” as he termed the vast network of dark money feeding into right-wing organizations…”

A roller coaster that once sat on the Funtown Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J., rests in the ocean on Oct. 31, 2012, after the pier was washed away by Hurricane Sandy.
Julio Cortez / AP

Climate Change’s Impact on Hurricane Sandy Has a Price: $8 Billion. Here’s an excerpt from an explainer at Public Radio Tulsa: “…The hurricane — also known as Superstorm Sandy — caused an estimated $70 billion in damages in the U.S., mostly from flooding. And while scientists have long believed that some of the carnage was attributable to a warming climate, it has been unclear just how much of a role human-caused warming played in the storm’s impacts. New research, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, puts a dollar amount on some of those damages, and it’s a startling figure. Using flood maps and sea-level rise measurements, researchers found that human-induced sea-level rise caused an estimated $8 billion in excess flooding damage during Hurricane Sandy and affected an additional 70,000 people…”


Superstorm Sandy
NASA

Climate Change Flooded 36,000 Homes, 71,000 people In Superstorm Sandy: Climate Nexus has more perspective with headlines and links: “Human-caused climate change was responsible for $8 billion of the damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, new research published Tuesday in Nature found. The additional flooding attributed to melting glaciers and ice sheets affected an additional 71,000 people, and just the climate-caused damage on its own would have been the fourth-most expensive weather-related disaster of last year’s record-shattering 22 billion-dollar disasters. Researchers calculated sea levels around New York City were almost 4 inches higher, and that the storm surge flooding caused by those extra four inches accounted for a full 13% of the storm’s overall monetary damage with dramatically higher damage caused by every additional inch. In some places the additional flooding caused massive damage that would have otherwise been completely avoided, like basement apartments at the outer edge of where it flooded. Elsewhere, just a few inches made a big difference, like where flood waters rose just above a home’s lowest electrical outlet, requiring extensive repairs. Overall, the study found an additional 36,000 homes were flooded because of climate change. “I often hear people say when we’re trying to help them adapt to increasing coastal flooding, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen in my lifetime. The sea-level rise won’t happen in my lifetime,’ “ Philip Orton, a co-author of the study, told NPR. “But it’s already happening to people. It’s already here.” (AP, NPR, Reuters, Bloomberg $, Grist, AFP, The Verge, Scientific American, CBS, Reuters, The Guardian, AccuWeather, The Hill; Climate Signals background: Hurricane Sandy, Storm surge increase, Sea level rise)


On Tuesday, the I.E.A. said that, after two hundred and fifty years, it’s time to stop exploring for oil, gas, and coal.
Erin Scott / Reuters

The International Energy Agency Issues a Landmark Statement About Fossil Fuels. Bill McKibbon Reports for The New Yorker; here’s an excerpt: “…The statement on Tuesday from the I.E.A. is a recommendation. It reads, “There is no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply in our net zero pathway. Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required.” That emphasis is in the original—in fact, in the new report that sentence is in headline-size type, as well it should be. It says that, after two hundred and fifty years, in the view of the I.E.A., the time has come to stop exploring for oil, gas, and coal. No rational plan for getting to 1.5 degrees (or anywhere near it) can deal with any new supply…”


If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt completely, sea levels would eventually rise by about 7 meters.
Jason Briner/University at Buffalo/PA

Greenland Ice Sheet on Brink of Major Tipping Point, Says Study. The Guardian has a summary of new research; here’s the intro: “A significant part of the Greenland ice sheet is on the brink of a tipping point, after which accelerated melting would become inevitable even if global heating was halted, according to new research. Rising temperatures caused by the climate crisis have already seen trillions of tonnes of Greenland’s ice pour into the ocean. Melting its ice sheet completely would eventually raise global sea level by 7 metres. The new analysis detected the warning signals of a tipping point in a 140-year record of ice-sheet height and melting rates in the Jakobshavn basin, one of the five biggest basins in Greenland and the fastest-melting. The prime suspect for a surge in melting is a vicious circle in which melting reduces the height of the ice sheet, exposing it to the warmer air found at lower altitudes, which causes further melting...”


Nothing to sneeze at…
Climate Central

How Climate Change is Making Allergy Season Even Worse. No kidding. ABC News has details: “…Researchers recently found that pollen seasons are starting about 20 days earlier than they used to, William Anderegg, assistant professor of ecology at the University of Utah’s School of Biological Science, told ABC News. In addition, there is 20% more pollen in the air right now than there was in the 1990s, Anderegg said. By 2040, pollen counts are expected to double from what they were in 2000, Fatteh added. There is also evidence to suggest that the pollen itself is more allergenic, said Amir Sapkota, a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health who specializes in how climate change affects human health.....”

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