67 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday (average high is 73).
95 F. high in the Twin Cities on May 24, 2010.
.07" of rain showers predicted for the Twin Cities today (NAM model). Heavier rain likely over far southern Minnesota.
NE 15-25. Predicted winds today, a cool northeast wind much of the day with temperatures in the 50s to low 60s.
Sunshine returns Thursday, lingering into a portion of Friday.
.17" rain predicted for Friday night, the next chance of widespread showers across Minnesota.
EF-5: Joplin tornado upgraded to a very rare EF-5 tornado, sustained winds estimated over 200 mph.
25,000 buildings in Joplin - half have been damaged or destroyed (CNN).
$3 billion: initial damage estimate from the Joplin tornado.
Update On Sunday's Tornado In Minneapolis. Here is the latest from the local Chanhassen office of the National Weather Service:
PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TWIN CITIES/CHANHASSEN MN 505 PM CDT TUE MAY 24 2011 ...STRONG EF-1 RATING ASSIGNED TO THE TORNADO THAT HIT NORTH MINNEAPOLIS AND OTHER AREAS... WINDS OF 100 TO 110 MPH WERE PRODUCED BY THE TORNADO THAT HIT NORTH MINNEAPOLIS...ST. LOUIS PARK...GOLDEN VALLEY...FRIDLEY...MOUNDS VIEW AND BLAINE. IT WAS ON THE GROUND FOR SIX AND ONE QUARTER MILES IN HENNEPIN COUNTY...PLUS AN ADDITIONAL EIGHT MILES ACROSS ANOKA AND RAMSEY COUNTIES AS THE TORNADO WENT THROUGH PARTS OF FRIDLEY... MOUNDS VIEW...AND BLAINE. THE TOTAL PATH LENGTH WAS 14 AND 1/4 MILES. THE TORNADO WAS ABOUT 1/2 MILE WIDE AT ITS WIDEST POINT. THE TIME OF TOUCHDOWN WAS APPROXIMATELY 215 PM...BUT THIS WILL BE FINE TUNED IN THE DAYS TO COME AS MORE EVIDENCE IS GATHERED. ACCORDING TO VARIOUS SECURITY CAMERAS...THE TORNADO MOVED INTO FRIDLEY AT 222 PM. THE INITIAL TOUCHDOWN IN ST. LOUIS PARK WAS 3/4 OF A MILE SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OF THE INTERSECTION OF INTERSTATE 394 AND HIGHWAY 100 WHERE TWO BUSINESSES SUSTAINED ROOF DAMAGE. THE TORNADO MOVED NORTHEAST...CROSSING HIGHWAY 100 WHERE IT HIT THE FIRST RESIDENCES ALONG CEDAR LAKE ROAD. IT THEN ENTERED THE SOUTHEAST PORTION OF GOLDEN VALLEY...CROSSED INTERSTATE 394 AND HEADED FOR THEODORE WIRTH PARK. DURING THIS TIME IT TOOK A BIT OF A NORTHWARD TURN AND BEGAN MOVING TO THE NORTH-NORTHEAST. THE TORNADO MOVED ACROSS WIRTH LAKE AND ENTERED THE CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS BETWEEN GLENWOOD AVENUE AND 16TH AVENUE. UP TO THIS POINT...DAMAGE WAS EF-0 WITH THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE DAMAGE BEING DOWNED TREES ATOP BUILDINGS AND VEHICLES. AS THE TORNADO ENTERED MINNEAPOLIS, IT STRENGTHENED TO EF-1...AND BEGAN DEMOLISHING GARAGES...SHEDS...AND PARTIALLY REMOVING ROOFS. THERE WAS A HOUSE HERE OR THERE THAT HAD THEIR ROOFS COMPLETELY REMOVED...BUT ADJACENT HOUSES AND OTHER NEARBY STRUCTURES AND TREES DID NOT SUPPORT RAISING THE LEVEL TO EF-2. THE TORNADO HEADED FOR THE AREA AROUND PENN AVENUE AND BROADWAY AVENUE...THEN LOWRY AVENUE AND LOGAN AVENUE...THEN TO 42ND AVENUE AND LYNDALE AVENUE. IT CROSSED THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER JUST NORTH OF THE CAMDEN BRIDGE...AND BEGAN CAUSING DAMAGE IN ANOKA COUNTY. IT MOVED ACROSS THE MINNEAPOLIS WATER INTAKE FACILITY. AT THE WATER TREATMENT FACILITY...A FREE STANDING STORAGE GARAGE WAS COMPLETELY DESTROYED...WITH NUMEROUS COTTONWOOD TREES ON THE GROUNDS UPROOTED OR HAVING LARGE LIMBS SNAPPED OFF. FROM THE WATER FACILITY...THE TORNADO TRACKED NORTHEAST TO A RAIL YARD AND A LARGE INDUSTRIAL FACILITY...WHERE A LARGE METAL BUILDING ON THE GROUNDS HAD PARTS OF TWO WALLS RIPPED OFF AND A LARGE SECTION OF THE ROOF BLOWN OFF. AT THE RAIL YARD...EIGHT TRAIN CARS WERE TIPPED OVER. THIS CAN BE DONE BY WINDS LESS THAN 110 MPH. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RAIL YARD...MORE INDUSTRIAL FACILITIES AND WAREHOUSES SUSTAINED DAMAGE ALONG MIAMI STREET...THE WORST BEING A WAREHOUSE THAT LOST PART OF ITS ROOFING. THE STRONGER EF-1 DAMAGE OCCURRED IN THE AREA BETWEEN PENN AND BROADWAY AND THE CAMDEN BRIDGE. THE TORNADO THEN MOVED ACROSS RESIDENTIAL SECTIONS OF FRIDLEY... WHERE EXTENSIVE TREE DAMAGE WAS DONE NORTHEAST OF THE MIDDLE SCHOOL. THE TORNADO THEN WEAKENED AS IT CONTINUED NORTHEAST ACROSS THE EAST SIDE OF OF FRIDLEY TO SPRING LAKE...WHERE IT MOVED INTO THE NORTHWEST SIDE OF MOUNDS VIEW. SPORADIC TREE DAMAGE OCCURRED DURING THIS TIME FRAME. THE LAST SIGNS OF DAMAGE WERE SEEN ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE BLAINE-ANOKA COUNTY AIRPORT...WHERE A FEW HANGARS RECEIVED SOME MINOR EXTERIOR DAMAGE. THE TORNADO WAS ON THE GROUND FOR ABOUT 8 MILES FROM FRIDLEY TO BLAINE.
North Minneapolis Tornado Toll: $166 Million, And Expected To Rise. The tornado that touched down in St. Louis Park Sunday afternoon, tracking across North Minneapolis into the Fridley area, was probably a strong EF-1 or weak EF-2 tornado, capable of winds around 130 mph. More on the resulting damage from the Star Tribune: "As they walked through the rubble of the worst tornado to hit Minneapolis in 30 years, city officials said Monday that the toll of the devastation is at least $166 million and likely to rise as they fully assess just how many homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed. Under mostly sunny skies, hundreds of residents left homeless by Sunday's tornado sifted through the ruins of their homes and neighborhood amid a treacherous landscape of downed trees and power lines. More than 600 buildings will need major repairs and 35 homes were so badly damaged that they can no longer be occupied, city officials said. After touring the area with Mayor R.T. Rybak and other leaders, Gov. Mark Dayton called the situation a "terrible tragedy" and said the state will offer whatever help north Minneapolis needs to recover, including a special session to consider disaster aid. "God bless the lives of those who have been affected," said Dayton, who toured the North Side with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, state Sen. Linda Higgins, City Council President Barb Johnson and other council members."
Joplin Damage Path. Aerial photographs show the extent of damage from Sunday's tornado, which ripped right through the heart of town. Full-resolution photo courtesy of Twitpic.
Multi-Vortex Tornado. NOAA meteorologists confirm that Sunday's tornado in Joplin was a multi-vortex tornado, as many as 3-5 tornadoes all rotating around a common center. Where those (small/fierce) mini-tornadoes struck damage was total. This accounts for the photo above, with pockets of nearly complete devastation next to homes still left partially standing. Photo courtesy of the news-leader.com.
Weather Monster. The tornado that hit Joplin was similar to the multi-vortex tornado near Tushka, Oklahoma on April 14, 2011. Image courtesy of Wikipedia, which has more details on these rare (and often deadly) multi-vortex tornadoes: "A multiple-vortex tornado is a tornado that contains several vortices rotating around, inside of, and as part of the main vortex. These multiple vortices are somewhat similar to eyewall mesovortices found in intense tropical cyclones. The only times multiple vortices may be visible are when the tornado is first forming or when condensation and debris is balanced enough so that subvortices are apparent without being obscured. They are responsible for most (if not all) cases where narrow arcs of extreme destruction lie right next to weak damage within tornado paths. Suction vortices (or suction spots) are really substructures of many, perhaps all, tornadoes but are not always easily visible. These occur, usually, at the base of the tornado vortex where the tornado makes contact with the surface. Subvortices tend to form after vortex breakdown reaches the surface and are resultant from the ratio of cyclonically incoming and rising air motions. Multivortex structure is not unique to tornadoes, occurring in other circulations such as dust devils, but is a natural result of the physics of vortex dynamics.
Signature Of A Tornado. I have never seen this before - an apparent tornado (or straight-line wind gust) hit El Reno, Oklahoma around 4:30 (the blue spike at the right end of the graph). Winds gusted to 150 mph, and (somehow) the anemometer continued to work after the storm passes. Remarkable. Thanks to the Oklahoma Mesonet - which you can access here.
Fort Worth Wedge. That appears to be a 1/2 to 1 mile wide tornado in the Fort Worth area Tuesday evening, courtesy of Twitpic.
Joplin Tornado Survivors Describe Scenes Of Death And Horror. I don't think any of us can imagine what those few terrifying minutes must have been like, when winds went from 15 mph to nearly 200 mph in the blink of an eye - the air filled with horizontal debris, pieces of homes, cement blocks, stones, asphalt, roofing shingles, appliances, cars and even semis - a landfill suspended in the air. The Joplin twister was a rare "multi-vortex" tornado, as many as 4-6 tornadoes all rotating around a common center. Where one of these "suction vortices" touched down the damage was total, scraping homes right down to the foundation, evidence of an EF-4 or even a weak EF-5. Huffington Post and Reuters have the chilling details: "JOPLIN, Missouri (Reuters/Kevin Murphy) - There was little warning for Floyd Rockwell and his wife Donna when a mile-wide tornado dropped out of the dark sky on top of them. The twister brought death and destruction with a fast fury that was hard to escape. It sent the elderly couple and about 100 fellow worshipers at a Baptist church running for shelter in a children's Sunday school room. Rockwell, 74, lay across his 71-year-old wife to try to protect her as the funnel cloud took off the church roof and sent cinder block walls tumbling down. Rockwell saw at least one body pulled from the rubble but was told six more people didn't survive. When the shaken couple tried to return to their home, they found it had also been lost to the storm. Rockwell is sure the couple would have died had they been there instead of at church. "It's gone," he said. "We're starting over." The Rockwells were just two of thousands who were sent scurrying for their lives on Sunday evening when the deadly tornado roared through the small Missouri city of Joplin."
1,500 Still Unaccounted For. It's a startling number - the hope and expectation is that most of these people are with friends (or strangers), riding out the storm, unable to communicate with loved ones (phone lines and cell towers are still down), but the death toll will almost certainly continue to rise in Joplin, as reported by the New York Times: "JOPLIN, Mo. — About 1,500 people are unaccounted for in this battered city, a Fire Department official said Tuesday, as rescue workers took advantage of a few hours of sunny weather to continue searching for survivors in buildings leveled by the country’s deadliest tornado in more than 60 years. At least 117 people have died. While the number of those unaccounted for is alarmingly high in a city with only 49,000 people — and raises the specter of a far higher death count — it may merely be a reflection of the widespread breakdown of communication systems here in the wake of Sunday’s vicious storm. Many residents who fled ahead of the tornado or survived it may be unable to notify the authorities or family members who have reported them missing. Capt. Robert Daus of the Maryland Heights Fire District, who is helping to lead a team of about 100 St. Louis-area firefighters in search and rescue operations in Joplin, said that in addition to the 1,500 people who remain unaccounted for, an additional 500 had been injured by the tornado, which cut a three-quarter-mile-wide path through this southwestern Missouri city and damaged as many as 30 percent of its buildings."
Good Batting Average. According to the Weather Channel's Eric Fisher 480 of 481 (confirmed) tornadoes in 2011 touched down in areas under an SPC tornado watch.
In TV Crew's Hunt For Twisters, More Than They Bargained For. The New York Times has a story about the "Great Tornado Hunt", a documentary for the Weather Channel. The TV crew just happened to be outsid of Joplin when the deadliest tornado in 6 decades touched down: "JOPLIN, Mo. — The crew of “The Great Tornado Hunt,” a show about storm chasers on The Weather Channel, had been suffering through a calm spell for the project’s first two weeks. “We had chased Thursday, Friday, Saturday — it had been pretty quiet,” said Greg Forbes, the channel’s tornado forecasting expert, who was with the seven-member crew in the Kansas City area. That changed on Sunday. The team was the first media crew on the scene in Joplin, arriving just 10 minutes after the tornado touched down. “Our goal, our hope, is that we see a big beautiful tornado over a cornfield in Kansas,” said Mike Bettes, an on-air meteorologist who led the Weather Channel team. Instead, he said, “our worst fear was realized yesterday.” They set up across the street from the hospital that took a direct hit from the twister, St. John’s Regional Medical Center. “People were just walking around aimlessly” Mr. Bettes recalled. “People were in a state of panic. It was chaos.” Storm chasing has long been an extreme hobby, and it has been spotlighted in recent years by the Internet, which allows semiprofessional chasers to share videos and even live-stream their trips. These days, it is surprising when a tornado touches down without being captured by someone with a video recorder. Now, as “The Great Tornado Hunt” dramatically illustrates, the experience is being broadcast to television viewers nationwide."
What's Going On? Weather Underground Chief Jeff Masters asks the question in his excellent Wunderblog: "The last year with more tornado deaths than 2011 was 1953, when three great tornadoes killed more than 90 people each. This old newsreel video shows destruction from the first of these deadly 1953 tornadoes, the May 11, 1953 F-5 tornado that hit downtown Waco Texas, killing 114 people. The wunderground youtube channel has almost 300 old newsreel videos of historically significant weather events. It's been an incredibly dangerous and deadly year for tornadoes. On April 14 - 16, we had the largest tornado outbreak in world history, with 162 tornadoes hitting the Southeast U.S. That record lasted just two weeks, when the unbelievable April 25 – 28 Super Outbreak hit. Unofficially, that outbreak had 327 tornadoes, more than double the previous record. The legendary April 3 – 4 1974 Super Outbreak has now fallen to third place, with 148 tornadoes. Damage from the April 25 – 28, 2011 outbreak was estimated to be as high as $5 billion, making it the most expensive tornado outbreak in history; the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado of April 27 may end up being the most expensive tornado of all-time—until the damage from Sunday's Joplin tornado is tabulated. Unofficially, 660 tornadoes hit the U.S. In April 2011, making it the busiest tornado month in history. The previous record was 542 tornadoes, set in May 2003. The previous April tornado record was 267, set in 1974, and April has averaged just 161 tornadoes over the past decade. So what's going on? Why are there so many tornadoes, and so many people getting killed? Well, the high death toll this year is partly just bad luck. Violent EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes usually miss heavily populated areas, and we've had the misfortune of having two such tornadoes track over cities with more than 50,000 people (the Joplin tornado, and the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham EF-4 tornado in Alabama, which killed 61 people on April 27.) This sort of bad luck occurred in both 1953, when F-5 tornadoes hit Flint, Worcester, and Waco, and in 1936, when F-5s hit Tupelo and Gainesville. However, this year's death toll is more remarkable than the 1953 or 1936 death tolls, since in 2011 we have Doppler radar and a modern tornado warning system that is very good at providing an average of twelve minutes of warning time. The warning time for the Joplin tornado was 24 minutes."
Tornado Shelter Options. This is just one of many tornado shelter designs I've come across - something called the "Flatsafe" shelter. It can be installed in a garage; it's ventilated - large enough to hold an entire family. it's designed to be able to withstand an EF-5 strength tornado. If you don't have a basement this could be a very good option.
Tornado-Proof Home? "Safe-Room" Is A Better Option For Purse And Family. ABC News has a very timely article about steps you can take to make your home more tornado-resistent. Concrete-reinforced homes are best able to withstand tornadic winds (which can bring down even steel structures). There is no way to build a cost-effective tornado-proof home, but we can make our homes more tornado-resistant: "People thinking about fortifying their homes against the wind's wrath after seeing the damage caused by this year's rash of powerful, deadly tornadoes should think twice, architects and engineers say. Though it is possible to build a tornado-proof home, experts say it is probably not worth the expense, which is likely to be at least 20 percent more in construction costs than a normal home, or worth the trouble. "You're talking about very well designed connections all the way down, very well engineered and very well tied together," said Stan Peterson, a member of the American Institute of Architecture disaster assistance task force. "You have to build to such high standards that when you try to make the entire house safe, that's not sensible," said Ernst Kiesling, a professor of civil engineering at Texas Tech University and executive director for the National Storm Shelter Association. "It greatly increases the cost [to build] the house."
"Phased-Array" Doppler Radar. NSSL (National Severe Storms Lab) is making their (live) phased array experimental Doppler available online. Phased array is superior to conventional Doppler, which takes 4 minutes to scan all levels of a 3-D volume surrounding the radar site. There is no such thing as "live" NWS Doppler, the ground-level (.5 degree elevation) is sampled roughly once every 4 minutes. 99% of the time that's not an issue - but when a tornado is on the ground, moving at 50 mph, that 4 minute "gap" can be very problematic for meteorologists. More on phased array radar from NSSL: "Phased Array radar has a unique antenna that collects the same information as a conventional radar in about one-sixth the time. Researchers believe phased array could extend warning lead times from 10 minutes to 18-22 minutes. The radar's electronic beams can be directed independently at particular elements of a storm to give forecasters more accurate and complete data than the current NEXRAD radars. The new technology will also gather storm information not currently available, such as rapid changes in wind fields, to provide more thorough understanding of storm evolution. Researchers will be able to refine conceptual storm models and use that knowledge to evaluate and improve stormscale computer models. The phased array radar is expected to eventually replace the current network of WSR-88D radars. NSSL's National Weather Radar Testbed (NWRT) is the official facility where phased array technology will be tested and evaluated. PAR has the potential to provide revolutionary improvements in NWS tornado, severe storm, and flash flood warnings."
Swarms Of Hook Echoes. This is another example of phased array Doppler radar from NSSL in Norman, Oklahoma - images from Tuesday evening.
Up Until 1940s Americans Didn't Even Get Tornado Forecasts. Using the word "tornado" could get you tossed in jail, at least up until 1952. Government officials that the mere MENTION of the word might incite public panic, producing mayhem even worse than anything a tornado could do. CNN has the story: "The warnings seem almost ubiquitous today in this world of Doppler Radar and instant communication, but the word "tornado" actually used to be banned in weather forecasts. Before the 1950s, there were no warnings that a tornado was about to occur. "That's when the warning system we have now was just being developed," said Bob Henson of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. "Most Americans never got a tornado warning," he said. But what about radar? "There was no radar," he said. Before that, Americans had to endure decades of agonizing blows from Mother Nature, many of the victims taken unaware. In 1882, 17 years after the Civil War ended, U.S. Army Signal Corps Sgt. John P. Finley was asked to investigate tornadoes and how they developed. As Finley was doing his research, tornado forecasting came to a screeching halt when the Signal Corps banned the word "tornado" from official forecasts because they were concerned the word would cause widespread panic. "They literally avoided the word up until the 1950s or so," Henson said. "They were a little concerned about the panic or the tools weren't strong enough to predict them," he said, "and quite frankly without radar, you couldn't forecast them." Twisters were not measured in the same way they are now. Thus, experts now don't know whether the 1925 Tri-State tornado -- which killed about 695 people when it tore through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana -- was actually a single funnel or many, which is why it isn't officially considered the deadliest single tornado."
Islands In The Stream: The Extraordinary Homemade Dams Holding Back The Mississippi As Desperate Residents Try To Save Their Homes. The U.K.'s Daily Mail has the story (and some amazing photos of people putting up a valiant fight against Mother Nature: "We've all undertaken home improvements but these residents in flood-stricken Mississippi have had to embark on major construction projects just to protect their houses and livelihoods. These homes in Vicksburg are all situated along the Yazoo River, a tributary of the overflowing Mississippi River, and their owners have surrounded themselves with tons of earth and sand. With questions over whether the main levees that protect the area from floods would hold, these farmers took no chances and have so far saved their homes and crops from destruction."
Noon Saturday. The GFS model is hinting at some morning and midday sun on Saturday, but an approaching trough of low pressure (unusually cold wrinkle of air aloft) may spark a few PM showers, even a T-shower. My hunch: the earlier in the day you plan your outdoor events, the better on Saturday.
Noon Sunday. A stationary front draped across southern Minnesota may become a magnet for showers and a few strong T-storms Sunday. Expect more humidity, highs closer to 70, a few hours of (hard?) rain. A few isolated severe storms can't be ruled out from Sunday through Tuesday of next week as a vigorous warm frontal boundary remains just south of MSP.
Gray Tuesday. The sun was out in St. Cloud, where the mercury SOARED to 69! Highs held in the mid 60s across most of the state, a meager 55 at Duluth, 44 at Grand Marais (with a raw wind blowing right off Lake Superior).
Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
TODAY: Mostly cloudy with a morning shower or sprinkle. Skies may brighten by late afternoon and evening. Most of the day will be dry with a cool northeast wind. Winds: NE 10-20. High: 62
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partial clearing. Low: 47
THURSDAY: Grab your camera. Risk of sunshine! High: 66
FRIDAY: Some cool sun early, clouds increase - PM hours with nighttime showers expected. Low: 46. High: 64
SATURDAY: Some sun, few PM showers, possible thunder. Low: 50. High: 65
SUNDAY: More humid, a few scattered showers and T-storms, some strong. Low: 50. High: 68
MONDAY: Muggy, few severe storms? Low: 56. High: 71
TUESDAY: Damp start, partial clearing. Low: 61. High: 79
America's weather is rarely "average". We see more severe storms than any nation on Earth. Lately it seems like extreme weather has been on overdrive: epic floods, "exceptional" droughts, the worst tornado death toll in 60 years. Why? It may be a case of bad luck. There have been twice as many tornadoes than usual, to date. When you have that many tornadoes the law of averages will catch up to you. At some point large urban areas (like Joplin and Tuscaloosa) will get hit.
Dr. Jeff Masters from the Weather Underground believes "there is more energy in the system." 2010 tied for the warmest year on record - last winter was the coldest in 25 years for the USA, while Canada saw the warmest, driest winter on record. A warmer atmosphere means more potential energy for storms of all sizes, he explains. "The climate may be transitioning to a new state - a new normal." Time will tell if all these super-sized storms is just a fluke, or harbingers of a new, stormier (deadlier) pattern.
Rain is likely today (nothing severe) - temperatures on the cool side. We get a sunny break Thursday before more showers Friday night. T-storms are possible again Sunday, maybe a severe outbreak by Monday.
Are Tornadoes More Common Because Of Climate Change? The U.K. Guardian poses the question that is on a lot of people's minds right now: "As the city of Joplin deals with the devastation from Sunday's tornado, some people might wonder whether these extreme weather events are getting more common because of climate change. The answer is that no one really knows. A tornado is a rotating column of air that stretches from the bottom of clouds to the Earth's surface. They can occur in a wide range of shapes and sizes, typically manifesting as a funnel of condensation surrounded by a cloud of dust and debris. Wind speeds in an average tornado reach more than 100mph (160km/h) and the system itself is less than 100 metres across, but extreme events can be several miles across, with wind speeds of more than 300mph. It is difficult to relate any individual weather event to climate change and, unlike with hurricanes, there is little robust research on whether the warming planet is causing any noticeable effects. Grady Dixon, assistant professor of meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University, told AFP: "If you look at the past 60 years of data, the number of tornadoes is increasing significantly, but it's agreed upon by the tornado community that it's not a real increase. It's having to do with better (weather tracking) technology, more population, the fact that the population is better educated and more aware. So we're seeing them more often."
Joplin Disaster Spurs Media Whirlwind On Link Between Climate Change, Extreme Weather, And Tornadoes. Climate Progress has more details: "The devastation of Joplin, MO has led to a super-storm of media stories on the link between climate change and extreme weather, including tornadoes. After April saw records set for most tornadoes in a month and in 24 hours, I examined the link in great detail here, looking at the data, the literature, and expert analysis. That piece concluded
- When discussing extreme weather and climate, tornadoes should not be conflated with the other extreme weather events for which the connection is considerably more straightforward and better documented, including deluges, droughts, and heat waves.
- Just because the tornado-warming link is more tenuous doesn’t mean that the subject of global warming should be avoided entirely when talking about tornadoes.
The flattening of a city, and the death of 117 people — “the single deadliest tornado since officials began keeping records in 1950,” as the WashPost reported — is naturally going to spin up media interest. Since it is a complicated subject, one would expect the coverage to be mixed."
Joplin Tornado Damage Could Total $3 Billion. CNN Money and KCCI-TV in Des Moines have the latest information: "The tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., killing at least 117 people, may have caused up to $3 billion in insured losses, according to an estimate from a catastrophe risk modeling firm released Tuesday.Eqecat Inc. estimated that the tornado that flattened the city of about 50,000 people on Sunday caused from $1 billion to $3 billion worth of damage to insured buildings - including homes, businesses and factories - and automobiles, according to Jose Miranda, director of client advocacy.Miranda said the firm based its estimate on reports that up to 2,500 buildings in the city were destroyed and up to 10,000 were damaged, in a city with an estimated 25,000 buildings.He said the true cost of the damage is unclear, since Eqecat does not have data for uninsured losses.The Joplin tornado is the single deadliest tornado in U.S. history, in what has been a particularly catastrophic year. So far this year, tornadoes have killed 482 people in the United States.This year was relatively calm, as far as natural disasters are concerned, until April, when a series of three severe storms ripped through the Southern states, causing up to $5 billion worth of damage. The most serious storm featured 178 tornadoes and killed at least 300 people, many of them in Alabama."
Property/Casualty Insurers Facing Record Losses From Weather. Here is the Reuters story at claimsjournal.com: "Devastating tornadoes, floods, earthquakes overseas and a busier-than-usual hurricane season have U.S. insurance companies bracing for record losses in 2011. Insurers could suffer as much as $10 billion from weather-related losses in the United States in 2011, which is up from the average of $2 billion to $4 billion, according to EQECAT Inc, which provides disaster and risk models to insurance companies. On top of the potential U.S. losses, insurers are also reeling from disasters overseas, including large earthquakes across the Pacific Rim. And as if that was not enough, analysts now expect an above-average Atlantic hurricane season. “This is not a black swan year that is an absolute worst case, but it is significant and it is close to that,” said Jose Miranda, director of client advocacy at EQECAT Inc, which provides disaster and risk models to insurance companies. Globally — including the major earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan — U.S. and overseas insurers could post up to $55 billion in losses, EQECAT projects. Some insurers have already posted large losses due to the Japan and New Zealand quakes. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. lost $1.07 billion from the Japan earthquake and $412 million from the quake in New Zealand."
Getting Wise To The Owl, A Charismatic Sentry In Climate Change. The New York Times has the story: "CHARLO, Mont. — For 19 years, the owl researcher Denver Holt has journeyed to Barrow, Alaska, each summer to map out the predator-prey relationship between the lemmings that crawl across the tundra and the white owls that hunt them from above. As he prepares for his 20th field season in the Arctic, he says that the snowy owl has a role to play in understanding ecological changes in one of the fastest changing places in the world. “When lemmings are doing well, everything is doing well — eider ducks, sandhill cranes, arctic fox and weasels,” Mr. Holt said. “If climate change results in habitat changes and it affects the lemmings, it will show up in the snowy owls because 90 percent of their diet is lemmings. The owls are the key to everything else.” Twenty years of data provides an unusually deep look at a species’ population trends. And more research on snowy owls in other parts of the world — they are found throughout the arctic region — could flag changes in the global arctic ecosystem even without other indicators. “It’s a believable point,” said John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Orthinology, at Cornell University. “Systems are complex, and if we have an easily accessible barometer for the system beneath it that’s a really good thing, because we can measure cheaply and easily how an ecosystem is doing. It gives us a quick handle.”