Sadly, 2011 is shaping up as the year of the tornado in the U.S. While every tornado is not precisely the same, they all have characteristics in common. The BBC has created a must-see graphic depicting how these most violent storms form.
Tornado winds are difficult to measure since they whip around very fast. The Fujita damage scale is used to estimate speed, from a base of F0 to incredible damage at F5:
For further reading on the subject, Anatomy of a Tornado by Terri (Terri Sievert) Dougherty provides an inside look at how tornadoes form, the devastation they cause, and the cutting-edge technology forecasters are using to help keep us safe.
This next generation Voyager KA500GRN Solar/Dynamo Emergency Radio has all the features that you'll need in an emergency weather situation. It multi-functions as an emergency radio, a super-bright lantern, a reading lamp, an emergency beacon and a cell phone charger.
The radio picks up 7 NOAA weather channels and is designed to operate from a myriad of power sources, including handcrank, solar, batteries, electrical outlet and USB. It has a compact, portable design making it perfect not only for emergency weather use, but for travel and outdoor activities too.
Tornado season has already begun in the Midwest, thunderstorms are rolling through the South and summer hurricane season is soon upon us. During a weather disaster one of the first things to go is the electricity.
This emergency LED flashlight Blackout Buddy goes on when the power goes out. The prongs fold in for use as a flashlight. Plug it directly into an electrical socket for constant charge and use as a nightlight.
Included with the purchase of the Blackout Buddy is an American Red Cross preparedness guide as well as a donation to the American Red Cross. Available at Amazon and Wind and Weather.
More than 243 tornadoes have caused extensive human and property damage from Oklahoma to Virginia since last Thursday April 14. North Carolina received the brunt of destruction enduring as many as 60 tornadoes -- the state's worst outbreak in more than 25 years.
A major reason for the scope of destruction is that heavily populated areas were in the path of the storms. Meteorologist Meghan Evans explains what happened over at AccuWeather.com. Essentially, three weather conditions combined to create this violent tornado outbreak ranging from the southern Plains into the Southeast: 1) a powerful jet stream, 2) abundant moisture and 3) a strong cold front.
There are a couple of factors that are making this year a more active severe weather year compared to normal and compared to last year.
The first factor is that the water in Gulf of Mexico is warmer than last year. This means that there is very warm, moist air in supply for storm systems to tap into and provide fuel for severe weather.
The second is that we are in one of the strongest La Nina patterns in recorded history.
Scientists at the NOAA Vents Program at Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Oregon State University listened to the sounds of the March 11, 2011 Honshu, Japan earthquake propagated through the earth's crust.
From the site: "The first sound file is from a hydrophone located in the central north Pacific, the second sound file and spectrogram is from a hydrophone located near the Aleutian Islands." Listen below.
Joel Achenbach quotes U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Ross Stein in the Washington Post: "It will take probably a decade before this aftershock sequence is over," Stein said. "The watchword in Tokyo should be long-term vigilance. Nobody should think this should go away in a few weeks or a few months." Click for a truly shocking graphic of earthquakes greater than 5.0 magnitude in and around Japan since March 11, 2011.
Natural disasters -- earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, drought, cyclones, snowstorms -- wreak havoc on individual lives as well as the economies of the state or nation where they occur. To track the cause and effects of these disasters, as well as responses and associated costs, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the Department of Commerce has reviewed global weather data using the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's network of orbiting satellites.
Their study of disasters over the past 30 years from 1980-2010 tallied 99 natural disasters whose economic costs (not including human life) surpassed $1 billion. Mainstreet has built a slideshow of The Most Expensive Weather Disasters in America. Coming in at #1 as most expensive was Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with damages of $133.8 billion.
As Yogi would say, it's tough to make predictions, especially about the future. That said, meteorologists think those folks living on the Atlantic Ocean can expect an active 2011 hurricane season with more impact on the U.S. coastline than last year.
AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center meteorologists are predicting a total of 15 named tropical storms, eight of which they say will become hurricanes. Three of those purportedly will attain major hurricane status (Category 3 or higher).
Why? There are a number of reasons:
The orientation and position of the Azores and Bermuda high-pressure areas in the Atlantic
The future state of the ongoing La Niña
The frequency and amount of dust that accompanies disturbances moving off the African coast
A phenomenon known as Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO)
The average year generally brings 10 tropical storms. Six of those storms become hurricanes and two of those will be major hurricanes with winds that exceed 110 mph. Get the scoop at AccuWeather.com.
After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, many of us are wondering what would happen if a major weather catastrophe struck the United States. This amazing collection History Classics: Mega Disasters in DVD format examines tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and even an asteroid impact, to see what disasters could be coming our way.
For instance, what are experts doing to avoid a landslide of death and destruction in the event of an eruption at Mt. Rainier? Would the people and skyscrapers of present-day Chicago survive a high-speed tornado like the one that hit in 1967? Computer animations, models, and re-creations provide a "jaw-dropping view" of what a Cat 3 hurricane would do to New York city. Just released today, Mega Disasters includes 10 documentaries on 5 DVDs:
DISC 1: Asteroid Apocalypse / Atlantis Apocalypse
DISC 2: American Volcano / The Next Pompeii
DISC 3: Windy City Tornado / New York City Hurricane
DISC 4: LA's Killer Quake / Yellowstone Eruption
DISC 5: Mega Drought / Mega Freeze
Truly scary how little control we have over the natural world. Coincidental with the nightmare the Japanese are living through, Catastrophes! Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, and Other Earth-Shattering Disasters by Donald R. Prothero is scheduled for release today March 17, 2011. The author is Professor of Geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The book offers easy to understand explanations of the forces that caused noteworthy disasters along with "gut-wrenching accounts of terrifying human experiences and a staggering loss of human life." Whew!
Some are now wondering if there a connection between the Japanese earthquake and climate change, or solar storms perhaps. USA Today reassures us that there is no such thing as *earthquake weather*, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Statistically, there is approximately an equal distribution of earthquakes in cold weather, hot weather, rainy weather and so on.
The earthquake off the coast of Japan -- and all earthquakes -- are independent of both global warming and solar activity, according to Roger Pielke, Sr., a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado.
He says these geophysical events are a result of movements in the Earth's crust, as are any tsunamis that follow an earthquake. Long-term changes in the Earth's atmosphere don't affect geology.
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