Moore, OK Gets Hit By Another Tornado

Moore tornado

Less than two years ago, Moore, OK was hit by a devastating EF-5 tornado that left behind extensive damage to the city. Today, a tornado hit the same area, leaving behind damage to homes/buildings and overturning vehicles. This tornado was nothing like the 1999 or 2013 tornadoes, but still, today’s tornado did cause a good amount of damage. Today’s tornado is the 4th tornado to hit the Moore area since 1999.

Father northeast just west of Tulsa around Sands Spring, extensive damage is being reported due to a large tornado that dissipated right before it made it into the city of Tulsa. A mobile home park was completely destroyed and a gym was heavily damaged by the tornado while people were inside.

Tornadoes were also reported in parts of Northwest Arkansas, leaving behind damage.

I just wanted to show everyone some of the photos taken in the area. I’ll share more information as it becomes available.

Photo taken in Moore, OK by Aaron Brackett:

Moore tornado

Photo taken in Moore, OK by Rusty Surette:

moore tornado 1

Two still images from local news stations in OKC area:

moore tornado 2

moore tornado 3

Photo taken just west of Tulsa near Sand Springs, OK by @CTYoung1:

sans spring tornado

How Do You Receive Tornado Warnings?

tornado

Considering the severe weather season has been incredibly quiet so far this year, most people probably haven’t given too much thought to tornadoes or damaging thunderstorms lately. Meteorologists are always trying to find ways to make sure people are warned ahead of the storm, but despite all of the warnings that go out, some people still say they had no warning after a storm or tornado hits.

I started thinking about this today, and I just wanted to do a quick poll to see which method you use most often to get a warning on a coming storm. For example, you may rely solely on your weather radio, or instead you may look to a mobile app to send you a push notification. Some of you may have multiple ways to get warned.

It’s always important to heed any warning that go out, especially tornado warnings. You may think that your area won’t be impacted, but it often happens when you least expect it. ALL warnings need to be taken serious.

In the poll below, if I left something out, just mention it in the comments.

[polldaddy poll=8746223]

Rain, Snow and the Battle Between Warm and Cold

temperature forecast

I just wanted to give everyone a fairly brief update on what to expect the rest of this month. When you go back and look at this month so far, the overall temperatures haven’t been too bad. My focus this entire time has been on the last third of this month, so I didn’t give as much attention to the first two-thirds. We’ve definitely had some weather to talk about but nothing that isn’t typical during the transition from winter to spring.

The last 7 days have brought above average temperatures for a large area of United States:

March warmth

Rain, Snow and More Cold:

The end of this month going into very early April still looks very interesting to me, although the cooler temperatures could be delayed for parts of the Southeast. Currently moisture is pumping northward along the East Coast, and there will be enough cold air in place to support snow/mix depending on the location. Places from northern Virginia and northeastward will get snow out of this before the low pressure system moves off the coast. There has been some cold air damming down the east side of the mountains, which kept things quite cool today for even parts of the Southeast.

By late weekend going into early next week, cold air is going to rush in and bring even colder temperatures to the Northeast and parts of the Mid-Atlantic. It looks like another surface high pressure system will be moving into the Northeast, so this will pull down cooler air all along the East Coast and into parts of the Southeast.

While all of this is going on, an upper-level feature is going to begin moving in from Baja California and eventually move into Texas causing surface low pressure to develop and move into the Southeast from this weekend into early next week. The pattern remains very active, and plenty of moisture is going to get pulled in from the Gulf of Mexico. So you can expect rain (even heavy in some locations) from Texas across the Gulf Coast states and Southeast. This event could bring several inches of rain to many of these locations.

The Weather Prediction Center’s Day 1-3 Rainfall Forecast (in inches):

Rainfall Map

An Interesting End To The Month:

The end of this month still looks quite interesting to me, and it could bring a surge (or two) of cold air to end the month going into early April. I’m confident that the Northeast will get the core of the coldest air; however, it remains questionable as to how far south this trough will dig. When we’re making the transition from winter to spring, it’s usually difficult to accurately predict the overall pattern beyond a few days. I do believe that the focus of the cold will be in the eastern third of the nation.

The Climate Prediction Center’s Temperature Anomaly Forecast from Late March into Early April:

temperature forecast

The overall pattern is going to remain active across parts of the South and up towards the North. Several storms systems will likely move across the northern U.S. through the Northeast, giving many of those regions additional snowfall. The southern U.S. will have several shots at getting some precipitation also. The northern and the sub-tropical jet stream are both expected to remain very active.

Forecast model guidance has been hinting at a late-season winter event that could try to move across the U.S. and eventually exit off of the East Coast very late March into April. I would say that it’s very possible for some locations to get some wintry weather out of this, but it needs to be watched several more days before any detailed predictions need to be made. If we were in the middle of winter, I’d be jumping all over this, but like I said the other day, I tend to be more conservative in my long-range forecasts during these transitional periods simply because those forecasts can easily bust.

Remember, it’s late March so below average temperatures are not the same as what they would be in January or February. Most likely, most regions will experience swings in temperatures with a possible late season Arctic plunge or two. The only exception to that will be over parts of the Northeast, where more prolonged cold will probably occur.

California’s Dangerous Drought Continues

California Drought

In both my early and final winter forecasts, I called for a wetter winter across much of California, particularly in the southern part of the state. In my final forecast, I had reason to extend the wetter region to include almost all of California. Overall, my winter forecast was quite accurate, but unfortunately, I missed the California precipitation/rain forecast. The temperature forecast was spot on though.

What Went Wrong?

That has left many of you scratching your heads asking, why didn’t California get the predicted rain/snow? California has been suffering from drought conditions for four years now, and the state just missed another winter that could have brought some drought relief. Earlier in the winter, there were some hints that California was going to have a stormier and more active pattern, but stormier weather was confined farther to the north over the Pacific Northwest and much farther east. Even with more activity farther north up the coast, much of the West Coast ended up with below average winter precipitation.

california rain

Even northern and central California had some rain earlier in the winter, but it was nothing that brought any permanent drought relief. Even during the times that precipitation fell, the snowpack over the mountains didn’t increase much due to unusually warm temperatures.

These last two winter have been very unusual across much of the United States. Sea surface temperatures have been much above average across the northeastern Pacific, causing ridging to build along the West Coast and over Alaska. Warmer water temperatures also extended along the entire West Coast this winter, which would have not necessarily been a bad thing for the state had the overall pattern been more favorable for wetter conditions.

Because these warmer waters have been responsible for this death ridge setting up over the area, the very warm and drought conditions have persisted. For the earlier part of the winter, the ridge was farther east than last winter, allowing a few systems to move up along the western edge of the ridge through northern California and into the Pacific Northwest. By February, the ridge retrograded farther west, keeping the rain/snow chances low even farther north. While the West has been getting record-warmth for a second year in a row, the eastern U.S. has been getting record-cold, breaking century old records in places.

The reds indicate the area with the most severe drought conditions:

california drought monitor

The warm West/cold East pattern was something that I predicted at Firsthand Weather, but where I made a mistake was thinking that El Nino conditions would be prevalent enough to allow tropical moisture to pump under the ridge over southern California. This El Nino has been quite unusual anyway, but the death ridge won again this winter. Any system that moved in either dug too far south impacting Mexico and Baja California or moved farther north of the state.

Is There Still Hope?

Unfortunately, California missed their opportunity to truly get a drought-breaking winter. However, there will be a few opportunities here and there that could bring California some rain. Through much of March going into early April, that stubborn ridge is going to likely persist, but some northern parts of California could get some rain/snow during that period.

In the longer term, the ridge will probably start trying to break down into April. Although there’s going to be one last push of winter in the East, reinforced by a building ridge over the West, there may be an opportunity or two arrive later into April for parts of California to get some rain. California generally experiences wetter conditions during El Nino, but the current El Nino is very weak. Also El Nino conditions usually bring the wetter conditions for California during the winter.

I know that this probably wasn’t the clear-cut answer that you were hoping for, but if I see any rain chances coming up for the state later in April, I’ll make you aware of it. Remember, it’s going to take an overall wetter pattern to put a dent in this drought, not just one or two storm systems.

This photo was taken in California earlier this winter. Photo credit: Daniel Griffin

California Drought

Winter’s Last Punch

Late March cold

After what most of us had to deal with this past winter, I think that we can about handle anything. The last third of March is the timeframe to watch most closely. March really hasn’t been too bad, other than some swinging back and forth with temperatures. That’s typical for spring though.

I want to make a couple of things clear. This upcoming cold blast won’t be anything like what many of you experienced in February. Yes, it’ll be a big difference from the springtime temps that have come this month, but cold during the winter is different than cold during the spring. Remember, 10, 20 or even 30 degrees below average in March is not the same thing as those kinds of departures from average in January or February.

With that said, the overall pattern will be similar to what was in place this February. Ridging will build over the western United States while a trough digs south of the central and eastern United States. The focus of the cold will be over the eastern third of the nation with the heart of the cold being over New England. This cold could come in several waves, meaning some of you may have some warm days throughout.

Expected temperature departures from average a week from Monday morning (March 23rd):

Late March cold

Expected temperatures a week from Monday morning (March 23rd):

actual cold temps

Let’s briefly talk wintry weather. I strongly dislike forecasting early spring winter storms because they’re just so difficult to forecast. Forecasting winter storms during the winter is challenging, but that’s usually what I’m best at. During this period, there are going to be several systems that will move across the southern U.S. For the most part, these will likely be rainmakers for the more southern regions. At the same time, there are going to be some chances for snow in New England, giving places like Boston more snow. Parts of the Mid-Atlantic may have a shot at some snow later in the month also.

At the end of the month, there could be a system that brings wintry weather along the East Coast and heavy rains farther south. I’m going to continue to monitor this possibility and will bring it back up later in the week if it’s worth mentioning.

As I’m sure you can tell, I’m ready for winter to be over. This winter-like pattern will likely start to break down in April, bringer warmer temps for many. New England may try to hold onto winter a little longer than the rest of us.

Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam Slamming Vanuatu

Tropical Cyclone Pam

Several days ago, I discussed how the huge increase in tropical activity across the southern Pacific showed just how active the MJO was. I haven’t talked too much about individual storms, but there are currently three tropical cyclones near Australia. One is actually impacting the western Australia coast in the Indian Ocean, but my main focus has been on what’s occurring over the southern Pacific.

Because of the high impact that Tropical Cyclone Pam is currently having on Vanuatu, I felt that it was necessary to do a brief article on it. Pam currently has sustained winds around 165 mph with gusts up to 200 mph and is directly hitting Port Vila, the capital city. The eye wall has the strongest winds and given that the eye is over Port Vila, they are likely getting slammed with category 5 force winds.

The population of Vanuatu is around 250,000 with Port Vila having around 45,000 people (that’s a rough estimate). The buildings and structures are poorly designed in many areas on the island, so unfortunately, extensive damage is likely occurring. Even in more developed countries, these kinds of winds would cause catastrophic damage. You can only imagine what’s happening there.

This is the strongest cyclone that has been in the southern Pacific in many years and will likely rival some of the strongest hurricanes/typhoons/tropical cyclones ever recorded. I will keep you updated as I get more information.

Tropical Cyclone Pam

El Nino Is Now Official: So What?

el nino

Before I get into this article, let me start out by saying that El Nino/La Nina are two very important events that can have major impacts around the globe. Entire economies can be positively or negatively affected by the emergence of an El Nino or La Nina event, which is why it’s important to predict that one is going to occur many months in advance. About this time last year, there was so much talk about how we were going into a Super El Nino, and that it was going to be just as bad as the 1997/98 El Nino event. I never really saw that happening, but I definitely understand why many did. The atmosphere just never responded early enough to what was going on across the equatorial Pacific, and if it had, I would have been wrong.

El Nino DID Affect This Winter:

NOAA announced the other day that El Nino had officially arrived. After that announcement, the media went crazy with the news, which had many people asking how El Nino is going to affect them. I’m glad you asked because I want to try to answer your questions. To answer the first question, many of you have already felt the influences of El Nino this winter.

When I put together my winter forecast (both in July and November), I took into account that a weak to weakly moderate El Nino Modoki would be in place during the winter months. In my early July winter forecast, I went against all of the super El Nino predictions, which would have changed the entire winter forecast had those predictions verified. Instead, we had the weaker El Nino that I expected.

A very active sub-tropical jet did set up across the southern U.S. particularly in February, which was likely partly driven by this weaker El Nino. Because of this El Nino being on the weaker side, the southern half of California didn’t benefit as much as I originally thought, but the effects were felt in many other locations. It’s important to realize that El Nino was not the main driver of this winter but was one component of many parts.

NOAA typically puts out pretty good short-term forecasts, but their seasonal forecasts are mediocre at best. They simply weigh too heavily on El Nino and La Nina and ignore everything else. They did the exact same thing this winter and had most of the northern U.S. with above average temperatures and the southern U.S. with below average temperatures. That is a carbon-copy of what a traditional moderate to strong El Nino looks like, but you just can’t do that and expect to have an accurate winter forecast. You just ignore too many other factors. Even with a moderate El Nino, you have to consider other factors.

This El Nino did not just come about one day like a light switch being flipped. I’ve noticed that many are saying that if this El Nino had come a few months earlier, then the winter outcome could have been different, especially for places like California. I disagree. Had it been stronger, then the outcome would have been different, but I never expected a stronger El Nino anyway. Those waters across the central Pacific have been warm since last year, and NOAA needed enough evidence that the atmosphere was responding to these warmer sea surface temperatures to make it official. They are the ones that flipped the switch in March.

I don’t blame the meteorologists at NOAA for the misinformation because they have years of experience and know what they’re doing. I blame the media. They needed something to talk about, and unfortunately, the writers of most of the articles and reports that were put out on this subject were off. That’s just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

What Is El Nino (Read this carefully b/c it may take a few minutes to fully understand)?

I wrote an article last year, where I went into detail explaining what El Nino is. In the future, I plan to either rewrite that article or add updated information to the old one.

Winds called trade winds blow from east to west across the equatorial Pacific. During an average year, the sea surface temperatures are cooler across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and warmer over the western parts. The warmer/cooler sea surface temperatures warm/cool the air above it. Warm and moist air is less dense, so it has the tendency to rise. As you can imagine, when the air molecules are being pulled upward, areas of low pressure develop at the surface. Air from other regions try to replace the air that’s been pulled up, so that’s how you get wind.

Because the waters are typically cooler over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and warmer along the western equatorial Pacific, high pressure and less stormy conditions develop particularly over the eastern equatorial Pacific and low pressure over the western equatorial Pacific. Winds blow from high to low pressure for the reason I explained above, so that’s why your winds are typically east to west over this region.

These winds then pile up the warmer water over the western equatorial Pacific and upwell cooler waters from the eastern Pacific, which in turn, creates an even stronger temperature/pressure gradient. This makes the winds even stronger. As you can tell, it takes both the atmosphere and the ocean to make this entire process work. It’s a feedback loop.

Typical year vs. El Nino year (Graphic from Norman Snell):

el nino

When El Nino begins to develop, something changes! Without getting into much detail, something has to occur that begins to break down this entire process. Around this time last year, a wave developed that started to move the warm western Pacific waters eastward. Now, this is oversimplifying things a bit, but you get the idea. Once these warmer waters started moving east, it started to warm those cooler waters farther east. This then started to weaken the trade winds because guess what? The temperature/pressure gradient was weaker. The only problem last year was that the atmosphere just didn’t respond to these warmer waters being transported east. The trade winds never weakened enough for long enough to keep this feedback loop going. Outside influences may have been the cause, but this kept the El Nino on the weaker side.

During stronger El Nino years, the trade winds will actually reverse course and flow from west to east. Why is that? Well hopefully you know the answer to that. Warmer waters have now been pulled farther east and cooler waters are now farther west. Now the higher pressure is west and the lower pressure east. Remember, wind goes from areas of high to low pressure because it’s trying to replace that air.

The current El Nino is a weak El Nino Modoki. That is when above average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial central Pacific are sandwiched between cooler waters to the west and east. I’ve talked about all of that on this site before.

If you didn’t understand all of that, it’s fine. This is just for your information and for those of you that want to learn something new. This is a very simplified explanation of a very complex process.

Volatile Pattern With Another Winter Storm

Arab, Alabama snowstorm

There has been so much going that I have no clue as to how many winter storms have actually occurred in the last month. I explained that March was going to bring with it a more volatile pattern with wild swings in temperatures, while some areas would stay consistently cold. This week is going to be a great example of what I was talking about. Patterns like these can even be more exciting that the locked-in cold pattern that we saw last month. March will be characterized by Arctic cold, warmups, snow/ice storms, severe weather, etc.

Temperatures were warm across parts of the East Coast and southeastern U.S. today, but this bi-polar weather is going to continue. First, a wedge of high pressure is going to begin building along the east side of the mountains tonight and tomorrow, so many regions along the East Coast as far south as South Carolina and northern Georgia will be cold tomorrow.

This cold air is going to get eroded away ahead of a very strong cold front that will be pushing south mid-week. Many regions that will be in the warm-sector ahead of the front will be stormy and warm on Tuesday night/Wednesday and then flip cold once again. On the back end, another winter storm looms. So think about this. Some regions were warm today, will be cold tomorrow, will be warm on Wednesday, and cold on Thursday going into Friday.

This will generally hold true, but just be aware that because I cover the entire United States, I don’t get to be as detailed for specific regions as I would like.

Winter Storm Potential:

Most of you are here to find out what’s going to happen with the mid-week winter storm. There is another piece of energy off of Baja California that will get absorbed into a trough digging south. In fact, there are several pieces of energy coming in from different locations this week, which is why I keep going on about how active this pattern is.

Once this cold front moves south and cold air begins to win the battle, precipitation is going to develop and move along the backend of this front and give many areas (including parts of the Deep South) an ice/snowstorm. What happens will depend on where you’re at, so I’ll probably have to make my own map tomorrow to clear everything up a bit more. What makes this difficult for me to cover is because many regions will go from rain/storms to ice to snow. Some will only go over to ice, and some will stay rain the entire time.

Tuesday night going into Wednesday will be the general timeframe that many regions across the Southern Plains will see the transition from rain to ice and eventually over to snow for the more northern regions. Areas as far south as Dallas and maybe even farther south will probably get decent ice accumulations out of this.

Latest projection for Wednesday morning from the GFS model:

Wednesday morning snow map

Later on Wednesday going into Wednesday night/Thursday morning, much of Arkansas, northern and central Louisiana, northern and central Mississippi, northern and central Alabama, much of Tennessee/Kentucky and extending northeastward will see the transition from rain to ice and eventually over to all snow for the more northern regions. Unfortunately, many of the more southern areas could remain ice the entire time. Total accumulations will vary depending on the region, so I’m not going to cover that in this article. Parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast will also be impacted with a big snow/ice storm from parts of North Carolina/Virginia and northward.

Latest projection for Wednesday night from the GFS model:

Wednesday night snow map

Latest projection for Thursday morning from the GFS model:

Thursday morning snow map

Another big uncertainty is how far east and south this frozen precipitation will spread and changeover. The model guidance has been pretty consistent with projecting a big winter storm for the regions I just mentioned, but kind of fades everything out farther east into Georgia, South Carolina, and into parts of North Carolina. I’m keeping a close watch on this zone because the cold air eventually will be available for a transition to ice and/or snow to occur. The big question is how much moisture will be available by the time the cold air arrives. So be sure to watch this closely, but just be aware that a level of uncertainty exists. Some areas might get a surprise. I emphasize the word MIGHT.

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The photo used in the featured image today was taken in Arab, Alabama by Andy Kinard. This was from the last big winter storm in that area.

Arab, Alabama snowstorm