Midwest Storms Wrap from Jeff Masters

November 20, 2013

Washington, Illinois, 11/17/13

Jeff Masters at Weather Underground:

Damage surveys continue in the Midwest U.S. after a stunning and violent late-season severe weather outbreak swept through on Sunday, killing at least eight people and leaving widespread significant damage. Two violent EF-4 tornadoes and one strong EF-3 tornado hit Illinois, killing six, making Sunday Illinois’ deadliest November day for tornadoes in its history. The most widespread damage from Sunday’s outbreak occurred in the town of Washington (population 16,000), about 140 miles southwest of Chicago, where a violent EF-4 tornado destroyed or heavily damaged 250 – 500 homes and an apartment complex.
NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center logged 85 preliminary tornado reports from Sunday, along with 455 reports of high wind gusts and 32 reports of hail. Seventeen of the wind gusts were in excess of 74 mph (hurricane strength.) The grand total of 572 severe weather reports (filtered to remove duplicates) for the day were themost of any day of 2013, surpassing the 538 total reports from June 13. The 85 preliminary tornado reports is also the highest for any day of 2013, surpassing the 62 reports from January 29.

View of the F-3 Brookport Illinois,  tornado – ironically from the wheelhouse of a coal barge on the Ohio River.

Sunday’s November tornado outbreak: how rare?
Sunday’s outbreak will probably rank as the second to fourth most prolific November tornado outbreak since 1950. But what was really remarkable about the outbreak was how far north it extended. With three confirmed tornadoes on Sunday, Michigan has increased its total number November tornadoes observed since 1950 by 50%, from six to nine. Prior to Sunday, Indiana had recorded 57 November tornadoes. That total increased by 26 on Sunday, which was the 3rd busiest day for tornadoes in Indiana history (the record: 37 tornadoes on June 2, 1990.) Seven confirmed tornadoes occurred in the 23-county region of Northeast Illinois and Northwest Indiana serviced by the Chicago NWS.

Prior to Sunday’s tornado outbreak, there had been just twelve November tornadoes in this region since accurate tornado records began in 1950. The 101 tornado warnings issued in Illinois on Sunday represented 52% of all November tornado warnings issued in the state since 1986. The two EF-4 tornadoes that struck Illinois were the 2nd and 4th most northerly EF-4s ever recorded in the U.S. during the month of November, according to data from the Tornado History Project. Prior to Sunday, only twenty EF-4s had occurred in the U.S. in November dating back to 1950. Also notable is the fact that the intensity and areal extent of this severe weather outbreak resulted in widespread damage over a huge area, making it possible that this will be the first November severe weather outbreak in history to exceed $1 billion in damages. November severe weather outbreaks are rare enough and our database poor enough that we cannot make any definitive statements on how climate change may be affecting them, but one would expect to see cold-season severe weather events become increasingly common farther to the north in a warming climate.

Here is a list of the largest November tornado outbreaks since 1950:

95 tornadoes: November 21–23, 1992, Texas to Mississippi and into the Ohio Valley. The most intense and largest November outbreak on record in U.S. history. Produced violent tornadoes from Texas to Mississippi and into the Ohio Valley, including six F4s and two extremely long-track tornadoes, 160 miles and 128 miles.
75 tornadoes: November 9–11, 2002, Southeast U.S. and Ohio Valley. Very large and deadly outbreak produced multiple killer tornadoes across the Ohio Valley and Southeastern United States. A violent F4 hit Van Wert, Ohio, killing four people. Deadly F3 also hit Mossy Grove, Tennessee, killing seven.
67 tornadoes: November 23–24, 2001, Southeast U.S. Thirteen people killed.
50 tornadoes: November 15, 2005, Central and Southeast U.S. One person killed.
50 tornadoes: November 15 – 16, 1987, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mississippi.

11 Responses to “Midwest Storms Wrap from Jeff Masters”

  1. omnologos Says:

    I am starting to wonder if there is any comment in posts where I do not post a comment. Hello? Hello? Anybody out there?

    ps Masters is a master at finding something to blag about, whatever it is. Now it’s latitudes. Post-facto. Zero info.

    • Mahn England Says:

      I can tell when the comment count on a post goes up that you’ve said something whether it has substance or not…. “Post-facto. Zero info” to use your words. 😉

    • I really am laughing out loud. Nicely done Omno and Mahn. 🙂

      • anotheralionel Says:

        What we have come to realise is that omno’ likes stirring. Pure bait such as his effort here is probably best ignored.

        For omno’s information Jeff Masters is a qualified and experienced weather and storm investigator. Whereas omno’s qualifications to make the judgement he does in this case are …. ?

  2. Peter, I figure you may find this study interesting:

    Global warming is likely to increase severe thunderstorm conditions in U.S., research finds

    Robust increases in severe thunderstorm environments in response to greenhouse forcing (open access)
    PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print September 23, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1307758110

  3. toddinnorway Says:

    Hi Engineer-Poet, you are quite the optimist sharing only the good news that some people will have access to home and farm insurance. I suspect that many will lose access to property/storm insurance altogether, like in large parts of near-coastal zones around the Gulf of Mexico post Katrina.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      see today’s post

    • You can make the argument that it was silly to offer insurance for non-essential buildings in flood plains, on barrier islands, etc. in the first place.  If nobody could get insurance, nobody could get a mortgage to build there and people would either self-insure (pay cash and be prepared to lose it) or just say out of harm’s way.  Insurance created moral hazard.

  4. “Robust increases in severe thunderstorm environments in response to greenhouse forcing.”

    “We find that the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 5, global climate model ensemble indicates robust increases in the occurrence of severe thunderstorm environments over the eastern United States in response to further global warming.”
    “… we find that decreases in shear are in fact concentrated in days with low CAPE and therefore do not decrease the total occurrence of severe environments.”
    “The fact that the projected increases in severe environments are robust across a suite of climate models, emerge in response to RELATIVELY MODERATE GLOBAL WARMING, and result from robust physical changes suggests that continued increases in greenhouse forcing are likely to increase severe thunderstorm occurrence, thereby increasing the risk of thunderstorm related damage.”

    … but:

    Diffenbaugh said:
    “Although we do see that those conditions increase in occurrence in response to global warming, it is important to bear in mind that we are not resolving tornadoes in these experiments.”
    “This new set of global climate model experiments has provided some important new insights. What we need to do next is develop ways to better represent the processes that produce individual storms in the REAL atmosphere.”

    I. 1950. About the extreme tornadoes before 1950 However we know something (Holocene, Eemian, Eocene, etc..). There is no simple relationship warming – frequency, intensity. Rising temperatures initially amplifies the power of the winds such as tornadoes, would subsequently (further increase) start to significantly weaken (with stronger warming). There is no straight line change or even a logarithmic. Often we’re talking about: “puzzle in a curve bell-shaped”.

    “For spring and autumn, these robust increases emerge before mean global warming of 2°C above the preindustrial baseline.” “…before…”, but if the warming will increase by 3 ° C and more … CAPE change will be decided?

    II. 1950 – is a negative AMO, 2013 – positive AMO and we know how it is important for wind in the U.S. – are models it demonstrate good?
    H. von Storch, 2013. (http://www.academia.edu/4210419/Can_climate_models_explain_the_recent_stagnation_in_global_warming): “Of the possible causes of the in consistency, the underestimation of internal natural climate variability on decadal time scales is a plausible candidate, but the influence of UNACCOUNTED EXTERNAL forcing factors or an overestimation of the model sensitivity to elevated greenhouse gas concentrations cannot be ruled out.”

    “The way the air flows is in some circumstances difficult to predict, for instance where the storms move (storm tracks) and changes in the large-scale atmospheric circulation . The climate models manage to reproduce the Hadley cell, El Nino Southern Oscillation, the Jet streams, the Trades, and the westerlies, but not tornadoes, derechoes, and thunderstorms.
    Extreme events are a natural part of the climate system, and a climate change means that their frequencies and intensities may change.
    Detecting the changes in probabilities in rare events is statistically challenging.
    Extreme phenomena take place in certain environmental conditions, favourable for forming eg tornadoes, storms, or droughts.
    We also know that our models have their limitations, and that the range of possible outcomes can be fairly wide.”

    “The outbreak itself is “atypical, but not unheard of,” Carbin said. The last similar-sized one took place on Nov. 15, 2005, when there were scores of tornadoes throughout the Midwest. On average, such an outbreak in November can be expected once every seven years, Carbin said.”

  5. […] 2013/11/20: PSinclair: Midwest Storms Wrap from Jeff Masters […]

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