Mike Mann and others on Tornadoes and Climate

December 12, 2021

Bob Henson in Yale Climate Connections:

A severe weather outbreak in the mid-Mississippi Valley more than lived up to its well-predicted potential for strong tornadoes on Friday, December 10, taking lives and raking landscapes from Arkansas to Illinois. The worst toll was in Kentucky, where Governor Andy Beshear estimated on Saturday morning that at least 70 people had been killed, perhaps more than 100. Many of those deaths were in the devastated town of Mayfield (pop. 10,000), located about 20 miles east of the Mississippi River. 

Friday’s tornadoes may be the nation’s deadliest and most destructive in more than a decade, since the catastrophic EF5 in Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011.

At least 33 tornado reports had been catalogued by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center through Saturday morning. That number could drop over time, as some of the reports came from what may have been a single tornado – perhaps a tornado family – affecting four states, including western Kentucky. If that tornado’s death toll exceeds 100, it would put it among the nation’s 15 deadliest on record (see image below, produced by Jeff Masters). 

No U.S. tornado is known to have killed more than 80 people outside the core tornado season from March to June.

Jason Samenow in Washington Post:

First, there is little precedent for the path length of the quad-state tornadic storm, which carved a 250-mile course through northeast Arkansas, southeast Missouri, northwest Tennessee and western Kentucky. The storm exhibited evidence of rotation even longer, for about 11 hours and 600 miles, according to Jack Sillin, a meteorology student at Cornell University:

While it is still not clear whether the storm spawned just a single tornado or several twisters, a rotating storm of that duration is very unusual any time of year.

The tornadic storm was extreme not only for its duration but also for its intensity. Evan Bentley, a tornado specialist at the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, tweeted that radar data would suggest it unleashed winds of 190 to 205 mph, suggesting it would rate as an EF4 or top-tier EF5 on the 0-to-5 Enhanced Fujita scale for tornado intensity. Meteorologists at the Weather Service are surveying the storm damage to assign an exact rating; the process could take a few days.

If the storm rates as an EF5, it would join only two other December tornadoes this strong.

Bentley also tweeted that the tornadic storm was rotating at an average speed of 94 mph for four hours, while noting that published research shows “only 1.5% of all tornadoes” spin at such speeds.

Radar data also revealed that the storm lofted debris for more than three hours, which is practically unheard of. Sometimes, it detected debris above 30,000 feet, an incredibly rare occurrence. There have been numerous reports of items hurled by the storm found more than 100 miles away.


2 Responses to “Mike Mann and others on Tornadoes and Climate”

  1. neilrieck Says:

    All true stuff but the said fact is this: the USA needed to lead the world in a different direction after the 1992 climate conference in Rio de Janeiro. But the USA did not; in fact it helped sowed the seeds of world wide doubt. There are probably some citizens who might now say “okay, let’s change our ways” but it might require decades (at the very minimum) to see “any” results.

  2. J4Zonian Says:

    With that headline font and shade of caption background, I was ready to hear Michael Mann talk about killer tomatoes. I was disappointed and now need some comedy.

    I wonder what videos C-Span has of congress…

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