Category Archives: Tornado

Early Summer 2014: A panoramic view of Earth!

Early Summer 2014 on Earth’s northern hemisphere. Wherever you look  there are flashes of storms, extreme rain, flash floods and other disturbed weather events everywhere. It seems Mother Nature is experimenting with everything there is in  the atmosphere, including gigantic twin tornadoes striking simultaneously in the Heartland USA!

Let us take a look at what our satellites are seeing from above. The three images that follow are mosaics of satellite observations made earlier this Tuesday, 24 June 2014, with water-vapor filters, which  help highlight areas of storms and  disturbed weather.

Water-vapor fileter satelite view of Earth's western hemisphere on Tuesday 24 June 2014
Water-vapor filter satellite view of Earth’s western hemisphere on Tuesday 24 June 2014

The view above shows large storms over Texas and the Great Plains USA, a large area of storms extending from Northern South America over Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. There is also a large cell off the coast of Central America and Mexico over the eastern east Pacific Ocean. And ‘Hurricane Alley’ shows a slim train of storm cells riding along on their westward journey. However, Equatorial Africa, which is the feeder for Hurricane Alley appears quiet and devoid of any major systems, but farther to the east over the Indian Ocean there are some major cells of tropical activity that may eventually find their way over Equatorial Africa to activate the ‘tropical wave assembly line’ in coming days.

Mosaic of satellite images highlighting water-vapor in the atmosphere on Tuesday 24 June 2014, over the Pacific  basin above the  equator
Mosaic of satellite images highlighting water-vapor in the atmosphere on Tuesday 24 June 2014, over the Pacific basin above the equator

The ‘belt of tropical activity’ appears much more active than over the Atlantic and Equatorial Africa on this view.  A train of large storm systems extends all the way from the Gulf of Panama in the east to the Philippines and beyond or more than 20,000 km. with only one significant gap to the southeast of Hawaii.

Water-vapor filtered mosaic of satellite images of 24 June 2014 over Australia, portiond of the Indian Ocean and the Southeast Pacific Ocean
Water-vapor filtered mosaic of satellite images of 24 June 2014 over Australia, portions of the Indian Ocean and the Southeast Pacific Ocean

A rather different array of  weather systems is visible over the high latitudes in the southern hemisphere, where winter 2014 has just set in. A major weather system is clearly visible over New Zealand. However the other big islands south of the equator, Australia, Madagascar, are enjoying mostly clear weather during the earlier hours of this Tuesday 24 June 2014.

We all know however that it is just a question of time. Some of these cells in the northern hemisphere may start to show signs of cyclonic development, and in no time we may see a tropical cyclone over any of the basins that are cradles of cyclogenesis. So we keep on watching, looking for those early signs that allows us to investigate, and follow, and forecast. It is a never ending process between humans and Nature.

The most amazing aspect of this, one at which I always marvel, is that a rather insignificant weather cell over the central Indian Ocean just starting its westward journey. and a similarly anonymous storm cell over the Northwestern Pacific moving eastward along the fringes of a jet-strean may, not only survive their long journeys, but actually grow picking-up  strength and  size along the way, and get to interact with one another three weeks from today generating the next cyclonic event over the Atlantic, our neck-of-the-woods here in Florida.

Consequently, amazing as this view from above, and marvelous as the never-ending workings of the atmosphere and oceans are, the fact remains that we humans must always be alert, prepared and engaged in the practice of mitigation to reduce the potential for damage from that next one, which might be under gestation starting from opposite extreme of our planet Earth.

Enjoy today’s panoramic vistas. Keep on watching!

The 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season is here

Five days into the ‘official’ 2013 Atlantic hurricane season Mother Nature has decided to comply by generating the first tropical cyclone, a named storm, of the still very young season. Tropical storm ANDREA generated from a tropical wave that had meandered over the north central Caribbean and then the southern gulf of Mexico over the past 3 -4 days.

Tropiacl storm ANDREA, the first named tropical cyclone of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season was located near 25.3 N 86.5W in the Guilf of Mexico at 1800 EDT on June 5, 2013. The storm was tracking northward at a slow 3 mph.
Tropical storm ANDREA, the first named tropical cyclone of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season was located near 25.3 N 86.5W in the Gulf of Mexico at 1800 EDT on June 5, 2013. The storm was tracking northward at a slow 3 mph.

Tropical storm Andrea is expected to continue moving toward the north and then north by northeast toward a possible landfall in the Bind Bend area of Florida’s Gulf coast. The system is forecast to traverse the peninsula and then emerge over the southeastern USA coastal region. The most damaging components from Andrea are expected to be storm surge and wave action along Florida’s Gulf coast, extreme rain, and potentially some tornadoes. The  wind analysis image below illustrate the steering currents that will help drive tropical storm Andrea on its projected track.

Wind analysis showing steering winds and other atmospheric features interacting with tropical storm Andrea on June 5, 2013 as of 1700 EDT.
Wind analysis showing steering winds and other atmospheric features interacting with tropical storm Andrea on June 5, 2013 as of 1700 EDT.

Earlier this year, a couple of months ago, forecasters at Colorado State University, NOAA and the Weather Channel, issued their advanced forecasts for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. Colorado State called for 18 named storms including 9 hurricanes, of which 4 will be major hurricanes (category 3 or higher in the Saffir-Simpson scale), the Weather Channel is calling for 16 named storms including 9 hurricanes, of which 5 will be category 3 or higher. NOAA, in typical scientific fashion, issued a forecast based on ranges of storms rather than an exact number, calling for 13 to 20 named storms to include from 7 to 11 hurricanes, of which 3 to 6 will be major hurricanes. In addition NOAA gives its forecast a 70% likelihood that it will happen.

While NOAA, Colorado State University and the Weather Channel play their numbers game pretty much in agreement in terms of overall numbers, the bottom line is that the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season is forecast to be more active than the average season, which over the past 63 years (1950m – 2012) has averaged 12 named storms, including 7 hurricanes, 3 of them major hurricanes, annually.

Ominous and scary as these numbers appear, and that is all they are: just numbers, there is no need for anyone losing sleep over these forecasts. What really should get our undivided attention is that in only takes one hit to cause a lot of pain, human suffering, structural damage and economic loss. The extensive media coverage of what New Jersey and New York, and other neighboring states, are going through as a result of Hurricane Sandy is evidence enough of how true this axiom really is.

In this regard, I submit that NOAA, the Weather Channel and Colorado State University, would provide a vastly superior public service by striving to communicate how damaging wind and storm surge generated by a hurricane can really be, and by finding ways to characterize the impacts of these damaging components of hurricanes on given communities, rather than playing the annual numbers game that is really meaningless  to an individual residing in a hurricane vulnerable community. After all, what really makes a difference is not how many named storms or major hurricanes may actually happen in a given year, but whether that individual is prepared or not in terms of how protected his house is and how effective his emergency plan really is.

In this regard I believe it is a good thing that Tropical Storm Andrea is happening so early into the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, if only because it might shake some individuals out of complacency and into mitigation actions. Along these lines, the fact that the Eastern Pacific 2013 Hurricane season that officially started on May 15 has already generated two named storms, tropical storm ALVIN which generated right on cue on May 15 off the Pacific coast of Mexico and hurricane Barbara, which also generated off the coast of Mexico making landfall in southern Mexico to then traverse the isthmus of Tehuantepec as it degraded, to eventually emerge as a depression over the Bay of Campeche in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.

We will all have to wait and see how accurate the forecast numbers may be, but in the mean time we will all do well to pay attention to the tropics, to be prepared, and above all to seriously and actively engage in the practice of mitigation. Hurricane mitigation consists of all those practices and actions that will effectively reduce the potential for damage to our homes and communities from the impacts of future hurricanes.