Friday, September 17, 2010


Here's something about me. I find weather fascinating. I try to find out about what actually causes the weather. If meteorology were offered at any school near me that would probably be what I would major in. I'm particularly interested in the severe weather and Tornadoes. It's something I consider a hobby and I think I'm somewhat knowledgeable in this area.

Yesterday, there was a severe weather outbreak in my home state of Ohio. Two cells that had Tornado Warnings passed on either side of my specific location. It is now clear that those cells did not produce Tornadoes in my area. These cells merged in Southeast Ohio and produced four confirmed Tornadoes; one South of Nelsonville in Athens County, another in Meigs County and another in Perry County. Three of those are judged to be EF2 and one in Perry County is judged to be an EF1. There are also other Tornadoes yet to be confirmed in Athens County.

Significant damage occurred in The Plains, Ohio and the Eastern part of Athens, Ohio. No tornado has been confirmed in this area by NWS Charleston, but it appears that a Tornado likely caused the damage in this area and that will probably be what their damaged survey will find. My sister and possibly my only reader lives in that area and there was some major damage in her backyard.

Tornado Myths

Myth- Tornadoes can't climb hills, Tornadoes can't cross rivers, Tornadoes can't overcome *insert geographical obstacle here*

Myths about Tornadoes and geography have been around for awhile. They were basically all proven wrong by the Tornado outbreak on April 3-4, 1974. This outbreak was by far the biggest in recorded history. 148 tornadoes occurred in a 24 hour period and 6 of those were F5. Considering F5 tornadoes only occur about once a year that is amazing.

*Bonus myth* This outbreak also created a belief that Nuclear tests in the South Pacific provided the energy for this unprecedented outbreak. A Nuclear bomb was set off a few weeks before this outbreak. Following Nuclear weapons tests went off with out causing another super outbreak, so that is largely debunked.

Myth- Hail and Tornadoes always go together

This is actually based on fact. Tornado producing storms often are hail producing storms. The two things do not go together absolutely though.

Myth- The sky changes to weird colors around Tornadoes.

This goes along with the last myth. Often times a green color is reported in the sky around tornadoes. A Tornado doesn't have any magical powers to do this. It is the reflection of Hail, which as stated earlier is frequently associated with Tornadoes.

Myth- Tornadoes don't hit major cities

The idea is that there is a dry heat bubble due to all the concrete and asphalt in big cities. It is true that a major city is hotter than it's outskirts. In reality that only makes thunderstorms stronger. Tornadoes in major metro areas are rare, but that is more because the area of land that major cities occupy is small compared to the area of land of everywhere else. Tornadoes don't discriminate. They come down when conditions within a storm dictate that they can no matter what area they are over. 'Tornado Alley' has major cities, but they are separated by great distances of farmland. If 'Tornado Alley' was in the Northeast Tornadoes hitting big cites would be much more common.


NWS- The Boy who cried Wolf or just being prudent?

The National Weather Service issues Tornado Warnings for storms that are 'capable' of producing a Tornado according to radar. This has led to many, many false Tornado Warnings. I have been under about 3-4 Tornado Warnings per year for the past several years with no Tornadoes in my area. Does this create an insensitivity to Tornado Warnings in areas that are frequently warned?

Doppler radar technology has improved the ability to detect rotation within a Thunderstorm prior to any Tornadic activity occurring. This has dramatically improved warning times dramatically from the few minutes that there was in 1974 if there was any Warning at all. That is a very good thing and has likely saved many lives.

The problem is that Doppler Radar indicating rotation can mean a Tornado is developing or it can mean nothing. To this point there is no real way to tell the difference. So, solely using radar to indicate possible Tornadoes leads to false Warnings.

It is really a Catch-22 for the National Weather Service. Waiting for a spotter to report a Tornado on the ground likely means a Warning will be too late for people in the path. Issuing Tornado Warnings when nothing comes of it will create a public that will largely ignore the warnings, which is dangerous as well.


Thanks for reading and please comment.


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