Missouri River flood hits unprecedented flow rates

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:18 PM GMT on June 17, 2011

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The most expensive tornado/severe weather disaster in American history is the great May 21 - 26, 2011 storm that spawned the Joplin, Missouri EF-5 tornado. According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, insured damages from that storm will amount to $4 - $7 billion, the greatest damages ever for a spring severe weather outbreak. However, the damages from the huge, slow-moving low pressure system that spawned the Joplin tornado have not yet been fully realized. The powerful storm pumped huge quantities of warm, moisture-laden air from the Gulf of Mexico northwestwards into Montana, where the moisture condensed into record-breaking heavy rain and snow. In portions of eastern Montana, the storm brought a year's worth of precipitation in a week, swelling the tributaries of the Missouri River to unprecedented heights. Billings, Montana recorded 9.54" of precipitation in May, its single wettest month on record, and not far from its annual average precipitation of 14.5". A great 100-year flood has arrived along the Missouri River and its tributaries from Montana to Nebraska. Record spring rains, combined with snow melt from record or near-record winter and spring snows, brought the Missouri River at Williston, North Dakota to 30' today (June 17), two feet above the record crest set in 1912. Tributaries to the Missouri, such as the North Platte River in Nebraska, are also flooding at all-time record heights. With warm summer temperatures and 2 - 5" of rainfall expected over much of the area during the coming week, snow melt and rain runoff will swell area rivers even further, creating an even more dangerous flood.

Flooding along the Missouri River has already broken two levees and closed two portions of I-29, a key trucking route that extends from Kansas City through Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota to the Canadian border. A 20-mile stretch between Council Bluffs and the Missouri Valley area is closed, as well as a 22-mile section in southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri, causing significant disruptions to the trucking industry.


Figure 1. Satellite image taken at 5:45pm CDT May 22, 2011, when the Joplin, Missouri tornado was occurring. The counter-clockwise flow of air around the spiraling low pressure system that caused the Joplin tornado drew large quantities of Gulf of Mexico air into Montana, creating record-breaking rains. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.



Figure 2. Levee breach along the Missouri River levee L-575 near Hamburg, Iowa, on June 14, 2011. The town of Hamburg is being protected by a new temporary levee. So far, only farmland has flooded. Image credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Army Corps cranks up water releases on Missouri River dams to double the previous record
Six flood control dams lie on the Missouri River between eastern Montana and Sioux City, Iowa; these dams were built between 1940 and 1964. As water from this spring's record precipitation have flowed into the Missouri River basin, the reservoirs behind these dams have risen to record levels. On May 31, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to open the the spillway gates on the massive Garrison Dam, 50 miles northwest of Bismark, North Dakota. It was the first time since the dam was built in 1955 that the spillway gates were opened. (Remarkably, during 2007 and early 2008, Lake Sakakawea water levels behind Garrison Dam were the lowest since the dam was built--46 feet below the current level--thanks to a decade-long drought.) On June 3, as the record flood progressed downstream, the spillway gates on the Big Bend Dam opened for the first time since that dam was completed in 1964. This week, the Army Corps of Engineers increased water flowing through all six dams to more than double the previous highs set during the floods of 1975 and 1997. The flow rates are now a massive 150,000 cubic feet per second, 1.5 times greater than the typical flow of Niagara Falls. These extreme flow rates will need to be maintained into at least mid-August, and are expected to severely strain levees on the Missouri River as it flows through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. According to a press conference put on by NWS and the Army Corps last week, the Missouri River flood control system is based on an 1881 estimate of the maximum amount of water an extreme flood season could generate--40 million acre-feet of water during the spring and summer flood season. However, this year's flood is expected to pump 42 - 43 million acre feet of water into the system, stressing it beyond its designed limits. In May alone, the Missouri River basin just upstream from Sioux City, Iowa, received 10.2 million acre feet of water, more than 25% above the previous May record of 7.2 million acre feet set in 1995. Additional levee failures along the Missouri are likely this summer, particularly if widespread heavy summer rains occur.


Figure 3. The Oahe Reservoir Stilling Basin north of Pierre, S.D., on June 5, 2011. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased the water releases from the Oahe Dam into the stilling basin to a record 147,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water release on June 8. The previous record was 59,000 cfs in 1997. Image credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/ Carlos J. Lazo

Four-day period of critical fire conditions expected in the Southwest
Powerful southwest winds of 20 - 30 mph, gusting to 40 mph will continue through Saturday in Eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, making progress containing the region's severe fires difficult. Even worse conditions are begin predicted for Sunday, when NOAA's Storm Prediction Center forecasts forecasts that wind gusts up to 50 mph will occur. With hot conditions and humidity values below 10%, these are likely to be among the worst fire conditions the region has seen this year.

While the exceptional drought gripping Arizona is largely to blame for terrible fire conditions this year, unusually windy and dry weather has also been a significant factor. These windy and dry conditions have been caused, in part, by a stronger-than-average jet stream over the region. According to the National Weather Service in Phoenix, the period April-May 2011 was the 11th windiest and had the 6th lowest average relative humidity value on record in Phoenix. Combined, it was the 3rd windiest-driest April-May on record.

Our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has an interesting post on The Worst Wild Fires in World History. Arizona's Wallow Fire, at 750 square miles, has a long way to go before matching the largest fire in U.S. history, the great Peshtigo Fire of 1871. That fire burned 5,938 square miles of Wisconsin and Michigan.

Tallahassee hits 105°, their hottest day on record
On Wednesday June 15 at 307 PM EDT, the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida recorded a high temperature of 105 degrees. This temperature breaks the previous all time high temperature record for Tallahassee of 104 degrees, set most recently on June 20th 1933. The period of record for Tallahassee dates back to 1892.

The Atlantic is quiet
The Atlantic is quiet, with no tropical cyclones predicted over the next seven days by the reliable computer models. However, the GFS model predicts that moisture will begin increasing early next week in the western Gulf of Mexico, and a tropical disturbance could form next week in the Gulf, bringing much-needed rains to the coast of Texas. Droughts of the magnitude of the current Texas drought are hard to break, though, so I'd like to see more support from the models before believing in this forecast.

Have a great weekend everyone! I'll be back Monday with a new post.

Jeff Masters

ABANDONED For Wetland Project in Flood (BEME)
Another old farmstead,within the wetlands 'project'..near Highway 2 [to Nebraska City,Nebraska]..Water's getting higher. [photo taken Wednesday afternoon]
ABANDONED For Wetland Project in Flood
Won't be Open Much Longer (Nikongranny)
Highway 2 east of Nebraska City will be closing very soon.
Won't be Open Much Longer
Trying to Keep Ahead (Nikongranny)
of the approaching water. Crews working frantically building this earth berm to keep the advancing Missouri River out of Hamburg.
Trying to Keep Ahead

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Quoting Levi32:


Well I have a link lol.

I think what he's saying has more to do with right now, as opposed to 6-8 days down the road when the next tropical wave comes. As of right now, the steering flow seems pretty set to me.

GFS Day 8: 2nd wave coming into the western Caribbean moving northwest.




Yes, I knew what he was saying, which is why I responded to his question about the current moisture first, and and what would happen in a few days. I "bifurcated" my sentence. LOL
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
I don't really because in the past when a storm is supposed to miss us we get hit and when it is supposed to hit it misses. LOL Re: Ivan and Paloma.

Trust me I know how you feel but 60-100 miles is pretty good considering , just simply means everyone within the the cone or on the outskirts should be prepare, imo they've gotten real good , but they will never really truly figure out mother nature, its just not part of the plan!
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Probability of 2 or more tornadoes
Mod (40%)

Probability of 1 or more strong (F2-F5) tornadoes
Low (20%)


Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Philadelphia, Smithville, Hackleburg, Rainsville, Joplin, El Reno all EF5 tornadoes, that's incredible. Before this year the last EF5 was in 2008.

6 EF5 tornadoes in one year, I just cant believe it.


And the two EF4s that accompanied the EF5 in OK on May 24, 2011 weren't far from EF5. Both had top winds estimated at 190. (Link added) I don't know about the EF4s elsewhere.

Okay. That's it from from me in Oklahoma.

Enjoy your weather watching.
:)
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Quoting stormpetrol:
As you all know , while models are good for "some kind of guidance" I never really trust them.More than half the time they don't pan for development or strength, though I give them more credit as to the actual path of a TS or hurricane
I don't really because in the past when a storm is supposed to miss us we get hit and when it is supposed to hit it misses. LOL Re: Ivan and Paloma.
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Quoting JNCali:

Thanks Neapolitan.. as a matter of fact my 12 year old did find it entertaining! any one estimate the wind speed on that burst?


The highest measured wind speed occurred over the northern and central portions of Norman, where an anemometer measured 82 mph.
NWS Norman June 14, 2011 Severe wind Event in Central Oklahoma

Some good vids on that page where you can see the downburst happen. Also an explanation of what a downburst is.
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mark 13n/79.5W
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Quoting Levi32:
The PDO is currently cold. The SSTs off the west coast of North America are currently cold. The sea surface height anomalies are lower than normal. I have seen this effect of the PDO completely consistently. I have never seen a negative PDO raise the sea level off the western USA, and neither have I seen a warm PDO lower it. Warm water thermally expands. Cold water thermally contracts.



In other words, cold PDO combining with cold Gulf of Guinea, is a combination that for sure will cause the season to be very active to maybe hyperactive.
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339. beell
Tom and bappit,
No harm done.

And I think you highlighted the salient points quite well in your post (331), bappit.
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As you all know , while models are good for "some kind of guidance" I never really trust them.More than half the time they don't pan for development or strength, though I give them more credit as to the actual path of a TS or hurricane
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Those clouds down by Panama look morsel-icious.
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We hit a record temperature today of 107. The last record of 105 was in 1924. Tomorrow is forecast to get hotter. We haven't seen under 100 for at least 10 days. Can someone reroute the flooding to west TX please?!!!
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Prelude: We go into a La Nina towards the end of last year.

Act1: A terrible winter that loads some places with 200 to 300% normal snow pack.

Act2: Record rainfall in the midwest with some of the most violent tornados.

Act3: Record flooding on the Mississippi and tributaries

Act4: Record heat and drought in the southwest and GOM states.

Act5: Curtain soon to raise on the tropical mischief.

This is like seeing the entire Wagner Ring Cycle in one sitting with NO INTERMISSION!
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Philadelphia, Smithville, Hackleburg, Rainsville, Joplin, El Reno all EF5 tornadoes, that's incredible. Before this year the last EF5 was in 2008.

6 EF5 tornadoes in one year, I just cant believe it.


Happened last in the 1974 Super Outbreak.
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The PDO is currently cold. The SSTs off the west coast of North America are currently cold. The sea surface height anomalies are lower than normal. I have seen this effect of the PDO completely consistently. I have never seen a negative PDO raise the sea level off the western USA, and neither have I seen a warm PDO lower it. Warm water thermally expands. Cold water thermally contracts.

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Looking at Beell's article (JUST KIDDING!), it seems that the authors are talking about what they think is yet to happen. That sort of makes the article a "well, we'll see story", but does make it reconcilable with Tom Taylor's personal observation. The warming they are talking about is predicted to occur in the future.

They seem to be mainly interested in explaining why sea levels have not been rising along the west coast when they have been rising elsewhere.

A quote from the article follows. Note that they also throw in a kicker at the end.

Based on their analysis of wind stress patterns and data collected by tide gauges, Bromirski and his colleagues conclude that the PDO's current warm phase has suppressed sea level rise along the West Coast during the past three decades.

Going from warm to cool phase

The global average rate of sea level rise stood at about 2 millimeters per year during most of the 20th century before increasing to 3 millimeters per year during the 1990s, a trend that other studies have suggested is related, at least in part, to climate change.

But the West Coast has bucked that trend. There, the pace of sea level rise has remained steady since about 1980.

The new study suggests that will change when PDO flips from its current warm phase into a cool phase. Then, sea level rise will accelerate.

But determining whether the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is flipping into a cool phase will take several years of careful observation to see whether the shift in wind patterns persists.

"It could be that we're just going through a down-cycle in the current [warm] regime, and everything is going to flip back and maintain pretty much the way it has been," Bromirski said. "Or we could actually be going through a shift."
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Quoting alfabob:

Just seems like the low to mid level steering layers are slowly lifting north due to the monsoonal flow which might give it some more room in the short-term. If it does strengthen it has a chance to make a northward lift.


I do see the break there, though it's pretty high up. I doubt we'll see anything strong enough to get steered by that (notice that technically that layer is for major hurricanes). We'll see, but I think central America is getting this system.
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Philadelphia, Smithville, Hackleburg, Rainsville, Joplin, El Reno all EF5 tornadoes, that's incredible. Before this year the last EF5 was in 2008.

6 EF5 tornadoes in one year, I just cant believe it.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24263
Link
Well at the Airport just under 2 miles NNE of where I live they had gust to nearly 37mph.
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NOAA Makes It Official: 2011 Among Most Extreme Weather Years in History

Just past the halfway point, 2011 has already seen eight weather-related disasters in the U.S. that caused more than $1 billion in damages

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id= noaa-makes-2011-most-extreme-weather-year
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Quoting Grothar:


That is a distinct possibility. While this convection may want to move west, the wave which will be coming is a few days will moisten this area considerdable and allow a more favorable environment for some development. This area would more than likely move to the North or Northwest. Don't ask for a link please, just a guess at this time.


Well I have a link lol.

I think what he's saying has more to do with right now, as opposed to 6-8 days down the road when the next tropical wave comes. As of right now, the steering flow seems pretty set to me.

GFS Day 8: 2nd wave coming into the western Caribbean moving northwest.

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Very potent squall here in the SW side of Grand Cayman at this time just my estimation winds gusts of 25-30mph.
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Quoting bappit:

Did you see the description of the damage by this one?

IN ADDITION, AN ANCHORED LIBERTY SAFE
WEIGHING 800 POUNDS WAS PULLED OFF ITS ANCHORAGE AND THROWN INTO A WOODED AREA 600 FEET AWAY. WHEN FOUND, THE SAFE'S DOOR HAD BEEN RIPPED OPEN AND COMPLETELY OFF.

Truly amazing.

Meanwhile, 92 in the EPAC is down another notch, while winds are still at 25 knots:

EP, 92, 2011061800, , BEST, 0, 123N, 941W, 25, 1007, DB, 34, NEQ, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1008, 200, 90, 0, 0, E, 0, , 0, 0, INVEST, S,
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Quoting alfabob:

Wouldn't the development of 92E allow for stronger SW winds into the Caribbean, making it possible that land interaction won't be as much of a problem? It looks like an ULAC is trying to close off, and is forcing at least the mid-level environment to move NW instead of W or WNW.


That is a distinct possibility. While this convection may want to move west, the wave which will be coming is a few days will moisten this area considerdable and allow a more favorable environment for some development. This area would more than likely move to the North or Northwest. Don't ask for a link please, just a guess at this time.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

So that's six EF-5 tornadoes this year, all coming in a single four-week span, and four of those on a single day.

Incredible...

Did you see the description of the damage by this one?

IN ADDITION, AN ANCHORED LIBERTY SAFE
WEIGHING 800 POUNDS WAS PULLED OFF ITS ANCHORAGE AND THROWN INTO A WOODED AREA 600 FEET AWAY. WHEN FOUND, THE SAFE'S DOOR HAD BEEN RIPPED OPEN AND COMPLETELY OFF.
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Quoting beell:
Since the mid-1970s, the PDO has been in a "warm" phase, in which winds drive the upwelling of cold water from the deep ocean to the surface close to the shoreline.

Hey, I just posted the link, lol. Some of you may reach for this article again when somebody mentions sea-level rise in conjunction with climate change and a sea level rise at the tidal gauges along the coast.

Levi's graphic seems to confirm this.
I'm not mad at you lol.

But that's why I mentioned they worded it funny.

I think they meant a sea surface rise over the central pacific. In the central pacific water temps are definitely warmer and higher during the warm phase. Along the coast, however, its the opposite.
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Quoting weathergeek5:
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION LEADS TO AN UPGRADE OF DEKALB COUNTY
TORNADO FROM APRIL 27TH TO AN EF-5...

AN ADDITIONAL GROUND SURVEY BASED ON NEW INFORMATION WAS CONDUCTED
ON JUNE 15TH ALONG A NARROW CORRIDOR OF DEKALB COUNTY EAST AND
NORTHEAST OF DOWNTOWN RAINSVILLE. THIS STORM SURVEY WAS UTILIZED
ALONG WITH AERIAL IMAGERY FROM A NOAA OVERFLIGHT ON MAY 4TH,
INTERVIEWS WITH RESIDENCES IN THE AREA, AND ADDITIONAL PRE-EVENT
IMAGERY TO UPDATE THE PREVIOUS RATING FOR THE LONG TRACK TORNADO THAT
IMPACTED DEKALB COUNTY ON APRIL 27TH.


FINDINGS INCLUDING THE UPDATED SURVEY INFORMATION ARE AS FOLLOWS:

* EVENT TYPE: TORNADO
* EVENT DATE: 04/27/11
* EVENT TIME: 6:19 PM TO 6:56 PM

* ESTIMATED PEAK WIND:> 205.0 MPH
* PRELIMINARY RATING: EF-5

* PATH LENGTH: 33.8 MILES
* MAXIMUM PATH WIDTH: 0.75 MILES

* BEGINNING POINT: 34.90708 / -85.978378
* MID POINT:34.507738/ -85.790106
* ENDING POINT: 34.733306 / -85.557820

So that's six EF-5 tornadoes this year, all coming in a single four-week span, and four of those on a single day.

Incredible...
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Quoting alfabob:

Wouldn't the development of 92E allow for stronger SW winds into the Caribbean, making it possible that land interaction won't be as much of a problem? It looks like an ULAC is trying to close off, and is forcing at least the mid-level environment to move NW instead of W or WNW.


I doubt it. 92E is starting to move along with the main steering flow as well, and it's too far west to "sling-shot" the Caribbean system around to the northwest, like some systems will do in proximity.

Mid-level steering flow:

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.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
There was supposed to be a weather picture with that... lol ... then I couldn't get back online to repost the imagery... suffice it to say it hasn't rained where I've been, and I've been around the island, except for the extreme western and southern bits.

Bummer.

Did it rain in FLL?


Not a drop by us, but some in other places.
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313. beell
Since the mid-1970s, the PDO has been in a "warm" phase, in which winds drive the upwelling of cold water from the deep ocean to the surface close to the shoreline.

Hey, I just posted the link, lol. Some of you may reach for this article again when somebody mentions sea-level rise in conjunction with climate change and a sea level rise at the tidal gauges along the coast.

Levi's graphic seems to confirm this.
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Quoting Levi32:


That is along the coast. I really doubt they were talking about just at the beach to 100m out. I have also never seen what they are saying occur on any high-res SST maps on a long time scale.
even if they were its not true

I live in San Diego, about 15 minutes from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (the ones referenced in the article), and temperatures up and down the beaches in San Diego and the rest of S California are certainly not above average.
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Quoting bappit:

I like this description.

Since the mid-1970s, the PDO has been in a "warm" phase, in which winds drive the upwelling of cold water from the deep ocean to the surface close to the shoreline.

But now it appears to be flipping into a "cool" phase, in which that upwelling of cold water will weaken, leaving surface waters warmer.


It has always seemed to me when looking at maps that the PDO phases were misnamed.


I remember you mentioning this about the northwest Pacific, but the article very specifically speaks of the U.S. west coast. I would take another look at those maps I just posted.
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Quoting beell:


Except along the coast.

Looks cold off the coast to me

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Quoting beell:
PDO Flip May Accelerate US West Coast Sea Level Rise - scientificamerican.com/May 3, 2011

I like this description.

Since the mid-1970s, the PDO has been in a "warm" phase, in which winds drive the upwelling of cold water from the deep ocean to the surface close to the shoreline.

But now it appears to be flipping into a "cool" phase, in which that upwelling of cold water will weaken, leaving surface waters warmer.


It has always seemed to me when looking at maps that the PDO phases were misnamed.

Edit: Okay, I admit to some fog on this. What I'll stick with is that the majority of the oceans look warmer during the cool phase and cooler during the warm phase. I'll punt on the article's description since I don't know about that. I'm only familiar with the maps Levi posted.
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Quoting beell:


Except along the coast.


That is along the coast. I really doubt they were talking about just at the beach to 100m out. I have also never seen what they are saying occur on any high-res SST maps on a long time scale.
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Quoting beell:
PDO Flip May Accelerate US West Coast Sea Level Rise - scientificamerican.com/May 3, 2011
That article is worded funny. It mentions the cold phase as being associated with warmer sea surface temperatures, which is not true. PDO cold phase lowers water temps along western North America.

Maybe they are talking about SST anomalies in Central North Pacific? That's the only area of the pacific that actually becomes anomalously warm in a cold phase PDO.

It also doesn't make sense that cooler SSTs would cause rising sea levels since high Sea Surface Height anomalies are associated with warmer waters.

Maybe they got the warm and cold phases mixed up.
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Quoting beell:
PDO Flip May Accelerate US West Coast Sea Level Rise - scientificamerican.com/May 3, 2011
I guess I'll have to rent Water World again...
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Quoting weathergeek5:

Good God.
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304. beell
Quoting Levi32:


What is this lol.

"Since the mid-1970s, the PDO has been in a "warm" phase, in which winds drive the upwelling of cold water from the deep ocean to the surface close to the shoreline.

But now it appears to be flipping into a "cool" phase, in which that upwelling of cold water will weaken, leaving surface waters warmer.
"

That is the exact opposite of what happens folks.




Except along the coast.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


What kind of chance would you give it to develop into TD?


Very low. It will be partially tied up with land all the way to the Yucatan, at which point it will be completely over land. We can't forget though that this feature will be contributing to whatever tries to get going in the southern Gulf of Mexico next week.
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302. beell
Quoting PaulMSN:
It beggars belief - from 1940 to 1964 they built a system of dams based on an estimate from 1881 when meteorology was in its infancy and so few people lived in the region that it would have been a stretch to say there was any real familiarity with it???


Interesting. Have link?
tia
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Ran across this short video of a microburst in Norman, Okalahoma, on Tuesday. It's not the greatest quality, but I think most will find it interesting from a meteorological perspective--and, if you have kids, you might even think it's entertaining. ;-)

Thanks Neapolitan.. as a matter of fact my 12 year old did find it entertaining! any one estimate the wind speed on that burst?
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Quoting Levi32:
The axis of the tropical wave in the western Caribbean has now passed Grand Cayman and is near the eastern coast of Nicaragua. As expected, this wave is drawing low- mid-level energy WNW from the area north of Panama that has been festering for a couple of days. The system will continue to look more impressive as it approaches central America, but will not have time to develop significantly before land interaction disrupts its organization.



What kind of chance would you give it to develop into TD?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32354
Quoting beell:
PDO Flip May Accelerate US West Coast Sea Level Rise - scientificamerican.com/May 3, 2011


What is this lol.

"Since the mid-1970s, the PDO has been in a "warm" phase, in which winds drive the upwelling of cold water from the deep ocean to the surface close to the shoreline.

But now it appears to be flipping into a "cool" phase, in which that upwelling of cold water will weaken, leaving surface waters warmer.
"

That is the exact opposite of what happens folks.


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Not surprised by the 60%. Where r they suggesting it's headed?
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The axis of the tropical wave in the western Caribbean has now passed Grand Cayman and is near the eastern coast of Nicaragua. As expected, this wave is drawing low- mid-level energy WNW from the area north of Panama that has been festering for a couple of days. The system will continue to look more impressive as it approaches central America, but will not have time to develop significantly before land interaction disrupts its organization.

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.