March 2 - 3 tornado outbreak: 10th largest in recorded history?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:06 PM GMT on March 12, 2012

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The deadly early-season tornado outbreak of March 2 - 3 that hit Indiana, Kentucky, and surrounding states, killing 41 people, may have been the 10th largest two-day tornado outbreak since record keeping began in 1950. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center now lists 132 preliminary tornado reports for March 2, and 11 for March 3. It typically takes several months to finish damage surveys and verify all the tornadoes that really occur in a big tornado outbreak. Sixty-one tornadoes have been confirmed so far, according to Wikipedia's tally of the outbreak. The two-day total of 143 tornadoes from March 2 - 3 is probably an over count of about 15%, based on historical levels of over counts. This would give the March 2 - 3 outbreak around 120 tornadoes, making it the tenth largest outbreak since record keeping began in 1950. Assuming this is true, the past two tornado seasons would hold four of the top ten spots for largest tornado outbreaks in recorded history. Below are the top two-day tornado outbreaks since 1950. Several of these two-day totals were taken from outbreaks that lasted three or more days; the highest two-day period of activity was selected for this list, so that the outbreak would not be mentioned multiple times. The numbers from the 2011 outbreaks are still preliminary:

262, Apr 26 - 27, 2011
169, Apr 3 - 4, 1974
160, May 29 - 30, 2004
141, May 24 - 25, 2011
135, Jan 21 - 22, 1999
130, Apr 15 - 16, 2011
125, May 4 - 5, 2003
123, Jun 15 - 16, 1992
121, May 4 - 5, 2007
120ish, Mar 2 - 3, 2012
120, May 3 - 4, 1999


Video 1. Spectacular tornado video taken at a home in West Liberty, Kentucky outfitted with seven automatic security cameras, which captured the fury of the strong EF-3 tornado with 165 mph winds that roared overhead on March 2, 2012. The views from all the cameras are worth watching, but don't watch past 7:00, as the end of the video has three minutes of blankness at the end. According to an article at wkyt.com, the home owners, Randy and Norma Risner, took shelter in the basement, and their home survived the tornado. "You could actually feel the ground shaking and our the 11-foot basement walls were shaking, too," Norma said. The tornado destroyed their workshop (caught on camera), and another camera shows the roof of their neighbors home peel off.


Video 2. Perhaps even more impressive is video taken at a nearby pharmacy showing the West Liberty tornado destroying buildings across the street. The view from Clinic Pharmacy starts at 0:50 into this video.

The uncertain business of counting tornadoes
While there's no question that having four top-ten tornado outbreaks in just two years is highly unusual, the quality of our tornado data base is poor, and there are probably outbreaks that occurred prior to 1990 that were significantly under-counted and would have made the top ten list, had they occurred today. The number of tornadoes being reported has increased in recent decades, and this increase may be due entirely to factors unrelated to climate change:

1) Population growth has resulted in more tornadoes being reported.

2) Advances in weather radar, particularly the deployment of about 100 Doppler radars across the U.S. in the mid-1990s, have resulted in a much higher tornado detection rate.

3) Tornado damage surveys have grown more sophisticated over the years. For example, we now commonly classify multiple tornadoes along a damage path that might have been attributed to just one twister in the past.


Figure 1. Number of EF-1, EF-2, EF-3, EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes from 1950 to 2011. The total shown for 2011 is preliminary and uses unofficial numbers, but 2011 now ranks in 2nd place behind 1973. There is not a decades-long increasing trend in the numbers of tornadoes stronger than EF-0, implying that climate change, as yet, is not having a noticeable impact on U.S. tornadoes. Data provided by Harold Brooks, NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory.

If we look at changes in the strongest tornadoes--EF-1, EF-2, EF3, EF4, and EF-5 twisters, the ones most likely to have a reliable long-term detection rate, due to their destructive power--we see no sign of an increasing trend in recent decades (Figure 1), even if we include 2011. However, it is difficult to make solid conclusions on how tornadoes may be changing, since the quality of the historical tornado data set is so poor. This is largely due to the fact that we never directly measure a tornado's winds--a tornado has to run over a building before we can make an EF-scale strength estimate, based on the damage. As tornado researcher Chuck Doswell said in a 2007 paper, "I see no near-term solution to the problem of detecting detailed spatial and temporal trends in the occurrence of tornadoes by using the observed data in its current form or in any form likely to evolve in the near future." Major changes in the rating process occurred in the mid-1970s (when all tornadoes occurring prior to about 1975 were retrospectively rated),and again in 2001, when scientists began rating tornadoes lower because of engineering concerns and unintended consequences of National Weather Service policy changes. Also, beginning in 2007, NOAA switched from the F-scale to the EF-scale for rating tornado damage, causing additional problems with attempting to assess if tornadoes are changing over time.


Figure 2. Thomas Hudson and the Portlight trailer in Harrisburg, Illinois.

Portlight disaster relief charity responding to the tornado disaster
The Portlight disaster relief charity has made a strong showing in tornado-devastated Harrisburg, Illinois and Henryville, Indiana. Both towns were hit by deadly EF-4 tornadoes during the February 28 - March 3 tornado outbreak. From the Portlight blog:

"Yesterday we went to Henryville, Indiana and volunteered for a few hours, mainly unloading trailers with water, canned goods, etc.

The people were in great spirit, eager to rebuild, and overall thankful that it wasn't worse than it was.

Myself, Jeremiah Moran, Blaize Edwards, and Andrew Newcomb made the 2 hour drive from Washington, Indiana.

We will be trying to get back this weekend or a couple of days next week."

An interesting sciencedaily.com article discusses how the powerful EF-4 tornado from the February 29, 2012 outbreak that devastated Harrisburg, Illinois passed through a high-density network of seismographs. "The seismograms show a strong, low-frequency pulse beginning around 4:45 a.m. on Feb. 29. Our preliminary interpretation, based on other seismic records of tornadoes, suggests that we were recording not the tornado itself, but a large atmospheric pressure transient related to the large thunderstorms that spawned the tornadoes."

I'll have a new post by Wednesday.

Jeff Masters

HARRISBURG IL (catfish10)
HARRISBURG IL
HARISBURG IL. (catfish10)
Golden circle building
HARISBURG IL.

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Quoting CybrTeddy:


I try to stay fairly anonymous with my personal life but yep, my mother used to go on WU during Wilma, however she wasn't very interested in hurricanes, but she knew I was insane for them and given this was a paid account, she let me have it in December 2005.


Sorry. Thought you had mentioned that here before. Anyway, we were all worried for you guys then. Let's hope this year doesn't bring any worries to wubloggers.

G'Nite, everyone.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
921. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Darwin Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Advice #14
TROPICAL LOW 17U
1:48 PM CST March 14 2012
=======================

At 12:30 PM CST, Tropical Low (1000 hPa) located at 14.8S 128.7E has 10 minute sustained winds of 25-30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The tropical low is reported as moving south southeast at 8 knots.

The tropical low is located on the coast and is expected to move inland. It is no longer expected to develop into a tropical cyclone.

GALES are no longer expected between Dundee Beach and Kalumburu.

Tides will be HIGHER THAN NORMAL between Dundee Beach and Kalumburu, during today or tonight. Large waves may produce MINOR FLOODING of low-lying coastal areas around the time of highest tides.

HEAVY RAIN is expected to cause significant stream rises and possible flooding of low lying areas in the Darwin-Daly and northern Victoria River Districts and the Kimberley region.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
================================

The Cyclone WARNING from Kalumburu to Dundee Beach has been cancelled.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey guys what do you think of this as my secnd job

Link


Hmm that ad is rather unpatriotic for the military. Here in Canada all the military ads are about fighting to serve for the country. In fact I didn't know it was for the UK military until the end with the website top-level domain of .uk.
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
How you gonna do that. You forget the world's gonna end any day now?


At least I'll be out of Walmart.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Got to be honest with you, I wouldn't be shocked if I'm still a regular on WU in the 2016 hurricane season.
How you gonna do that. You forget the world's gonna end any day now?
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey guys what do you think of this as my secnd job

Link


It's not for me, but whatever works for you.

What would your first job be?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
hey guys what do you think of this as my secnd job

Link
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11004
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Got to be honest with you, I wouldn't be shocked if I'm still a regular on WU in the 2016 hurricane season.


Same here.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Don't sweat it; you'll be doing it again this year.


Got to be honest with you, I wouldn't be shocked if I'm still a regular on WU in the 2016 hurricane season.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jedkins01:



You're joking right? Granted they are quite smart in the animal Kingdom but they can't have a conversation with humans on a weather blog.
yes you know I am and if you're think no I don't watch too much rise of the planet apes I have seen it once
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11004
Quoting CybrTeddy:


And ever since, I've been staring at a white computer screen arguing with trolls for entire summers.


Don't sweat it; you'll be doing it again this year.
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Quoting gordydunnot:
Don't forget Parrots we may have a few here.


Now that seems pretty likely, there could certainly be some GW parrots present here.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
Don't forget Parrots we may have a few here.
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3112
Quoting CybrTeddy:


I try to stay fairly anonymous with my personal life but yep, my mother used to go on WU during Wilma, however she wasn't very interested in hurricanes, but she knew I was insane for them and given this was a paid account, she let me have it in December 2005.


And ever since, I've been staring at a white computer screen arguing with trolls for entire summers.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:

smart chimp or monkey are also pet they can type word on computer as well you know



You're joking right? Granted they are quite smart in the animal Kingdom but they can't have a conversation with humans on a weather blog.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
Quoting Jedkins01:


I don't know, somehow I'm gonna go with a no there.. lol

smart chimp or monkey are also pet they can type word on computer as well you know
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11004
I'd say that's plenty to be proud of as none of us would be here otherwise. Cybr we just forgot about the old Elvis song. He wanted to be someone Teddy Bear.
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3112
Quoting wunderkidcayman:

you know it is a good question how do you really know who is what for all you really know you could very well be talking to a computer or a pet or a female or male


Sure. I could also just be a brain in a vat. But I'm not.
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Quoting Barefootontherocks:


As I recall, your Mom used that handle during Wilma. Maybe some of the mistake is leftover from that.


I try to stay fairly anonymous with my personal life but yep, my mother used to go on WU during Wilma, however she wasn't very interested in hurricanes, but she knew I was insane for them and given this was a paid account, she let me have it in December 2005.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:


That was exactly my facial reaction when on my birthday people where posting on the blogs 'Cheers to the Birthday Girl CybrTeddy'. I always thought it was obvious I was a male, guess I was wrong.


I literally laughed out loud at this.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:

you know it is a good question how do you really know who is what for all you really know you could very well be talking to a computer or a pet or a female or male


I don't know, somehow I'm gonna go with a no there.. lol
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Funny thing is that 99% of the blog was under the impression I was a female up until mid-2009.


As I recall, your Mom used that handle during Wilma. Maybe some of the mistake is leftover from that.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Baha
Myself
Pat
SPL
TropicalAnalyst
Shen
Jed
VAbeachhurricanes
wunderkid
Cybr
Tom

I could go on.

you know it is a good question how do you really know who is what for all you really know you could very well be talking to a computer or a pet or a female or male
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11004
I'm laughing at the# 800 post having read back from 849. Seems like someone is having a nervous breakdown. He appears to have scared poor Chicklit away, that poor she-devil. Oh well I'm sure she well be back. I'll tell Fl. can scare the bejesus out of you sometimes.Kind of gives you a clue as to why they put the da in Florida. And it wasn't from teachers.
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3112
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
Quoting KoritheMan:


o_O


That was exactly my facial reaction when on my birthday people where posting on the blogs 'Cheers to the Birthday Girl CybrTeddy'. I always thought it was obvious I was a male, guess I was wrong.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Funny thing is that 99% of the blog was under the impression I was a female up until mid-2009.


Is that something you should be proud of?
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Funny thing is that 99% of the blog was under the impression I was a female up until mid-2009.


o_O
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Also correct. The trade winds will also tend to rip apart these systems once we head into the heart of hurricane season. That's mostly why I lowered my numbers to around 13 towards the beginning of the year, I'm expecting an inactive Cape Verde year.

Haven't seen a Levi update recently, he can read the clues more carefully than I ever could.


Yes,we need Levi to start his tidbits for the 2012 season.
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14007
Quoting KoritheMan:


Baha
Myself
Pat
SPL
TropicalAnalyst
Shen
Jed
VAbeachhurricanes
wunderkid
Cybr
Tom

I could go on.


Don't forget meeeee!!!!!

Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


go onnnnnnnn /in my best Jon Stewart voice


Tonights Daily Show was awesome! Will Ferrel is HILARIOUS!!
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

While SAL may be holding Sea Surface Temperatures in the Eastern Atlantic down just a little bit, the strong trade winds across the region is what is really preventing warming to occur. Just another sign that La Nina is fading...


Also correct. The trade winds will also tend to rip apart these systems once we head into the heart of hurricane season. That's mostly why I lowered my numbers to around 13 towards the beginning of the year, I'm expecting an inactive Cape Verde year.

Haven't seen a Levi update recently, he can read the clues more carefully than I ever could.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I must say, its not often sexuality is a subject on this blog, you know then there is little to discuss.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
Quoting KoritheMan:


Baha
Myself
Pat
SPL
TropicalAnalyst
Shen
Jed
VAbeachhurricanes
wunderkid
Cybr
Tom

I could go on.


Funny thing is that 99% of the blog was under the impression I was a female up until mid-2009.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

How do you know I'm not a girl?


Because Cody is a male given name.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


I love sausage... like the actual food...


I like the food too, but me thinks we better drop this subject before it uh, well, you know. lol
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

How do you know I'm not a girl?


Cause you aren't? Your syntax is not girly.
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Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31451
Quoting KoritheMan:


Baha
Myself
Pat
SPL
TropicalAnalyst
Shen
Jed
VAbeachhurricanes
wunderkid
Cybr

I could go on.


go onnnnnnnn /in my best Jon Stewart voice
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KoritheMan:


I think you know, Jed. I think you know. ;)



Ahh I do, I guess I was just attempting to confirm my suspicions... lol
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
Quoting KoritheMan:


Baha
Myself
Pat
SPL
TropicalAnalyst
Shen
Jed
VAbeachhurricanes
wunderkid
Cybr

I could go on.

How do you know I'm not a girl?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31451
Quoting Jedkins01:



Sausage fest, exactly what are you implying by that? lol


I love sausage... like the actual food...
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Quoting flsky:

Which?????


Baha
Myself
Pat
SPL
TropicalAnalyst
Shen
Jed
VAbeachhurricanes
wunderkid
Cybr
Tom

I could go on.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Wish Ron Paul had a chance. If I could pick anyone who is in the senate or house to be president it would be Marco Rubio. He has some problems but so does everyone.


I voted for Ron Paul, sadly I can't say the same for much of the rest of the Republican voters...


I'm very disappointed in the deep south. Common rural voters, I thought you stood for good American values... Oh well, what can a man do but watch and hope for better.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
879. flsky
Quoting KoritheMan:


I don't know if everyone is, but most of them are.

Which?????
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Quoting Jedkins01:



Sausage fest, exactly what are you implying by that? lol


I think you know, Jed. I think you know. ;)
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LOL... it's been 80+ here all week so far... the wind is the big story here... blowing dead leaves off trees and everything...
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Don't go. The predominant sausage fest on here generally leads to a lot of testosterone. We need a little female company to balance it out.



Sausage fest, exactly what are you implying by that? lol
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
Quoting flsky:

How do you know who is female and who is male?


I don't know if everyone is, but most of them are.
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874. flsky
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


umm... its gonna be 80 here thursday. thats exciting

84 where I am tomorrow in cfl
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
The English and the French, not to mention the whole country of Africa aren't all that friendly.


Indeed, lol. How about we just go ahead and throw the rest of the world into that equation while we are at it though :)
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7273
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

While SAL may be holding Sea Surface Temperatures in the Eastern Atlantic down just a little bit, the strong trade winds across the region is what is really preventing warming to occur. Just another sign that La Nina is fading...


The positive NAO combined with the sal is what has really caused the MDR to be average to below that.

Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14007

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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.

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