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 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.

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Quoting BahaHurican:
Geez. It's daggumed slow in here tonight.

Let's recap tonight's topics:

politics [why!]
the SAHEL and SAL [check]
bass / the sound
bass / the fish
cognitive dissonance

Obviously we have no serious wx anything to report...



umm... its gonna be 80 here thursday. thats exciting
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Actually, Koritheman is correct.

The thing is, the SAL with the dry air is lowering SST's - which will have a harder time to recover than the dry air itself. I think the setup is even less CV storms, but more Irene situations where those waves, choked by SAL, hit a sweet spot at ~50W and blow up into major systems and fail to have sufficient time to recurve without hitting a major landmass, say the United States.



I'm not saying he is way off, it could potentially be a sign of the upcoming season. All I said was that its too early to be sure on that though.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7440
Geez. It's daggumed slow in here tonight.

Let's recap tonight's topics:

politics [why!]
the SAHEL and SAL [check]
bass / the sound
bass / the fish
cognitive dissonance

Obviously we have no serious wx anything to report...

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
868. flsky
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.

How do you know who is female and who is male?
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Good night everyone. Hope you have a wonderful nights sleep and a great day Wednesday.

btw before u go whose u'r fav RvsB person
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Good night everyone. Hope you have a wonderful nights sleep and a great day Wednesday.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting wunderkidcayman:

no no no it not the crazy that I am refering to you about its just the randomness that makes it kinda crazy but no not that you are get it

wow me sayin that make me think of church or tucker sayin this

Quoting hurricanehunter27:
RvB fan! Have to agree caboosse good comparison.


yeah I guess

Quoting CybrTeddy:


Actually, Koritheman is correct.

The thing is, the SAL with the dry air is lowering SST's - which will have a harder time to recover than the dry air itself. I think the setup is even less CV storms, but more Irene situations where those waves, choked by SAL, hit a sweet spot at ~50W and blow up into major systems and fail to have sufficient time to recurve without hitting a major landmass, say the United States.


by the way I was talking about seeing TW not CV storm early if this is what all of you are refering to
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Their is no females on here now.....so gonna get off now...


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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
I don't think a person who can't tolerate people because of there sexuality winning a state primary is a blessing.
Just to push my point a little further here is a quote from Santorum Link

I know the wording is a bit distasteful. Also last I speak of it.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Actually, Koritheman is correct.

The thing is, the SAL with the dry air is lowering SST's - which will have a harder time to recover than the dry air itself. I think the setup is even less CV storms, but more Irene situations where those waves, choked by SAL, hit a sweet spot at ~50W and blow up into major systems and fail to have sufficient time to recurve without hitting a major landmass, say the United States.

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...
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32022
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I don't like your reference there...I'm not crazy.

no no no it not the crazy that I am refering to you about its just the randomness that makes it kinda crazy but no not that you are get it
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
The English and the French, not to mention the whole country of Africa aren't all that friendly.


Yeah that dang country of Africa... :p
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Santorum wins both Alabama and Mississippi. Newt finishes second in both, Romney third.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
ok really seriously now I gota new nickname for you its caboosse from Red VS Blue research it on youtube if a cow is your final answer
RvB fan! Have to agree caboosse good comparison.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting Jedkins01:


don't forget the daggum japs and the daggum turban wearin desert men, they are in on the conspiracy too!
The English and the French, not to mention the whole country of Africa aren't all that friendly.
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Quoting Jedkins01:


Its only March, I would find it hardly likely to determine how things shall be come hurricane season because of how they are now. Just because its dry over there now doesn't mean it will be later, its often quite dry this time of year in those areas.


Actually, Koritheman is correct.

The thing is, the SAL with the dry air is lowering SST's - which will have a harder time to recover than the dry air itself. I think the setup is even less CV storms, but more Irene situations where those waves, choked by SAL, hit a sweet spot at ~50W and blow up into major systems and fail to have sufficient time to recurve without hitting a major landmass, say the United States.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
ok really seriously now I gota new nickname for you its caboosse from Red VS Blue research it on youtube if a cow is your final answer

I don't like your reference there...I'm not crazy.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32022
Their is no females on here now.....so gonna get off now...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TaylorSelseth:
I have a question:

How will the cold phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation we are in affect the possibility of an El Nino developing next fall?


A cold PDO typically favors a southward current of cold water from the west coast to dive southward. Theoretically, this will inhibit rapid warming of the equatorial Pacific. We will eventually get there, but it's not going to be as quick as some are saying.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Ok, it's a cow.
ok really seriously now I gota new nickname for you its caboosse from Red VS Blue research it on youtube if a cow is your final answer
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Quoting yqt1001:


I love base. Neutralizes so good.
Sound like my 8th grade science teacher. Great guy but he made the worst jokes lol.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting yqt1001:


I love base. Neutralizes so good.
Acid rocks better.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Link Listen to the long deep notes. Thats bass. This is a bass fish.


Link

and thats only one of the good ones!
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Quoting TampaSpin:



Typical TEACHER...for those that think you are NICE! RIGHT..I MEAN EXTREME LEFT!
Wow. Amazing how being a teacher just makes u a leftie in the US.... lol

Not at all true in other places....

Quoting TampaSpin:


SO ITS OK FOR HER GARBAGE POST AND NO ONE SAID NOTHING....ITS OBVIOUS WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT!
OK, dude, breathe..... breathe.... it's just a blog....

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Quoting yqt1001:


If he wins the primary at least he has no chance in the real elections. Now, he could easily win any election before the majority of people started to not care about sexuality or religion (Stonewall anyone?). Romney has a chance in the elections though.
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.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


A fish.

seriously who does not know what a bass is
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


A fish.
Quoting yqt1001:


A low frequency sound.

Ok, so...which one are we talking about here? =P
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32022
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
What's bass?
Link Listen to the long deep notes. Thats bass. This is a bass fish.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting SPLbeater:


they want me gone because i said something about what a great day it was yestersay for me.

anyways night all. :D

Behave....lol
Night.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I'm glad to see the american econemy doing well.Especially when it's locally.Anywho the Admins have once again tried to find a excuse to get me banned.LOL.And for what you may ask?.My avatars..


they want me gone because i said something about what a great day it was yestersay for me.

anyways night all. :D

Behave....lol
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
I don't think a person who can't tolerate people because of there sexuality winning a state primary is a blessing.


If he wins the primary at least he has no chance in the real elections. Now, he could easily win any election before the majority of people started to not care about sexuality or religion (Stonewall anyone?). Romney has a chance in the elections though.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
What's bass?


Bass(with a long A) is the sound notes below 100Hz.

when you feel or hear a low consistent rumble towards the street, your hearing somebodies' SPL system, or bass system. i think it sounds gooooooood :D
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I'm glad to see the american econemy doing well.Especially when it's locally.Anywho the Admins have once again tried to find a excuse to get me banned.LOL.And for what you may ask?.My avatars..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SPLbeater:


AMEN!!!! +1000!!!


What a blessing :)
I don't think a person who can't tolerate people because of there sexuality winning a state primary is a blessing.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


It tastes better.


i am speaking of the sound notes below 100Hz...my favorite are the 20Hz notes...:D

louder the better!!
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
What's bass?


A low frequency sound.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
What's bass?


A fish.
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What's bass?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32022
Quoting Neapolitan:
I love bass. Tastes so good.


I love base. Neutralizes so good.
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Quoting Jedkins01:


don't forget the daggum japs and the daggum turban wearin desert men, they are in on the conspiracy too!
Lol I'm afraid to look below this post.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting Neapolitan:
I love bass. Tastes so good.


Jerk... beat me to it...
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Quoting SPLbeater:
I love bass. Sounds so good.


It tastes better.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Yes but they're reporting fires. I don't recall such extremities since at least 2006.



Hmm, well those are pretty common during dry seasons in other parts of the world like here in Florida. We get heavy to extreme rainfall during the hot and steamy tropical months then cooler and most importantly dry weather prevails for several months which kills all the heavy growth from the rain months giving lots of fuel for fires.


Also, sometimes there can be terrible drought during a dry time of year followed by intense rains with the return of the rain season. I'm not real heavily knowledgeable about West Africa though.

Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7440
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS YELLING!!!! WE CAN SEE WHAT YOU TYPE WITHOUT ALL THE CAPITAL LETTERS AND EXPLANATION POINTS!!!!


AMEN!!!! +1000!!!
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
Santorum takes Mississippi, Romney's momentum is faltering.


What a blessing :)
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Quoting SPLbeater:
I love bass. Sounds so good.
I love bass. Tastes so good.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS YELLING!!!! WE CAN SEE WHAT YOU TYPE WITHOUT ALL THE CAPITAL LETTERS AND EXPLANATION POINTS!!!!


what?
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I love bass. Sounds so good.
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Santorum takes Mississippi, Romney's momentum is faltering.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


SO ITS OK FOR HER GARBAGE POST AND NO ONE SAID NOTHING....ITS OBVIOUS WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT!

WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS YELLING!!!! WE CAN SEE WHAT YOU TYPE WITHOUT ALL THE CAPITAL LETTERS AND EXPLANATION POINTS!!!!
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32022
Quoting yqt1001:


I call conspiracy! It's the damn Soviets and Germans! They have been out to get you!

Extreme exaggeration calls for extreme exaggerations..


don't forget the daggum japs and the daggum turban wearin desert men, they are in on the conspiracy too!
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7440

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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.