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 pottery:

Evening Grothar, and everyone....

We have had 2 consecutive days of SUNSHINE !
Big change, that!
The fruit trees are confused and the grass is as high as an elephants eye and all is well.


Very warm and dry here. We didn't get the rain that Palm Beach did. Just a little. I don't remember a year like this at all. It seems every year gets warmer down here. Last summer was brutal.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Here is a "True Grit"



LOL

I really loved the remake of True Grit.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8028
Quoting SPLbeater:


I thought not:)

If somebody is talking negatively about me, it would be pleasant if they would tell me!!

He wasn't talking bad about you and it's not like you cannot see the comment...
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32862
Quoting pottery:

Nope.


I thought not:)

If somebody is talking negatively about me, it would be pleasant if they would tell me!!
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Here is a "True Grit"

Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11557
Quoting SPLbeater:


Is there a good reason that there is a background conversation about me occuring at this time?


Contrary to what you might think, none of us here particularly dislike you. We don't align with your conservative viewpoints, but that's part of living in a free society.

I've said before that you are a good kid, but I'm not going to censor my opinions just because it might offend you. Again, that is part of living in a free society. You will experience things you neither like nor agree with. And I think that's perfectly acceptable.

I mentioned you because I felt it was a valid comparison. My former self was like you. In every way.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 602 Comments: 21333
Quoting SPLbeater:


Is there a good reason that there is a background conversation about me occuring at this time?

Nope.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


You might find this hard to believe, but I was virtually identical to SPL in every way when I was 13. I would go on Starcraft of all things and try and convert people. I would avoid any and all opposition to my beliefs, by writing it off as "the devil". I would never think critically, I would never analyze my beliefs for fear that doubt would creep in and make me an atheist (and really, if one's faith is shaken by mere introspection, can they safely say they ever really believed to begin with?). I would also bring my Bible with me anytime my family and I would go shopping. I was the trademark symbol of a fire and brimstone Christian.

Nowadays I still very much possess an intimate interest in theology, including Eastern religions like Buddhism and Taoism (to be honest, I find Western religions to be rather lacking, holding no significant meaning in my life -- they are also far too contradictory. You can resolve some issues through careful studies of historical, cultural, and social backgrounds and customs, but that sort of exegesis can only go so far before it becomes unsatisfactory). And although I'm an atheist, I love to debate religion, and will usually grapple onto any such opportunities as soon as they arise (provided my opponent isn't a total klutz). I will even rise to the defense of religion when I see it someone ignorantly or unjustly saying something about it. I value logic and rationality, and wish to completely abolish anything else.


Is there a good reason that there is a background conversation about me occuring at this time?
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Quoting Grothar:


You're just too young to remember the movie.

Evening Grothar, and everyone....

We have had 2 consecutive days of SUNSHINE !
Big change, that!
The fruit trees are confused and the grass is as high as an elephants eye and all is well.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I hope you're joking, Gro =P


You're just too young to remember the movie.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I hope you're joking, Gro =P

It would be a first, for him.
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Quoting pottery:

Sort of like a gnit ?


Or a gnat?
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 602 Comments: 21333
Quoting Grothar:


What's a grit?

Sort of like a gnit ?
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Quoting Grothar:


What's a grit?

I hope you're joking, Gro =P
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32862
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Which grit lover will win Alabama and Mississippi y’all?


What's a grit?
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Quoting KoritheMan:


I assume his opinions probably come from hearsay, ala his parents. I know all of mine did when I was that age. Didn't matter if it was religion, politics, or what.
Most likely, I did the same when I was his age. But I also made sure to keep my beliefs to myself, especially if I couldn't argue them.
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657 barbamz "Hi, besides all the bad news (esp. droughts; way too early summer to come, even in Europe) the Abisko Skystation Webcam in northern Sweden just caught a nice fireball !"

That's jes plain mean. How would you like to have your camera fireballed?
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I'd rather take apple pie.


Now you're making me hungry.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 602 Comments: 21333
Quoting KoritheMan:


It should, but at the expense of hurricanes. In weather, you can't have your cake and eat it too. Someone will always complain about something. ;)

I'd rather take apple pie.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32862
Quoting TomTaylor:
Hopefully the dying La Nina will keep that sucker weaker during this summer.


It should, but at the expense of hurricanes. In weather, you can't have your cake and eat it too. Someone will always complain about something. ;)
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 602 Comments: 21333
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Coming soon: The Return of the Death Ridge: Part 2

Hopefully the dying La Nina will keep that sucker weaker during this summer.
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Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11557
Quoting BobWallace:


Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and
expecting different results.

If your chosen religion makes you behave that way, then ....


That's a very ill-defined and roundabout way of looking at it though.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 602 Comments: 21333
Quoting SPLbeater:

Lua

She's not looking too good... Definitely not meeting expectations
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Quoting Xyrus2000:


Nah, it's just the sun mooning us. :)
It wont be too long before it starts speaking to us.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Are you seriously insinuating that religion is the direct cause of insanity? Really?


Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and
expecting different results.

If your chosen religion makes you behave that way, then ....
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Quoting yqt1001:


No, I'm just saying that as long as the governments don't approve of religious extremism then society will at least be livable.


No argument there.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 602 Comments: 21333
Nope. Physics is the cause of mass insanity amongst physicists.
Paraphrasing Fermi: Your idea looks crazy... but is it crazy enough to work?
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting KoritheMan:


Are you seriously insinuating that religion is the direct cause of insanity? Really?


No, I'm just saying that as long as the governments don't approve of religious extremism then society will at least be livable.
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1286
Quoting yqt1001:


(which will atleast keep some sanity in society :P ).


Are you seriously insinuating that religion is the direct cause of insanity? Really?
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 602 Comments: 21333
I wonder which one can really fry catfish better than me...?
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129903
Quoting TomTaylor:
I too have thought about that. Not too long ago in American history we had an event called a "Great Awakening". It wasn't just one event actually, as this happened three times. The first was in the early to mid 18th century, the second in the early to mid 19th century, and the third was around the end of the 19th century. During these periods of religious revivalism, people became more active and involved with their religion.

I certainly wouldn't commit suicide because of a religious revival, but the thought of religion coming back and taking over is awful. The idea of people banning knowledge because of superstition is absurd. It's incredibly unlikely that this would happen, but I'm just saying if it did, that'd be a terrible day for the human race.


Well it is bound to come back. When people are in distress, they will turn to religion for comfort. Just hopefully science has disproved enough of religion to stop the governments from promoting religion (which will atleast keep some sanity in society :P ).
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1286

Lua
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Which grit lover will win Alabama and Mississippi y’all?
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11557
good evening everybody....:)
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Quoting hydrus:
There is always fishin and beer..:). Might be a bit choppy, but the Sun is shining.



Good point :)
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8028
678 TomTaylor "So we have 106% Universe? lolz"

We have a lot bigger problem than that... by a factor of 10-to-the-60th-power or thereabouts when comparing Planck volume/mass-energy with the size and mass-energy density of the VisibleUniverse
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
This is quite a nice chart.

What it's showing is not so nice. We're 46% above the average number of reported tornadoes by this time of the year, and 82% ahead of last year's reports.

I think I did my math right, lol.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32862
Quoting yqt1001:
Even if Obama was from "Kenya" or whatever, does it make a difference? Not like it's another foreign superpower trying to break into the US through a very open hole (getting elected).

Some people like to think that "OMG OBAMAIS MUZLIMZOMG HOW AWFUL" but the US is a religious tolerant society, technically nobody should care. Unless the days of religious extremism are coming back, if so, I think I'll go and commit suicide as that is a world I would hate to live in.
I too have thought about that. Not too long ago in American history we had an event called a "Great Awakening". It wasn't just one event actually, as this happened three times. The first was in the early to mid 18th century, the second in the early to mid 19th century, and the third was around the end of the 19th century. During these periods of religious revivalism, people became more active and involved with their religion.

I certainly wouldn't commit suicide because of a religious revival, but the thought of religion coming back and taking over is awful. The idea of people banning knowledge because of superstition is absurd. It's incredibly unlikely that this would happen, but I'm just saying if it did, that'd be a terrible day for the human race.
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Quoting hydrus:
I think I see Picasso,s silhouette in there. Will it sell on E-Bay.?..:)


Nah, it's just the sun mooning us. :)
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Quoting TomTaylor:
He can't even spell his name right, you think he knows anything about his policies?


I assume his opinions probably come from hearsay, ala his parents. I know all of mine did when I was that age. Didn't matter if it was religion, politics, or what.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 602 Comments: 21333
Quoting KoritheMan:


No offense, but I doubt you know much about Obama or his policies. I didn't know the first thing about politics, much less politicians, when I was your age.

I'm not trying to be harsh, because you're a good kid. I'm just saying.
He can't even spell his name right, you think he knows anything about his policies?
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639 washingtonian115 "Speaking of Admin, they have been trying to get rid of my avatars, and banned me for 'em. They said it's violating community standards, but I don't see how. They aren't offensive or showing anything that could possibly get me banned. One of my pictures was under copyright law when I looked it up."

There's the "whatcha see" problem: eg depending on your cultural background, you will see either a Man-on-the-Moon or a Woman-on-the-Moon or a Rabbit-on-the-Moon.
I don't pay much attention to thumbnail avatars as images. To me, they're just a colorized-shortcut for (sometimes) recognizing posters without having to read their pen-names.
But when someone gets complimented on their choice of avatar, I often take a closer look. On one of your avatars, I took that closer look and saw an abstract at first.
Taking a second look trying to solve the puzzle of what you were being complimented upon... Well, does the artist Georgia O'Keefe bring anything to mind? If not, google.
It was only upon the skeptical "I can't believe..." third viewing that I saw a (still somewhat abstracted) innocent image.

Unless they are really old and their copyright forms were never properly submitted before publication, most images taken from the Web are copyrighted. Fair-use laws apply to non-commercial usage -- and are usually enforced -- but for practical purposes, if ya ain't willing to shell out the BigBucks to defend yourself when a lawyer sends ya a cease&desist...
And while a lot of copyright holders don't care about non-commercial use, some images contain a hidden hash-tag that essentially says "Use me and you'll pay dearly."

Some "free" avatars/thumbnails also contain spyware (usually internet-history trackers but on rare occasions, malware) in the behind-the-scenes coding. Load it, and your computer is infiltrated.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Dark matter is 83% of the universe and dark energy is 23%
so we have 106% Universe? lolz
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
This is quite a nice chart.
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Quoting drought:


Think we'll ever see an Atlantic system beat Typhoon Tip's 870 mb pressure?
Bound to happen eventually because it's certainly possible.

Whether we will be around to measure it is another story though.
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It's a very nice night for star/planet gazing up here... I can already see Mars, Venus, Jupiter (and several of its moons) through my telescope and it's not even that dark yet!
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Quoting Patrap:

GOM SST's



2011


Just for kicks, I'll take it a step further, in the form of Caribbean SSTs:

March 12, 2012:



March 12, 2011:



The Caribbean seems to be holding a deeper heat reservoir in 2011, and that is evident in the TCHP and the depth of the 26C isotherm as well (not shown).
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 602 Comments: 21333
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32862
Quoting Patrap:
oooooooooh, the anti-post, 666
Kinda fits really.:)... I still plan to ascend to the the pastures of heaven regardless of any number..666... 12/21/12... 13 or 8..Eight is actually good luck in China
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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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