Dangerous tornado outbreak expected Saturday; Gulf of Mexico SSTs warmest on record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:57 PM GMT on April 13, 2012

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A dangerous tornado outbreak is expected on Saturday over the Plains, says NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC). Warm, moist air flowing northwards from a Gulf of Mexico that has record-warm waters will collide with cold air funneling down from Canada, creating a highly unstable air mass capable of creating strong thunderstorm updrafts. An impressive upper-level low, accompanied by a jet stream with 105 - 125 mph winds at middle levels of the atmosphere, will create plenty of wind shear, giving the air the spin it needs to form tornadoes. SPC has has issued their highest level of alert, a "High Risk," for much of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska for Saturday. Included in the "High Risk" area are the cities of Wichita, Oklahoma City, and Lincoln. This is the second time SPC has issued a "High Risk" forecast this year; the first "High Risk" forecast came for the March 2 tornado outbreak, which killed 41 people and did $1.5 - $2 billion in damage. It is very unusual for SPC to issue a "High Risk" forecast more than a day in advance of a suspected tornado outbreak; according to Wikipedia, today's "High Risk" forecast is only the second time SPC has ever done this. The other instance was for the April 6 - 8, 2006 tornado outbreak focused over Tennessee, which generated 73 tornadoes that killed 13 and did $1.5 billion in damage. People living in the threatened area need to pay close attention on Saturday to this dangerous severe weather situation.


Figure 1. Severe weather risk for Saturday, April 14, 2012, from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

Gulf of Mexico water temperatures the warmest on record
Temperatures in the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico were the 3rd - 7th warmest on record during the first three months of 2012, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. This allowed Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) in the Gulf of Mexico (25 - 30°N, 85 - 90°W) to climb to 1.4°C (2.5°F) above average during March 2012, according to a wunderground analysis of the Hadley Centre SST data set. This is the warmest March value on record for the Gulf of Mexico, going back over a century of record keeping. During the first two weeks of April, Gulf of Mexico waters remained about 1.5°C above average, putting April on pace to have the warmest April water temperatures on record. Only one year in the past century has had April water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico more than 1.1°C above average; that year was 2002 (1.4°C above average.) All that record-warm water is capable of putting record amounts of water vapor into the air, since evaporation increases when water is warmer. Because moist air is less dense than dry air, this warm, moist air flowing northwards from the Gulf of Mexico into the developing storm system over the Plains will be highly unstable once it encounters cold, dry air aloft. The record-warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are a key reason for the high risk of severe weather over the Plains this weekend.


Figure 2. Departure of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) from average for April 12, 2012, as computed by NOAA/NESDIS. SSTs in the Gulf of Mexico are at their warmest levels on record for this time of year.

Follow Weather Underground on twitter for the latest on this potential severe weather outbreak.

Jeff Masters

April Storms (llpj04)
this storm greeted me as I came out of the grocery store, chased me home and got to my driveway the same time I did.
April Storms
Lightning Up the Pond - Oklahoma (mbryan777)
Last night we had a pretty spectacular lightning storm. I put the camera on the tripod in time-lapse mode and laid on my back on the hillside above the pond taking in an amazing show. When it got more exciting than I was comfortable with, I ran for the house.
Lightning Up the Pond - Oklahoma

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Quoting 1900hurricane:
West cell doesn't look too organized yet.

Wow it had a really nice meso and just kinda fell apart. Yah it has a gust front with it now I believe.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3841
West cell doesn't look too organized yet.

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
Yeah the Norman tornado is definitely back.

It's probably stronger now than before.


there is also still a lot of rotation with that cell to the west of Oklahoma city.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
News 9 met calling a debris ball on radar.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3841
Quoting Patrap:

296
WFUS54 KOUN 132205
TOROUN
OKC125-132230-
/O.NEW.KOUN.TO.W.0010.120413T2205Z-120413T2230Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
505 PM CDT FRI APR 13 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NORMAN HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY IN SOUTH CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...

* UNTIL 530 PM CDT

* AT 500 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED
A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS
DANGEROUS STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR PINK...MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
SHAWNEE...TECUMSEH...PINK...EARLSBORO...JOHNSON...
DALE AND BETHEL ACRES.

THIS INCLUDES INTERSTATE 40 BETWEEN MILE MARKERS 174 AND 194.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

GET IN...GET DOWN AND COVER UP. TAKE COVER NOW IN A STORM SHELTER
OR AN INTERIOR ROOM OF A STURDY BUILDING. STAY AWAY FROM DOORS AND
WINDOWS.



LAT...LON 3523 9678 3525 9714 3538 9714 3546 9677
TIME...MOT...LOC 2200Z 253DEG 22KT 3531 9709
the cnn weather guy said today was just the warm up..tomorrow he's afraid..there may be 100's of tornado's..his words...my god
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 37042
Tornado Warning.





Rotation showing up well in the last few frames.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666

296
WFUS54 KOUN 132205
TOROUN
OKC125-132230-
/O.NEW.KOUN.TO.W.0010.120413T2205Z-120413T2230Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
505 PM CDT FRI APR 13 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NORMAN HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY IN SOUTH CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...

* UNTIL 530 PM CDT

* AT 500 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED
A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS
DANGEROUS STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR PINK...MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
SHAWNEE...TECUMSEH...PINK...EARLSBORO...JOHNSON...
DALE AND BETHEL ACRES.

THIS INCLUDES INTERSTATE 40 BETWEEN MILE MARKERS 174 AND 194.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

GET IN...GET DOWN AND COVER UP. TAKE COVER NOW IN A STORM SHELTER
OR AN INTERIOR ROOM OF A STURDY BUILDING. STAY AWAY FROM DOORS AND
WINDOWS.



LAT...LON 3523 9678 3525 9714 3538 9714 3546 9677
TIME...MOT...LOC 2200Z 253DEG 22KT 3531 9709
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Oklahoma City
NEXRAD Radar

Base Reflectivity 0.50° Elevation
Range 124 NMI

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Storm north of Altus has a really nice wall cloud.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3841
Have your Battery backed up NOAA Alert Weather Radio as the situation in the areas outlined is going to produce havoc somewhere within it.


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Quoting PlazaRed:

The info on the link here is interesting as they say that there is another big storm on the way in about one and half hours:-

http://www.news9.com/Global/category.asp?C=202212 &BannerId=436

They are saying that the next storm is heading in the general direction of Norman!


It sure looks like it. P.S. Taz, this is only 4 minutes old. :P

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Norman storm is possibly reforming, reports of rotating wall cloud in Pink, Oklahoma.

Source: Link
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Quoting Articuno:
Umm..


Possible hook echo maybe?

If that storm produces a tornado..and it's heading to oklahoma city..not good..
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Norman tornado appears to have caused mostly EF0/EF1 damage, but there's some isolated high end EF1/low end EF2 damage.
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Storms north of Altus will most likely be tornado warned soon (Within 20-30min). They just have that look.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3841
Said a roof was torn off an apartment building.

So that's equivalent to the gusts of a category 3 hurricane, so probably 135MPH wind or more to do that, particularly with only a few seconds to a minute of exposure.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Umm..


Possible hook echo maybe?
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Quoting Ameister12:
Damage in Norman.


:(
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Quoting Grothar:


That storm looked pretty strong North of Norman. I was watching it on the WC.

The info on the link here is interesting as they say that there is another big storm on the way in about one and half hours:-

http://www.news9.com/Global/category.asp?C=202212 &BannerId=436

They are saying that the next storm is heading in the general direction of Norman!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Fire Department in Norman reports some minor injuries in Norman and the Chief said that it is safe to say that there is structural damage.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
That image is old. There are now 2 High Risk areas tomorrow.
i suppose on any other day that would have been a pun..
Grothar ;)
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Quoting Grothar:
It looks like Saturday will also be a high risk day for the same area. Geez, you'd think it was April.




thats old

this is the newer one

Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114760
Quoting Ameister12:

Source?


Channel 9 said there was some power lines down.

I don't think there was CONFIRMATION of structural damage yet.

But it was strong enough to blow down several power lines and poles they confirmed already.

EDIT:

Fire chief says Norman has some trees down.

some structural damage. (does not necessarily imply catastrophic or severe.)

Some minor injuries.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Damage in Norman.

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Cell behind the Norman Cell looking pretty suspicious.
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Quoting Grothar:
It looks like Saturday will also be a high risk day for the same area. Geez, you'd think it was April.


That image is old. There are now 2 High Risk areas tomorrow.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3841
Quoting StormTracker2K:
Significant damage to OU campus!

Source?
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It looks like Saturday will also be a high risk day for the same area. Geez, you'd think it was April.


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Significant damage to OU campus!
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Next storm for OKC is starting to form some rotation. Now has a strong meso with it.


Yeah, it's the cleveland cell with the large hail again.

Similar setup.

It does show a solid rotation on base velocity, but it would need to tighten up a lot I think to make a legit tornado.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
The WC has an article by Dr. Forbes detailing the 10 worst tornados in US history. The interesting thing is that not one from the Super Outbreak of 1974 was on the list.

Here is the link:

Link
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
It was a cone.

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Next storm for OKC is starting to form some rotation. Now has a strong meso with it.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3841
Norman supercell is still very strong. There is still a large rotating wall cloud.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Tornado in Puerto Rico? Water Spout?

0 M4 Comerio PR 37 dBZ 1,000 ft. 0 kg/m² 0% Chance 0% Chance 0.00 in. 35 knots SE (134)


Tornado signature.

0 N0 Cleveland OK 60 dBZ 5,000 ft. 11 kg/m² 0% Chance 0% Chance 0.00 in. 19 knots W (261)


Not very impressive.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Quoting PlazaRed:

Its what you don't miss that matters to us, Grother!


Not much, Plaza!
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Power flash in Norman.
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Quoting Ameister12:
The Norman storm has weakened. Tornado warning should be allowed to expired.


That storm looked pretty strong North of Norman. I was watching it on the WC.
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Quoting StormTracker2K:
Lots of damage in Norman confirmed.

Link


Can still see power flashes on this live feed.

edit: My bad they were replaying the vid from a little earlier.
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It was a cone.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3841
Kids in Norman that were on buses are being sent back to school.
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Quoting Grothar:
I didn't know they were retiring the name Irene with Irma. Maybe someone posted this and I missed it. I miss a lot of things these days.



No one else knew that either! But we all knew she was getting her name kicked off. I just thought it would be Ina or Ivy, maybe Inga. Irma it is though.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3481
Thanks to the airport radar, the structure of the supercell has been able to be observed with very good detail.

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
Lots of damage in Norman confirmed.

Link
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The Norman storm has weakened. Tornado warning should be allowed to expired.
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Did i hear correctly..the tv station is off the air..only able to broadcast per the internet.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14600
Quoting Grothar:
I didn't know they were retiring the name Irene with Irma. Maybe someone posted this and I missed it. I miss a lot of things these days.


Its what you don't miss that matters to us, Grother!
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In case you're curious what the US wind map is doing right now. http://hint.fm/wind/
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0 X0 62 dBZ 38,000 ft. 45 kg/m² 70% chance 100% chance 1.50 in. 19 knots SW (235)

that one is at Caddo,OK back along the same corridor.

It has a Tornado signature.



These others are just nassty and worth mentioning.

In the same area.


U0 69 dBZ 46,000 ft. 73 kg/m² 100% chance 100% chance 3.75 in. 23 knots W (268)

1 K2 64 dBZ 39,000 ft. 63 kg/m² 70% chance 100% chance 1.50 in. 23 knots SW (223)

1 M1 64 dBZ 32,000 ft. 49 kg/m² 50% chance 100% chance 1.00 in. 27 knots SW (224)



Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Just means they don't know how many storm will initiate. 4 cells all alone by themselves would be incredibly dangerous with conditions like tomorrow.

Definitely, but fewer cells would lessen the odds of a major city getting hit
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

I was referring to the slightly less aggressive wording, especially this paragraph

SUBSTANTIAL UNCERTAINLY EXISTS IN REGARD TO STORM COVERAGE ALONG THE
DRYLINE DURING THE DAY FROM KS INTO OK AND NW TX. HOWEVER...HIGH END
SEVERE POTENTIAL EXISTS AND WILL MAINTAIN CATEGORICAL HIGH.

By no means am I denying the seriousness of tomrrow's event
Just means they don't know how many storm will initiate. 4 cells all alone by themselves would be incredibly dangerous with conditions like tomorrow.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3841

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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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