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 BahaHurican:
It would really be something if we get some seriously bad tornado damage on Friday 13th.....



We can only hope so!
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It would really be something if we get some seriously bad tornado damage on Friday 13th.....

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22087
Dr. Forbes just updated the TOR:CON indices. I would imagine he'll make additional adjustments as time goes by:

Friday April 13
OK southwest - 5
OK northeast - 4
KS southeast - 4
TX northwest near Childress and Wichita Falls - 4

Saturday April 14
IA northwest - 4
IA southwest - 4 to 5
IA rest - 3 to 4
IL northwest - 3
KS central - 8
MN southwest - 4
MN southeast - 3
MO north - 4
NE east - 7
OK southwest, central - 7
SD southeast - 4
TX east panhandle - 5
WI southwest -3
Other areas - less than 2

Sunday April 15
AR northwest - 4
IA east - 6
IL northwest - 4
KS southeast - 4
MN southeast -6
MN south - 4
MO - 4
OK southeast - 4
TX northeast - 4
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Ok, this sounds like a really unnecessary argument going on here. Both Scott and ncstorm have been around here for ages, and while ncstorm's point is valid, it certainly is not grounds for attacking someone's reputation/validity/person.

The concern is understandable, but perhaps misdirected.

Can we "let it dead", as people my way would say?

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22087
Quoting lhwhelk:
I believe after all that I would prefer to live with the danger of a hurricane, which is moderately predictable (I evacuated for Rita, which was a bust, and Ike, when I had to have a new roof), than with the danger of a tornado, where you don't have a clue. Maybe a tornado will come, maybe not, and it could wipe your house off the map and leave your neighbor's house untouched, or just hit 10 miles away, touching down for 1/2 mile.
Agreed. Tornados care the
@#%$ outa me....

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22087
Quoting ncstorm:
ScottLincoln..you have been here since 2002, you of all people should know with the "unpopular" website called Weather Undergound of how MANY people pose as meterologists and claim to work at the NWS..again good for you if you are who you say you are..my POINT was NO one on this blog should be giving advice to people about life and death issues concerning the weather. They should refer to their local NWS or local meterologists, law enforcement, etc. As you professed to work there, then they can reach you THERE (NWS) at a credible point of contact for those type of questions, not on WU. Like I said man, nothing against you or any other meterologists that come to this blog as I have never claimed to be one myself..much respect that you earned that title. I am only here for the interest of weather only!


My post where I used the term "unpopular" - I was using sarcasm :)

Clearly people should get information from their local NWS offices, that is the official information. I'm not sure I ever professed to be the information source for those other offices?
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3192
Quoting MississippiWx:


Scott,

Do you work at the Jackson, MS WFO? I noticed your picture was taken there, so I was just curious. BTW, I have no reason to believe you aren't who you say you are. Your posts are too intelligent and accurate to be an imposter. Keep up the good work!


Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center. Picture was taken at the high water mark sign in downtown Jackson when I was on an orientation trip. FYI... the record high water for Jackson, MS, is from the 1979 Easter Flood on the Pearl River.

People can think what they want... they can find me through public channels if they really wanted to verify my existence. And like I mentioned in the other comment thread, I think even my salary and work email are considered public, so people can find out and confirm all sorts things if they really wanted to.

Also a good time to note again while talking about this that although I am an NWS employee and my work experience combines with my education background to help form my opinions, they are not necessarily the opinions of NOAA/NWS and I don't speak on behalf of them. All that scientific integrity stuff, ya know.
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3192
Afternoon all.

Hard to believe this cloud formation



just gave us [Nassau] about 25 minutes of hard rain...

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22087
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Great post!


A great post that completely misinterprets what Mr. Lincoln was actually saying on the last blog.
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I was asked to put this up, as I usually won't put up this trivial info.

This is the earliest update that a high risk of severe weather has been issued by the SPC. The Previous time was April 6, 2006, but the high risk wasn't issued until the 17:30z outlook. This is the earliest that a high risk can be issued.
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Quoting severstorm:

Yes that would be great news. I know its April and we dont get much rain around these parts. I've only had 2.69 since last november. Kinda reminds me of back in 2001 thru early 2003 like a desert back then. well heres hoping the pattern changes. good to hear from you.


you too!
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Driest I've seen in years. Even some of the lakes are now dried up. Good news is the CPC is expecting above average rains from next week thru maybe the rest of the month.


Yes that would be great news. I know its April and we dont get much rain around these parts. I've only had 2.69 since last november. Kinda reminds me of back in 2001 thru early 2003 like a desert back then. well heres hoping the pattern changes. good to hear from you.
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Quoting severstorm:

Hey there stormtracker2k, really getting dry here in zephyrhills how about over you way. Do you see any rain in the next couple of weeks?


It could be possible that we start getting into a summer pattern starting mid next week. Cross your fingers!

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hoping for Keeper to post some nice res. visible images for today ;)
not sure how those 1km images are found at the scale he posts them...
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Quoting severstorm:

Hey there stormtracker2k, really getting dry here in zephyrhills how about over you way. Do you see any rain in the next couple of weeks?


Driest I've seen in years. Even some of the lakes are now dried up. Good news is the CPC is expecting above average rains from next week thru maybe the rest of the month.

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I believe after all that I would prefer to live with the danger of a hurricane, which is moderately predictable (I evacuated for Rita, which was a bust, and Ike, when I had to have a new roof), than with the danger of a tornado, where you don't have a clue. Maybe a tornado will come, maybe not, and it could wipe your house off the map and leave your neighbor's house untouched, or just hit 10 miles away, touching down for 1/2 mile.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Wichita, KS NWS:

WITH THIS
SAID...NAM/WRF FORECAST SOUNDING FOR KICT AT 03Z/SAT LOOKS LIKE THE
PROVERBIAL "LOADED GUN"...WITH SUPERCELLS AND A FEW STRONG TORNADOES
LOOKING VERY LIKELY SAT EVENING FROM KSLN TO KICT.

CURRENT INDICATIONS SUGGEST THAT A LARGE PORTION OF THE FORECAST
COULD SEE A TORNADO OUTBREAK SAT EVENING. A LARGE CONCERN EXISTS
THAT THE TORNADO THREAT WILL CONTINUE INTO THE HOURS AFTER SUNSET
SAT EVENING...AS MLCAPE VALUES REMAIN HIGH AND CIN VALUES REMAIN LOW
WITH BOUNDARY LAYER MOISTURE REMAINING HIGH. THIS WOULD KEEP THE
SUPERCELL THUNDERSTORMS ROOTED IN THE BOUNDARY LAYER...INCREASING
THE CHANCE FOR A LONG TRACK TORNADO CONTINUING LONG AFTER DARK.
STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT TORNADOES AFTER DARK SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE
THE POTENTIAL FOR LOSS OF LIFE. SPC COORDINATED WITH THE LOCAL
OFFICES AND THEY HAVE GONE WITH A RARE DAY2 HIGH RISK ACROSS THE
AREA.

May have been posted already, but anytime I see "loaded gun" in a discussion, it gets my attention. Let's hope for a bust in this forecast. Otherwise, tomorrow is going to be a bad, bad day.
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Quoting StormTracker2K:
Storms starting to pop in S FL.


Hey there stormtracker2k, really getting dry here in zephyrhills how about over you way. Do you see any rain in the next couple of weeks?
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Storms starting to pop in S FL.

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Quoting ncstorm:
ScottLincoln..you have been here since 2002, you of all people should know with the "unpopular" website called Weather Undergound of how MANY people pose as meterologists and claim to work at the NWS..again good for you if you are who you say you are..my POINT was NO one on this blog should be giving advice to people about life and death issues concerning the weather. They should refer to their local NWS or local meterologists, law enforcement, etc. As you professed to work there, then they can reach you THERE (NWS) at a credible point of contact for those type of questions, not on WU. Like I said man, nothing against you or any other meterologists that come to this blog as I have never claimed to be one myself..much respect that you earned that title. I am only here for the interest of weather only!


Great post!
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also shear in the Caribbean is now below climo



GOM shear is hanging around just below climo



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
ScottLincoln..you have been here since 2002, you of all people should know with the "unpopular" website called Weather Undergound of how MANY people pose as meterologists and claim to work at the NWS..again good for you if you are who you say you are..my POINT was NO one on this blog should be giving advice to people about life and death issues concerning the weather. They should refer to their local NWS or local meterologists, law enforcement, etc. As you professed to work there, then they can reach you THERE (NWS) at a credible point of contact for those type of questions, not on WU. Like I said man, nothing against you or any other meterologists that come to this blog as I have never claimed to be one myself..much respect that you earned that title. I am only here for the interest of weather only!
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15286
Quoting StormTracker2K:
MJO seems to wanna hang around this month.



Not surprising. Even though the North Atlantic hasn't been that warm relative to average so far this year, it's still the warmest basin on the planet as a whole. Add that in with the warm East Pacific waters with the oncoming El Nino, we should see the MJO stick around our part of the world for a while.

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You can look Scott up.
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MJO seems to wanna hang around this month.

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31. MTWX
Quoting MississippiWx:


Scott,

Do you work at the Jackson, MS WFO? I noticed your picture was taken there, so I was just curious. BTW, I have no reason to believe you aren't who you say you are. Your posts are too intelligent and accurate to be an imposter. Keep up the good work!


Kinda curious myself.. If he does, I have probably talked on the phone with him a few times!
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GOM Sea Height Anomaly

2012





2011
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Man, I'm totally getting scared about traveling to Oklahoma this weekend for work. Not a good feeling. Wonder if I'd get fired if I refused to go?
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Quoting Chucktown:
Irene has been retired.

Link
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
Good morning. The name Irene has been retired from the list of names and replaced with Irma.

Link


But...but...Irene was a bust, right? :-p
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Quoting aspectre:
I was hoping Don would get retired.


Lol. The way Texas caused him to evaporate, his name should evaporate as well.
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I was hoping Don would get retired.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
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Quoting ScottLincoln:


If you really think this W. Scott Lincoln fellow at the NWS is famous-enough for random people on the internet to try and copy with fake blog usernames (usernames that were created over 6 years ago, before said NWS employee was even done with college, let alone a famous NWS employee), you could always email him at his work address and see if he responds to you with:
A) what!? someone is copying my identity on some unpopular weather website called Weather Underground? or
B) Yes, I've had the handle "ScottLincoln" since my early years of weather-interest when I first had a home weather station and before I even finished my B.S., let alone became an NWS employee.


Scott,

Do you work at the Jackson, MS WFO? I noticed your picture was taken there, so I was just curious. BTW, I have no reason to believe you aren't who you say you are. Your posts are too intelligent and accurate to be an imposter. Keep up the good work!
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22. MTWX
"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."



SPC also posted it on Facebook this morning.
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Good morning Dr Jeff,
Interesting information in the header. I was so hoping this year would not be another year of nasty tornadoes. Thanks for the update.


Hi everyone,
It is about time Irene got retired, should have been retired before.
Anytime I hear Irene I remember the one that caughter everyone at work in October 1999
and flooded us out in SE Florida for days... not heavy winds,
Cat 1 winds but so much flooding.

Good Night Irene!!!



Happy Friday everyone!
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Gulf of Mexico water temperatures the warmest on record


Kinda figures.

Positive I've never seen daily maps for the western and northern Gulf that hot this time of year.

It's actually at least 2C above last year in some locations along the north of the Gulf, or was a few days ago when comparing same day vs same day.

Say if we use the average of 1.5C above average.

If you have that averaged for the top meter of water and using a kilometer grid, then excess energy above average comes to a difference:

6.3 giga-joules per square kilometer.

or

76.8 Terra-joules per square map degree....


that's literally an EXCESS of 1/3rd of the Integrated Kinetic Energy of hurricane Ike PER square map DEGREE of Gulf...
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
19. MTWX
Was just about to mention this is only the second time ever SPC has issued a day 2 high risk on the last blog.... Thank You for the update Dr. Masters!
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Quoting JNCali:
2012 is not even halfway over and how many records have been broken so far?
atmospheric volatility looks to only increase as temps and moisture content -right? I would not own stock in insurance companies.. just sayin'


It'll just be more expensive to buy insurance as if its not already high enough.
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well I guess some of us including me was right about the warm SST in GOM

and anyone notice that it is rapidly warming in the NW Caribbean
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2012 is not even halfway over and how many records have been broken so far?
atmospheric volatility looks to only increase as temps and moisture content -right? I would not own stock in insurance companies.. just sayin'
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Saturday's Tor-Con#'s April 14

IA northwest - 4
IA southwest - 4 to 5
IA rest - 3 to 4
IL northwest - 3
KS south-central - 7
KS rest of central, east - 5 to 6
MN southwest - 4
MN southeast - 3
MO north - 4
NE southeast - 5
NE northeast - 4 to 5
OK northwest, north-central - 7
OK southwest - 5
SD southeast - 4
TX east panhandle - 5
WI southwest -3
Other areas - less than 2
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
Good morning. The name Irene has been retired from the list of names and replaced with Irma.

Link
No surprise; many here called that one back in November.

Goodnight, Irene...
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Really no need for Lee to be retired.


Yea Lee was a fun storm to be in!
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Quoting Tazmanian:
hmmm i was hoping lee would get retired


Really no need for Lee to be retired.
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guess what i am not naming my kid... Irma
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hmmm i was hoping lee would get retired
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with the warmest temps on record in the gulf, you would think at least a lil thunderstorm would head for florida and relieve this drop just a little, next rain Maybe comes thursday of next week and thats only a 20% chance.........HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY RUSKIN FL
438 AM EDT FRI APR 13 2012

FLZ039-042-043-048>052-055>057-060>062-065-132100 -
LEVY-CITRUS-SUMTER-HERNANDO-PASCO-PINELLAS-HILLSB OROUGH-POLK-
MANATEE-HARDEE-HIGHLANDS-SARASOTA-DE SOTO-CHARLOTTE-LEE-
438 AM EDT FRI APR 13 2012

THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR WEST CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST
FLORIDA.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT.

...WIND AND SEA IMPACT...
GRADIENT WILL TIGHTEN TONIGHT WITH WINDS INCREASING TO AROUND 20
KNOTS OVER THE COASTAL WATERS. THIS WILL CREATE SMALL CRAFT
ADVISORY CONDITIONS. HIGHEST WINDS AND SEAS OVER THE OUTER WATERS.

...FIRE WEATHER IMPACT...
RELATIVE HUMIDITY VALUES WILL DROP TO AROUND 35 PERCENT OVER MUCH
OF THE AREA THIS AFTERNOON CREATING AN ELEVATED FIRE DANGER.
LOW LEVEL MOISTURE WILL BE BORDERLINE FOR RED FLAG CONDITIONS OVER
PORTIONS OF THE AREA.


.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...SATURDAY THROUGH THURSDAY.

...WIND AND SEA IMPACT...
SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY CONDITIONS WILL OCCUR AT TIMES THROUGH SUNDAY
WITH THE STRONGEST WINDS OVERNIGHT WITH THE EASTERLY EVENING
SURGE. STRONGEST WINDS AND SEAS WILL REMAIN OVER THE OUTER WATERS.
WINDS AND SEAS WILL GRADUALLY SUBSIDE MONDAY AND TUESDAY.

...FIRE WEATHER IMPACT...
AFTERNOON RELATIVE HUMIDITY VALUES WILL DROP TO BETWEEN 35 AND 40
PERCENT SATURDAY AND SUNDAY AFTERNOONS. THE CONTINUED DRY
CONDITIONS AND INCREASING EAST WINDS WILL CREATE CONTINUED
BORDERLINE RED FLAG CONDITIONS EACH DAY.

.SPOTTER INFORMATION STATEMENT...

SPOTTER ACTIVATION WILL NOT BE NEEDED TODAY.

$$

OGLESBY
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Good morning. The name Irene has been retired from the list of names and replaced with Irma.

Link
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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.