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

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

Share this Blog
47
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 2257 - 2207

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52Blog Index

A more eastward movement. Large destructive wedge tornado CONFIRMED in southeastWitchita, heading toward Andover.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2256. Melagoo


for tomorrow ... :c/
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I still have the KSN3 feed.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NCHurricane2009:
Dude...I think KSN lost power. My live feed isn't working. Or it could be that my laptop is bad..anyone else?


Still getting the feed. Tornado is carving up the east side of Wichita.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Significant damage in southern Wichita.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The tornado might have passed close enough to the airport radar to have messed up its velocity data.

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11668
2250. Melagoo
... is this going to become a pattern for storms this year ... GOM with all that warm moist air coming off it mixing with the colder Northern air ... never mind Hurricane season it's Tornado season full force ... STAY SAFE!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2249. ncstorm
Sirens are going off in the background of the radio dispatch..just confirmed fire calls
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15662
tornado is now at 55th and Broadway
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ScottLincoln:
0326UTC update... major debris signature now evident on rho/cc exceeding 3000ft in the air. Tornadic circulation appears to be 0.8-1.0mi wide on radar.
Yah debris ball is obvious on radar now.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting NCHurricane2009:
Dude...I think KSN lost power. My live feed isn't working. Or it could be that my laptop is bad..anyone else?


Nope...still up for me.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weatherh98:


Thats the last hoorah.
Look how far away that is though.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting 1900hurricane:
Anyone else lose the feed, or is that just me?

Nevermind, got it back.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11668
i still have but not sure how marh longer it will stay up
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115256
0326UTC update... major debris signature now evident on rho/cc exceeding 3000ft in the air. Tornadic circulation appears to be 0.8-1.0mi wide on radar.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1999 Part 2.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Does anyone know how to convert custom images into Image urls? trying to post images on the Alberto potential
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 1900hurricane:

Looks like it could be along the cold front.



Thats the last hoorah.
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6535
Dude...I think KSN lost power. My live feed isn't working. Or it could be that my laptop is bad..anyone else?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Anyone else lose the feed, or is that just me?
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11668
Squall line comes outta nowhere in W TX, entire event is now becoming into reality
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Red TVS again.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2234. ncstorm
the sherrif office took a hit..ruptured gas line..evacuating all personnel
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15662
0326UTC: major dealias issues now evident on radar. Massive area of convergent rotation now evident over Oaklawn area, near McConnel AFB and the Boeing Plants. Following I-35 turnpike. Radar sampling at estimated 500ft. Likely that strong to violent damage is continuing...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2232. hydrus
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2231. Speeky
Quoting Neapolitan:
True. Then again, this has been watched for a very long time, while the Joplin tornado was a relative surprise.


True, However most people are sleeping at this time, it is 10:30pm there.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SafeInTexas:
Keep an eye out in west texas again too. A new line of storms is beginning to fire. Doesn't appear to be supercell based yet, but may become that way as it works across TX in to OK.

Looks like it could be along the cold front.

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11668
KSN 3 is losing power... they got huge balls to keep doing this despite strong tornado that could kills them. Kudos to them.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
IMPACT...THIS IS A LIFE THREATENING SITUATION. YOU COULD BE KILLEDIF NOT UNDERGROUND OR IN A TORNADO SHELTER. COMPLETEDESTRUCTION OF ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOODS IS LIKELY. MANY WELLBUILT HOMES AND BUSINESSES WILL BE COMPLETELY SWEPT FROMTHEIR FOUNDATIONS. DEBRIS WILL BLOCK MOST ROADWAYS. MASSDEVASTATION IS HIGHLY LIKELY MAKING THE AREAUNRECOGNIZABLE TO SURVIVORS.

Now that...sounds a lot like a certain warning issued for a landfalling Katrina all those years ago.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Tornadoes of 2012
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2226. yqt1001
Quoting wxgeek723:
Is there a webcam or any kind of visual we can get on the ground in Witchita?


There was one, but the power went out a a few minutes ago.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting MrstormX:
Who confirmed this wedge???
Hopefully Reed. If it was Reed Wichita has a chance.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
KSN in Witchita may lose power any SECOND...the screen flickered!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Looks funky tornado is over oaklawn now
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6535
* AT 1019 PM CDT...TORNADO EMERGENCY FOR THE WICHITA METRO AREA. A
CONFIRMED LARGE...VIOLENT AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WAS
LOCATED NEAR HAYSVILLE...AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 50 MPH.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Tornado is going to miss downtown. Oaklawn, Andover are most likely next targets. Tornado is causing damage as debris is likely causing lower rho/cc values on radar. NROT values of up to 3.2 just above the ground. I'd say it is now likely that EF2+ (strong to violent) tornado damage has just occured near I-35 and Haysville. (and you wont hear me early-guess damage severity often)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Speeky:


Witchita's population is 6 times the population of Joplin

Witchita 324,000
Joplin 50,000

True. Then again, this has been watched for a very long time, while the Joplin tornado was a relative surprise.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2217. LargoFl
Well that's it for me guys, cant keep my eyes open anymore..for those in the paths of these tornado's..my prayers for you and your families...good nite folks
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
KSN 3 is drawing 2 arrows RIGHT THROUGH the heart of Wichita.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MrstormX:
Who confirmed this wedge???
on ksn tv they reported a spotter
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2214. ncstorm
Wichita has lost power on the north end of town
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15662
Quoting Xyrus2000:
Large wedge in south Wichita confirmed. On I-35 heading NNE.


Track suggests the eastern 3rd of the city will take it very bad.

The other areas should be spared.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Tornado is looking stronger!
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6535
Scott Roberts has it.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
2210. Speeky
Quoting NCHurricane2009:
Crossing I-35 turnpike in witchita...downtown is in trouble!!!! This is very bad!!!!


signs are being knocked down
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Large destructive wedge tornado CONFIRMED in southWitchita crossing I-35 near the turnpike.
Central Witchita east of the Canal route is within the predicted path.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2208. redux
i remember when the one spotter saw this thing forming....back in oklahoma. i wonder if he still is following.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Is there a webcam or any kind of visual we can get on the ground in Witchita?
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3588

Viewing: 2257 - 2207

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.