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2011 May

An early start to hurricane season?

The May 22 EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri has apparently set a new record for longest transport of debris by a tornado. A couple living in Royal Center, Indiana, in North Central Indiana, 525 miles from Joplin, found a receipt from the Joplin Tire store three days after the tornado hit Joplin. According to Ernest Agee, a Purdue University professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and tornado expert, "This paper traveled more than twice as far as the longest distance recorded for debris from a storm. The previous record was a cancelled check that traveled 210 miles after the 1915 tornado in Great Bend, Kansas."

JeffMasters, • 1:12 PM GMT on May 31, 2011

Invest now to improve tornado warnings; an early start to hurricane season?

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begin on Wednesday, June 1, and recent computer model runs predict that we may have some early-season action in the Central Caribbean Sea to coincide with the start of this year's season. The GFS, NOGAPS, and ECMWF models have all indicated in some of their recent runs that a tropical disturbance may form between Jamaica and Central America sometime in the May 31 - June 2 time frame, as a lobe of the Eastern Pacific Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) pushes across Central America into the Caribbean.

JeffMasters, • 4:24 PM GMT on May 27, 2011

No new tornado deaths yesterday; Super Typhoon Songda hits Category 5

The tornado onslaught of 2011 continued over the Midwest yesterday, as dozens of tornadoes touched down, primarily in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged 81 preliminary reports of tornadoes in eleven states. Even California got into the action, with a tornado near Chico causing minor damage. Mercifully, no deaths were reported from yesterday's tornadoes. Too many thunderstorms formed too close to each other to allow strong or violent tornadoes to grow, as the many thunderstorms interfered with each others' organization.

JeffMasters, • 3:04 PM GMT on May 26, 2011

Deadly tornadoes rip OK, KS, and AR; high tornado risk today; Joplin tornado an EF-5

America's deadliest tornado season since 1953 continued its relentless onslaught of violent tornadoes yesterday. Numerous destructive and deadly tornadoes raked Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas, killing at least nine people. Yesterday's deadliest tornado hit El Reno and Piedmont, Oklahoma, about 30 miles to the west and northwest of Oklahoma City. Four people died, and one child is missing. Damage was characteristic of an EF-4 tornado, with many homes completely demolished and swept off their foundations.

JeffMasters, • 1:48 PM GMT on May 25, 2011

Joplin tornado toll at 116; dangerous tornado outbreak expected today

Severe weather is expected again today in storm-torn Joplin, Missouri, as rescuers sift through the rubble of their town that was devastated by the deadliest U.S. tornado since at least 1947. A violent high-end EF-4 tornado with winds of 190 – 198 mph carved a 7-mile long, ¾ to one mile-wide path of near-total destruction through Joplin beginning at 5:41pm CDT Sunday evening. In nine terrifying minutes, the tornado killed at least 116 people, injured 500 more, and obliterated huge sections of the town. Damage from the tornado is so severe that pavement was ripped from the ground.

JeffMasters, • 1:50 PM GMT on May 24, 2011

Deadliest U.S. tornado since 1953 rips through Joplin, Missouri, killing 89

The incredibly violent tornado season of 2011 struck another sickening blow last night, when a violent tornado carved a ½ – ¾ mile-wide path of devastation through Joplin, Missouri. At least 89 people died, hundreds were injured, and huge sections of the town virtually obliterated. Damage from the tornado is so severe that pavement was ripped from the ground, which is characteristic of a top-end EF-5 tornado with winds in excess of 200 mph.

JeffMasters, • 2:11 PM GMT on May 23, 2011

Mississippi River flood of 2011 sets all-time flow record, but has crested

The great Mississippi River flood of 2011 crested yesterday and today, and the volume of water being pushed toward the Gulf of Mexico is the largest ever recorded on the Mississippi, said Bob Anderson, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers for the Mississippi Valley Division. "It's never been this high; it's never had this much water," he said. "There's just a tremendous amount of strain on these levees." The Mississippi crested yesterday at Vicksburg, Mississippi, reaching 57.06'. This exceeded the previous all-time record of 56.2', set during the great flood of 1927.

JeffMasters, • 2:43 PM GMT on May 20, 2011

NOAA predicts an active Atlantic hurricane season: 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes

NOAA forecasts a very active and possibly hyperactive 2011 Atlantic hurricane season. They give a 65% chance of an above-normal season, a 25% chance of a near-normal season, and just a 10% chance of a below-normal season. NOAA predicts a 70% chance that there will be 12 - 18 named storms, 6 – 10 hurricanes, and 3 - 6 major hurricanes, with an Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) 105% - 200% of the median. If we take the midpoint of these numbers, NOAA is calling for 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, 4.5 major hurricanes, and an ACE index 152% of normal. A season with an ACE index over 165% is considered "hyperactive."

JeffMasters, • 4:08 PM GMT on May 19, 2011

PSU Atlantic hurricane season forecast: 16 named storms

Expect a busy Atlantic hurricane season this year, with sixteen named storms, say Pennsylvania State University (PSU) hurricane scientists Michael Mann and Michael Kozar. Their annual Atlantic hurricane season forecast issued on May 16 calls for 12 - 20 named storms this season, which starts June 1 and runs until November 30. An average season has 10 - 11 named storms. Their prediction was made using statistics of how past hurricane seasons have behaved in response to sea surface temperatures (SSTs), the El Niño/La Niña oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and other factors.

JeffMasters, • 3:25 PM GMT on May 18, 2011

La Niña fades to neutral; April the globe's 4th - 7th warmest on record

April 2011 was the globe's 7th warmest April on record, according to NOAA, and 4th warmest on record, according to NASA. April 2011 global ocean temperatures were the 11th warmest on record, and land temperatures were the 6th warmest on record. The UK had its hottest April on record, with rainfall only 21% of average. Huge fires burned through Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland, fanned by strong spring winds. On May 6, a forest fire in Berkshire became the largest fire in UK history.

JeffMasters, • 3:12 PM GMT on May 17, 2011

Unprecented floods on the Mississippi, in Colombia, and Canada

The great Mississippi River flood of 2011 continues to make history, with Saturday's opening of the flood gates of the Morganza Spillway marking just the second time that flood control structure has been used since its construction in 1956. With the Morganza, Bonnet Carre', and Birds Point-New Madrid Spillways all open, the Army Corps of Engineers has now opened all of its major spillways simultaneously for the first time ever. The Mississippi is rising at Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the water has now reached 56.5', exceeding the previous all-time record of 56.2', set during the great flood of 1927.

JeffMasters, • 2:58 PM GMT on May 16, 2011

America's Achilles' heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure

America has an Achilles' heel. It lies on a quiet, unpopulated stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, a few miles east of the tiny town of Simmesport. Rising up from the flat, wooded west flood plain of the Mississippi River tower four massive concrete and steel structures that would make a Pharaoh envious--the Army Corps' of Engineers greatest work, the billion-dollar Old River Control Structure. This marvel of modern civil engineering has, for fifty years, done what many thought impossible--impose man's will on the Mississippi River.

JeffMasters, • 5:20 PM GMT on May 13, 2011

Mississippi River flood of 2011 already a $2 billion disaster

he Mississippi River continues to rise to heights never seen before along its course through the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. At Natchez, Mississippi, the river has already hit 59 feet, breaking the previous all-time record of 58 feet set in the great 1937 flood. The river is expected to keep rising at Natchez until May 21, when a crest of 64 feet--a full six feet above the previous all-time record--is expected. Record crests are also expected downstream from Natchez, at Red River Landing and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on May 22.

JeffMasters, • 12:33 PM GMT on May 12, 2011

April 2011: historic U.S. extremes in rains, floods, tornadoes, and fires

April was a month of historic climate extremes across much of the United States, including: record breaking precipitation that resulted in historic flooding; recurrent violent weather systems that broke records for tornado and severe weather outbreaks; and wildfire activity that scorched more than twice the area of any April this century. Six states along the Ohio River and Mississippi River watersheds recorded their all-time wettest April in history. Some areas along the Ohio River Valley received up to 20 inches of rain during the month, which is nearly half their normal annual precipitation.

JeffMasters, • 1:40 PM GMT on May 10, 2011

Mississippi River sets all-time flood records; 2nd major spillway opens

The Mighty Mississippi continues to wreak havoc as the river's highest flood crest in history pushes southwards near Memphis, Tennessee today. The river crested at its highest height on record over the past four days along a 70-mile stretch from New Madrid, Missouri to Tiptonville, Tennessee, to Caruthersville, Missouri, smashing records that had stood since the great flood of 1937. The flood height of 47.6' at Caruthersville, Missouri, on Saturday was a full 1.6 feet above the previous record flood height, set in 1937.

JeffMasters, • 2:06 PM GMT on May 09, 2011

Record floods on Mississippi River, Lake Champlain; 3rd EF-5 tornado verified

The Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois continues to fall today, with a level of 59.3', 2.5' below the all-time peak of 61.8' set on Monday night. On Monday night, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to intentionally destroy a levee at Birds Point on the west bank of the Mississippi, just downstream from Cairo, Illinois, in order to relive pressure on the levees in Cairo and save that city from a billion-dollar levee breach. The Mississippi River is rising slowly, and has now set all-time records at New Madrid, Missouri, Tiptonville, Tennessee, and Caruthersville, Missouri--a 70-mile stretch of river downstream from Cairo.

JeffMasters, • 3:40 PM GMT on May 06, 2011

April's tornado outbreaks the two largest in history

The largest tornado outbreak and greatest one-day total for tornadoes in history occurred during last week's historic super tornado outbreak, said NOAA in a press release on Wednesday. They estimate 190 tornadoes touched down during a 24-hour period. NOAA's estimate for the number of tornadoes during the three-day April 25 - 28, 2011 Super Outbreak, is 305. This is nearly double the previous record for a multi-day tornado outbreak of 155 tornadoes, set just two weeks previously during the April 14 - 16, 2011 outbreak.

JeffMasters, • 2:54 PM GMT on May 05, 2011

Army Corps blows up levee to help fight unprecedented Mississippi River flood

A brilliant string of explosions rippled across a two-mile length of the Mississippi River levee at Birds Point, Missouri at 10pm last night. As the levee disintegrated, a 4-story high cascade of muddy brown water from the Father of Waters gushed into the crevasse, thundering with the flow of eight Niagara Falls. The waters quickly spread out over 133,000 acres of rich farmland, rushing southwards along the 35-mile long Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway.

JeffMasters, • 4:47 PM GMT on May 03, 2011

Two EF-5 tornadoes confirmed from last week's outbreak; record Ohio River flood

Damage surveys and the hunt for missing victims continues today in the areas devastated by last week's historic tornado outbreak. With the death toll in the 340 - 350 range, the April 25 - 28 tornado outbreak has surpassed the April 3 - 4, 1974 Super Outbreak (315 killed) as the deadliest U.S. tornado outbreak of the past 50 years. Hardest hit was Alabama, with 249 deaths; Tennessee and Mississippi had 34 deaths each, and deaths were also reported in Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia, Louisiana, and Ontario, Canada. Twenty-eight separate tornadoes killed people.

JeffMasters, • 1:23 PM GMT on May 02, 2011