GLOBAL WARMING: THE NEW POPULAR BOOGEYMAN

DID GLOBAL WARMING TRIGGER THE DEADLY NOVEMBER TORNADO OUTBREAK?

Certainly the devastating tornado outbreak of Sunday, November 17, will go down as one of the worst November onslaughts on record . . . but not the worst, at least in terms of the number of tornadoes.  (It will be in 4th place.)

The image below shows where the severe weather—tornadoes, damaging winds—occurred.  (Note: these are reports; some events may have been reported more than once.  Greg Forbes, Severe Weather Expert at The Weather Channel, has confirmed 55 tornadoes, with 13 more pending.)131117_rpts323-1

SO WHAT’S WITH ALL THIS CRAZY WEATHER?

It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot recently, undoubtedly driven by the tornado tragedies in Oklahoma—-“So what’s with all the crazy weather? I don’t remember this kind of stuff happing before.”

I suppose people think I should have the answers, being a retired meteorologist and now a novelist who features supercells, tornadoes and hurricanes in his books.

In fact, I don’t have the answers, but only because the question isn’t right. In fact, this year hasn’t been all that “crazy.” Take tornadoes, for instance.

“YOU AREN’T DOING THAT AGAIN”–SOME THOUGHTS ON CHASING TORNADOES

My wife Chris and I are watching coverage of the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado, the devastating EF-5. It’s gripping, gut-wrenching, heart-rending stuff. After while, we can’t watch any more and turn off the TV.

Chris grasps my arm. “You aren’t doing that again,” she says.

“Doing what?” I ask, not making an immediate connection to any recent transgressions . . . which I seem to be able to perform at regular intervals whether I’m aware of them or not.

“Going on a tornado chase.”

Oh, that. Last spring I’d gone on a chase to gather background for the novel I was working on, Supercell.

SUPERCELL, A MORE IN-DEPTH LOOK

Beyond the one-line description of Supercell being “a fast-moving thriller set against tornado chasing on the Great Plains,” what the heck is the novel about?

Here’s the “elevator pitch” for it (an “elevator pitch” means the author’s got only the duration of an elevator ride to pitch his/her book to an agent or publisher):

Chuck Rittenburg, a former professional storm chaser, has lost it all: his business, his home, his family. But he’s offered a chance at redemption—-and a million bucks—-by a Hollywood film company if he can lead its cinematographers to a violent EF-4 or -5 tornado.

ROLL OUT THE BERYL(S)?

Tropical storms and hurricanes don’t often threaten the Georgia coast. Just recently, however, pre-season Tropical Storm Alberto did some saber rattling along the Georgia and Carolina shores. Admittedly, it was more of a cardboard saber than a real sword, but at least the action lured The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore to Charleston.

Now—-and remember, it’s still May and the Atlantic Hurricane season hasn’t even celebrated Opening Day—-the weather models are pretty much unanimous in suggesting yet another tropical or subtropical storm will make an appearance off the Southeast Coast within the next couple of days.

AFTER THE CHASE, INDELIBLE MEMORIES

Was it fun? people ask, knowing I’ve just returned from a tornado chase on the Great Plains.

Sure it was fun. If your idea of fun is sitting in a van for 10 hours a day, reeling in the miles (3500 of them in seven days); or waiting and waiting and waiting for something to happen (thank God for Walmarts, great places to hang out); or falling in a ditch in the dark (next time I’ll bring a flashlight); or clogging your arteries with fast food (I had to double my statin drug dosage).

BIRTH OF A HIGH PLAINS MONSTER

With other members of my chase group, I’m standing on the high plains of the Texas Panhandle, west of Lubbock. A stiff wind, inflow to a supercell aborning, slams into my back as I snap pictures of the strengthening storm. I struggle to stay upright; to hold the camera steady. Daggers of lightning lance into the field in front of us.

Our tour guide, Roger Hill, raising his voice to be heard over the galloping wind, says, “This thing could turn into a real monster.”

EPIC HEAT WAVE LOOMING?

There isn’t much stirring over the tropical Atlantic Basin yet, that is, there are no storms or hurricanes lurking in the foreseeable future. No Eyewall Janets. But that’s not unexpected in July.

Meanwhile, what’s really catching meteorologists’ attention is the steroidal upper-level high pressure area forecast to burgeon over the center of the nation.

That means a heat wave, perhaps one of epic proportions, looms for areas from Texas and Louisiana northward into the Upper Midwest. Expect the atmospheric oven to be turned on “broil” beginning this weekend.

THE DOG DAYS OF JUNE COMETH

It’s been a rough spring so far. The Grim Reaper in the guise of EF-4 and EF-5 twisters stalking the southern Plains and Deep South; a flood worthy of Biblical times washing down the Mississippi Valley; and Texans fearing the appearance of Bedouins on camels as the landscape withers under unprecedented drought.

But wait, there’s more.

Medium-range computer models are suggesting the Dog Days of June–not August–are ready to pounce.