BLUNT TALK ABOUT SUPERCELL

Tornado that hit Moore OK May 3, 1999, killing 36 people. Photo: Julianna Keeping, newsok.com.

I wasn’t aware of it until my publisher, BelleBooks, pointed it out, but May 4th is National Weather Observers Day.  And maybe BelleBooks wasn’t aware of it until I mentioned it, but the month of May marks the climatological peak of tornado season (see graphic below).  On average, more twisters rip across the U. S. in May than in any other month.

El Niño and SUPERCELL (the novel)

Tornado_Damage_BirminghamLast week I blogged about El Niño and its connection, or lack thereof, to wintry weather in the Deep South.  This week I’ll take a look at El Niño and its influence on severe storms–supercells and tornadoes–in the same region.

There’s a late-winter/early-spring climatological maximum in Dixie of severe storms (before the focus of the turmoil shifts to the Great Plains), so that’s the season I’ll examine. 

Most people will be happy to learn that El Niño-influenced weather patterns have a damping effect on violent storms at that time of year in the South.  That is, there are fewer slam-bang thunderboomers around as compared to, say, a La Niña year.

A ONE IN TWENTY-MILLION CHANCE–The True Story of the First Tornado Forecast–Part III

PART III

 

A plaque commemorating the first successful tornado forecast sits in front of a WWII-era B-29 bomber at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

A plaque commemorating the first successful tornado forecast sits in front of a WWII-era B-29 bomber at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

After General Borum’s statement that Captain Miller and Major Fawbush were “about to set a precedent,” Fawbush composed the forecast–what would now be called a tornado warning (albeit one with a long lead-time)–Miller typed it up and handed it off to Base Operations for dissemination.

Both men sensed their careers circling the drain.  Miller wondered how he’d manage as a civilian.  It seemed unlikely anyone would want to employ an idiot who’d issued a tornado forecast for a precise location.  Maybe, if he were lucky, he mused, he might catch on as an elevator operator someplace.

A ONE IN TWENTY-MILLION CHANCE–The True Story of the First Tornado Forecast–Part II

 PART II

 

 

Major Ernest J. Fawbush (left) and Captain Robert C. Miller examining weather data ca. 1948.  Data those days came in via "high speed" (probably about 60 wpm) teletype.

Major Ernest J. Fawbush (left) and Captain Robert C. Miller examining weather data ca. 1948. Data those days came in via “high speed” (probably about 60 wpm) teletype.

On the morning of March 25, 1948, based on their hurried research, Captain Miller and Major Fawbush noted a significant similarity between the weather charts for that day and March 20, the date of the Tinker tornado.  The two forecasters prepared a hand-drawn prognostic chart (computerized progs were still far in the future in 1948) and reached the “unsettling conclusion that central Oklahoma would be in a primary tornado threat area by late afternoon and early evening.”

A ONE IN TWENTY-MILLION CHANCE–The True Story of the First Tornado Forecast–Part I

The aftermath of the March 20, 1948, tornado at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

The aftermath of the March 20, 1948, tornado at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

In the mid-20th century, tornado forecasting was considered to be beyond the “state of the art,” or in other words, impossible.  Twisters were deemed acts of God.  And any meteorologist attempting to predict what the Almighty had in mind would have been labeled a fool, a charlatan, or a court jester.  Maybe worse.

Yet two young air force weather officers found themselves, through no intent of their own, thrust into the unenviable position of having to make a tornado-no tornado forecast for Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, on a stormy March day 66 years ago.

SO JUST WHEN IS “TORNADO SEASON”?

The darkest shading indicates that, historically, there is only a one-tenth of one percent chance of a significant tornado occurring within 25 miles of a given point.----NOAA/SPC/NSSL graphic.

The darkest shading indicates that, historically, there is only a one-tenth of one percent chance of a significant tornado occurring within 25 miles of a given point.  NOAA/SPC/NSSL graphic

Weather-savvy folks are aware that North Atlantic hurricanes have an officially-defined season: June 1 through November 30.  Most, but not all, hurricanes and tropical storms whirl to life within that 6-month period.

There is, however, no counterpart for tornadoes. Twisters can and do spin up at any time of year with the threat peaking in the spring.

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

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.