Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tornadoes, Storminess Is Sign El Nino Is Raging

Massive nighttime tornado illuminated by lightning
last night near Miami, Texas. Photo from @stormpics. 
It was a wild night in the Plains last night and things continue wild this morning.

There were no fewer than 38 preliminary reports of tornadoes from Monday afternoon through this morning from Nebraska to Texas.

Some of those tornado reports might be duplicates, but I'd bet there were at very least 20 tornadoes yesterday.

The tornadoes evolved into a nasty squall line, along which there were a few tornadic spinups, that was roaring across northern Texas this morning. This includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where there were numerous damage reports. 

It looks like Louisiana and Arkansas might be under the gun for severe weather much of the rest of today.

Meanwhile, a blizzard is raging in the High Plains of eastern Colorado into far western Kansas. High wind warnings cover an enormous area basically from Seattle all the way eastward to around the Dakotas.

Flood watches cover a large area of the lower and mid Mississippi Valley as several inches of rain are forecast over the next couple of days. Flood watches and warnings also continue in the Pacific Northwest as massive amounts of moisture flood in from the Pacific.

I do believe all this excitement is due in part to El Nino, which has become the strongest on record by many measures. 

El Nino, the periodic warming of eastern and central Pacific Ocean waters, tends to energize the jet stream, particularly when the El Nino is strong, like this one.

That means the nation is due for a very stormy winter. Not necessarily a particularly cold one, but a stormy one. That's particularly true across the southern third of the nation and along much of the Wst Coast.

So far, southern California has largely escaped the beginning of the storms, which is too bad because they need drought relief. Little or no rain is forecast there for at least the next week, and there is an elevated fire danger.

The Pacific Northwest is usually relatively dry in El Nino years, but so far, that's not the case. Possibly, the storm track off the Pacific will slip southward as we get more and more into winter, which would dry out the Northwest while soaking California.

At least the Sierra Nevada mountains, which had the lowest snowpack on record earlier this year, is starting to get winter storms. On the other side of the range. Reno, Nevada is off to its wettest start to its wet season on record.

I would also like to see research on whether this El Nino was boosted by climate change. I'm sure strong El Ninos have always happened, and El Ninos are naturally occuring, with or without climate change.

But I wonder if the water temperatures were already elevated by climate change, making it easier to attain this very strong El Nino.

That idea makes sense. An extreme weather event or weather pattern gets more extreme because it's juiced by climate change.

Plus, there is research that suggests that climate change could increase the number of "super El Ninos" like the one we're in now.

If that's the case, then the already rising trend of extreme storms could continue. In any event, with this El Nino underway, expect plenty more severe storms, floods, blizzards, wind and maybe southern tornadoes through the upcoming winter.

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