Wednesday September 17, 2014
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Wednesday September 17, 2014
Posted: Jul 30, 2014

Are latest tornado outbreaks a sign of a new pattern?

The Maine Forecast — Tracking Maine’s weather patterns

Before the possible showers this weekend I wanted to write about the wild weather of Sunday and Monday across New England. Of course the F-2 tornado which hit Revere, Massachusetts was the big story making national news and certainly the talk of many in the Boston area. Here in Maine the National Weather Service said a small tornado hit the town of Limington on Monday afternoon. The tornado was an EF0, with winds of 80 mph. At 80 yards wide, less than a football field the storm only traveled for 300 yards. There was damage to nine houses in the route 117 areas with several large trees uprooted by the powerful winds.

A lot has already been written about the storms Monday and the day before. In addition to the Revere, MA tornado and the one here in Maine there were other tornadoes in New England An EF-0 tornado was also confirmed by the National Weather Service in Wolcott, Connecticut and on Sunday there was also an EF-1 Sunday in Dalton, Massachusetts.

Fujita scale weather wisdom

It’s a myth that tornadoes don’t occur here in Maine or other adjacent States. Every New England State has tornadoes and in Maine the averages bring just over 1 every year. The chart below shows how many tornadoes occur in each New England State. Remember, these are averages. We could see three years in a row with no tornadoes and then a year with 3 or 4.

Tornadoes in New England are often smaller cousins of their Midwestern counterparts. Storms in the Midwest, because of the atmospheric conditions there tend to grown larger and stronger than those here in the east. The result, tornadoes born from those storms are usually more ferocious than those here. The Springfield, Massachusetts tornado a few years ago and the Worcester Massachusetts tornado back in 1953 where of the size and scope of storms more typical in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

220px-Springfield,_MA_Tornado_2011,_June_1_cropped

Many of our tornadoes in New England end up referred to as spin-ups or might be classified as a gustnado.

gustnado defined

A gustnado is a tornado like structure, but the spinning vortex is not connected to the center of the thunderstorm in the same way as a tornado. Meteorologically, they are different, but the winds can do damage.

Classic supercell thunderstorms have a rotating core inside them and it’s from this core of rotation a tornado is spawned.

supercell

You’ve also heard about downbursts and microbursts, each of these phenomena can bring damaging winds, but the winds don’t spin. This is why the National Weather Service must investigate the damage from thunderstorms before confirming the existence of a tornado. They can also tell the wind speed, width and length of time the tornado spent on the ground after visiting the site.

The Revere, Massachusetts tornado was unusual for several reasons: First, it occurred in the morning which doesn’t happen very often. Second, the tornado hit Suffolk County which hasn’t happened in our 64 years of recording these events. Third the tornado reached F-2 strength on the Fujita scale which also is not common. So you might be tempted to ask, are tornadoes becoming more frequent?” The answer is no, but they are becoming better reported.

The fact that a tornado hit a city like Revere isn’t any more meaningful meteorologically than if the tornado had hit a few miles away in a different town and a different county. Weather doesn’t know borders. Of course a tornado anywhere is a bad thing and I hate the fact people’s lives in any county anywhere become disrupted by these events.

Our perception of an increase in tornadoes is likely due to more funnel clouds being captured on video and these videos subsequently being shown as the lead in each subsequent newscast. I haven’t counted the number of times the major networks morning weather leads with a story telling me I have to see this “amazing footage” of a tornado or waterspout caught on camera. Cameras are now everywhere, so any weather phenomenon which previously went unnoticed or was just talked about among neighbors now makes it on YouTube and gets a hundreds of thousands of views from all over the world. I watched a crazy hail storm on a beach in Russia earlier this summer. A few years ago, how would I even know that existed?

This is a time in history when so many people take an active role in a certain agenda and use individual weather events as proof of said agenda. As consumers of information, it becomes harder to sift through the noise to know what the truth of what we are observing actually is.

For those individuals whose lives are temporarily or permanently impacted by these weather events, they are significant and will remain in their collective memories forever.
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