Extreme weather takes the lives of 14 people


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Tornados ripped through eastern Texas on Saturday night. (Red Cross/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | May 2, 2017

Flooding and tornados swept across the Midwest and southern U.S. this weekend, leaving at least 14 people dead.

The National Weather Service reported that four tornados moved through eastern Texas beginning Saturday evening. The twisters left an area of destruction 35 miles long and 15 miles wide in Van Zandt County, according to Canton, Texas Mayor Lou Ann Everett. Primarily small towns were affected in the mostly rural area east of Dallas; four individuals lost their lives.

Strong winds and flooding in Arkansas took the lives of five residents near Madison county. Four additional deaths were reported in Missouri and Mississippi, also due to flash flooding and strong winds.

Tragically, severe weather events like these are becoming more common as climate change rears its ugly head. According to archived data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s webpage prior to President Trump’s inauguration, “In recent years, a larger percentage of precipitation has come in the form of intense single-day events.” Similarly, the amount of precipitation falling on the heaviest rain days has increased in the last few decades. Many regions of the U.S. are seeing significantly more severe river flooding, while other areas are ravaged by drought. The Midwest, Great Plains, and Northeast have seen a significant increase in flooding, but the Southwest has experienced a decrease.

Scientists are still evaluating the relationship between climate change and twisters. The EPA notes that climate change does lead to stronger and more frequent thunderstorms, which can cause tornados, but there is a lack of empirical data on the matter.

Researchers can confidently conclude that climate change has caused more intense and frequent heat waves, fewer frequent and less intense cold waves, and regional changes in floods, droughts, and wildfires.

Winter tornados move through Midwest


West of Tuscaloosa, Alabama
(Frank/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | March 2, 2017

More than 20 tornados ripped through parts of Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee on Tuesday.

The severe thunderstorms and tornadoes killed at least three people and left thousands of residents in the Midwest and Southeastern U.S. without electricity. While tornados during winter months are rare, they seem to be happening with increasing frequency.

Typically wintertime tornados form when a forceful jet stream moves across the Southern U.S. and meets colder, retreating air fronts. According to The Weather Channel, usually these tornados crop up in the Deep South, however, in February 2016 severe tornados touched down in Pennsylvania and Virginia, ultimately killing seven people.

On average, February is second-least tornadic month of the year, but recently averages for that month are increasing. February 2008 had 146 total tornados, making it the most tornadic February since the 1950s, and February 2016 came close behind with 138 total twisters.

While an abundance of scientific evidence links climate change with the increasing frequency of extreme weather events like heat waves and coastal flooding, the relationship between climate change and tornado frequency remains unclear.

Due to particularly strong jet-stream level energy characteristic of the winter months, winter tornados can occur at any time of the day or night, unlike more predictable spring and summer tornados that almost always form during the late afternoon and evening. The Weather Channel also points out that it is common for winter twisters to be wrapped in rain, making them more difficult to spot.

Experts remind Midwestern and Southeastern U.S. residents that severe weather in the winter months can be deadly and to create or review their severe weather plans.

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(The Weather Channel)

Iowa prepares for first winter storm of the season


Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr
Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr

The state’s first winter storm of the season is expected to hit Iowa on Wednesday afternoon, and will likely bring strong winds and heavy snowfall in parts of the state.

National Weather Service meteorologist Keven Skow said some areas of the state are expected to receive several inches, and the snow will likely stay on the ground due to sub-freezing temperatures throughout the rest of the week.

“If it falls, it will probably be on the ground through Christmas,” Skow said.

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.

Weekend rainfall helped soybean crops


Photo by silk cut, Flickr.

Iowa’s recent rainfall probably wasn’t sufficient to reverse the drought damage to the state’s corn crop, but farmers say that Saturday’s storms may have spelled hope for soybean crops.

John Airy Jr., a farmer from Linn County said his soybeans received about an inch and a half of rain on Saturday, and the effect was almost immediate and may have increased his harvest yield by as much as 10 percent.

“The next day, you could see the plants that were stressed, the ones on the hilltops, they just looked better. You could see it (rain) perked them up a little bit,” said Airy.

For more information, read the full article at the Gazette.

Storm ends snow drought for Iowa


A snow plow clears a road in Fairfield, IA. Photo by Will Merydith, Flickr.

As the season’s first major snowstorm drifted its way across the Midwest, Iowans said farewell to an unusual stretch of spring-like weather.

The snow was an annoyance for many commuters, caused hundreds of traffic accidents across the Midwest, and resulted in at least two deaths in Iowa.

However, for businesses that rely on snowfall, this storm was more than welcome.

“If people don’t see it in their yards they are not likely to come out and ski and snowboard so this is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful for us,” Kim Engel, owner of Sunburst Ski area in Kewaskum in southeastern Wisconsin, said as she watched the snow come down out the window.

Last week Iowa experienced an unprecedented level of warmth, with some areas of the state breaking their previous record high temperatures by ten degrees or more.

For more information, view the full article at the Des Moines Register.