The Nashville Tornadoes of March 2-3, 2020

Although life as we all know it has changed since this weather event only about a month ago, and even since just a few weeks ago when I wrote this post, we are still committed to reviewing past weather events, providing weather safety information, and generally discussing interesting meteorology topics via this blog. While we realize that life is not normal for so many of us, we hope that by continuing to blog on these important topics gives you, our readers, a sense of consistency and normalcy when everything in the world is changing by the minute.

I would also be remiss not to mention that, between the time which this blog was written a few weeks ago and the time it was pushed live to our website, yet another tragic round of severe weather impacted parts of the Southeast and Midwest on March 28. Numerous thunderstorms caused widespread wind damage and at least 30 reported tornadoes from Iowa and Illinois south to Kentucky and Arkansas. One of the largest was an EF-3 tornado which hit the city of Jonesboro, Arkansas. At least 83 homes were destroyed, and although there were 22 injuries, thankfully no fatalities were reported. The weather keeps marching on, further compounding and complicating the difficult situation of quarantine and social distancing which is already in effect due to the ongoing pandemic.

That being said, this blog post will focus on the deadly tornadoes which impacted the Nashville area on March 2 and 3, 2020.

On the evening of March 2 into March 3, deadly tornadoes marched through central Tennessee and made a direct hit on the city of Nashville. The storms were particularly deadly because some of the strongest impacts occurred after dark and during the overnight hours when most people were sleeping. At least 24 people lost their lives as a result of these storms, including at least five children under age 13. Countless others suffered injuries, and tens of thousands were left without power and suffered damage to their homes. While the most common time of day for tornadoes to occur is late afternoon or early evening, they can occur at any time of day. Let’s take a look at some of the ingredients that came together to create such a high-impact event.

Putnam County, TN tornado damage. Courtesy: National Weather Service.
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Counting down to the Spring (Vernal) Equinox

In just one week, spring will have officially arrived in the Northern Hemisphere! Although the winter here in upstate New York has been relatively mild in terms of temperatures, the frequency of days on which a cold rain has occurred has me anxiously awaiting the increased sunshine and longer days to come in the next few months. Although we wrote a blog post last year on why we have the seasons, I thought it would be fun to look at some little known facts about the spring, or vernal equinox.

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March Madness – And We Aren’t Talking Basketball

NCAA March Madness officially runs from March 17 through April 7 this year, but that’s not what this blog is about! March is here, spring is just around the corner, and we are entering one of the wildest months for weather. As one of the “shoulder” or transition months between winter and spring, March is known for a smorgasbord of wild weather events. Extreme cold? Check. Extreme heat? Check. Blizzards? Check. Tornadoes? Check. Flooding? Check. Let’s take a look back at some of the most historical weather events that have occurred in the third month of the year.

The National Weather Service in Cheyenne’s parking Lot in the thick of a blizzard in March 2019. Photo by NWS MIC Jeff Garmon.
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Lightning Science and Safety

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin conducted his famous experiment in which he flew a kite during a thunderstorm during this week in 1752? Benjamin Franklin was looking to demonstrate the connection between lightning and electricity. In fact, we know today that lightning is a discharge of static electricity from the atmosphere. Lightning can strike from cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-ground, and even intra-cloud (inside one cloud) discharges can occur. Let’s look back into history to see how this experiment worked…

Courtesy: Franklin Institute.
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A Brief Recap of the May 2019 Severe Outbreak

Just two short weeks ago we posted a blog that looked into the severe weather that occurred on May 20, 2019. Little did we know that this was just the beginning! Over a 12-day period that stretched from May 17 through May 30, more than 285 tornadoes touched down across 22 states. The May storms also included hailstorms (including grapefruit-sized hail in Wellington, Texas!) and frequent heavy rainfall, sometimes at record levels, over areas that were already saturated. This led to extensive flooding and flash flooding, which frequently interfered with emergency efforts related to tornado damage.

Map of tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service between May 17 and May 29, 2019 over the eastern United States and tornadoes confirmed and surveyed by the National Weather Service. Map produced in QGIS with border outlines from the United States Census Bureau. National Weather Service warning outlines available from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet and tornado data available from the National Weather Service. Credit: TheAustinMan
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Great Plains Severe Weather and Tornadoes: May 20, 2019

A storm system moving into the Great Plains this past Monday resulted in an outbreak of severe weather, including flooding and some tornadoes, across portions of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Thankfully, none of the reported tornadoes did extensive damage or caused widespread injuries. This was thanks in part to the fact that the tornadic storms did not hit major metropolitan areas, but also largely due to excellent communication of risk and appropriate preparedness actions by the National Weather Service. Let’s take a closer look at how this event unfolded…

Courtesy: KWTV-KOTV.
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Looking back at U.S. Climate in 2018

Although most people tend to look back and on the past year around the holidays and at the beginning of a New Year, I also like to reflect back once spring has truly sprung. The sun illuminates our days even longer, the world is full of beautiful new blooms, the birds are chirping, and it seems that everything is truly “new” again. So for this week’s blog, I thought that this would be a perfect time to look back at 2018 and really take in all that happened across the U.S. weather-wise.

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Wild Weather Extremes: April 2019 Snow and Severe Weather

When meteorologist educators teach students of all levels, one of the first things we do is to distinguish the difference between weather and climate. Technically speaking, weather is the day-to-day conditions that describe the state of the atmosphere, while climate is an average of weather conditions at a particular place, generally averaged over a 30 year time period. In my classes, I always say that the best way to remember this distinction is that ‘weather impacts your daily life’. Many disruptions to people’s lives were caused as a result of a very dynamic spring weather pattern which has been present over the continental United States for the last few weeks.

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California Super Bloom: The Striking Spectacle Drawing in Droves of Tourists

A wetter than average fall and winter (thanks, in part, to heavy rains from an atmospheric river event that led to flooding along the Russian River) pulled California out of its drought last month for the first time since December 2011. Above-normal snowpacks were observed along the Sierra Nevada Range and throughout much of the West as well. In fact, on April 2, 2019, only 6% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought – one of the smallest drought footprints across the continental U.S. on record. These wet conditions from the past months, combined with cool daytime temperatures and cold nights allowed for a rare super bloom of wildflowers in the Anza-Borrego Desert .

Credit: NASA/Jim Ross
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