The “Myspace” Of Weather Threats

“Tornadoes are the ‘Myspace’ of weather threats.”  Those words spoken by Greg Carbin just 10 days ago at the AMS conference I attended now seem to be a prescient warning given the recent flooding in West Virginia.  Mr. Carbin was discussing his recent decision to move from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, the government agency responsible for tracking tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, to become Chief of Forecast Operations at NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center, the government agency responsible for tracking flooding rains and major snowstorms, among other things.

I asked Mr. Carbin if I could quote him on that, because I realized that his comment could be controversial if taken out of context (he was mostly joking, and certainly NOT implying that tornadoes are no longer relevant!).  He agreed, but let me put his comment into context anyway.  According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, floods are the most common and widespread of all weather related natural disasters.  Flooding occurs in every U.S. state and territory and kills more people in the U.S. each year than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning.  In other words, I think Mr. Carbin’s “Myspace” comment was, in part, referring to the disproportionate amount of attention paid to tornadoes when compared to flooding.  That’s something that really frustrates many meteorologists…when we say “tornado warning” our colleagues in the newsroom help us get the word out and people pay attention, which is great, but the words “flood warning” don’t garner the same attention even though the risk might be greater.

The other part of Mr. Carbin’s “Myspace” comment referenced trends.  There has been no clear trend when it comes to the frequency or strength of tornadoes.  However, study after study shows there is a very clear trend when it comes to extreme rainfall events…they have been getting far more common.  Here’s just one example from a study published in October 2015

That shows global trends.  A study by Climate Central shows the trend is especially significant in New England…

 

 

Here are a few pictures that I took from Greg Carbin’s presentation at the AMS conference just 10 days ago.  The bottom line is the bottom line, “four of the last 8 months have set new highs” when it comes to the percentage of the country observing extreme rain.

 

Just remember this…if you ever hear the words “flood warning” pay attention, or risk going the way of Myspace.

OK…I’ll get off of my soapbox now, especially since…ironically…we have the opposite concern…we need some rain.  We do have rain in the forecast.  It doesn’t look like flooding will be a concern here, but there could be some heavier showers and even an isolated thunderstorm.  But that’s not for a few days.

In the meantime, Sunday will be as beautiful as Saturday, just a few degrees warmer across the board.  There is a low risk of rip currents at area beaches today, but a high risk of sun burn…calm surf but lots of sun!!

Monday will be a few degrees warmer still.  With more of an offshore winds, the beaches along the North Shore and the South Shore will be almost as warm as areas west of 128…mid to upper 80s.  However, the South Coast, the Cape and the Islands may still struggle to get out of the 70s.

A slow moving cold front begins to impact New England on Tuesday.  There is a slight chance of a spotty shower early Tuesday morning, but the better chance of rain comes Tuesday afternoon as the atmosphere warms up.  That’s when we could see a few thunderstorms mixed in.

The front hangs out for Wednesday, so once again a few showers or thunderstorms could fire up on Wednesday.  This will not be a drought buster for us.  The rain will be spotty at best, not widespread.  The good news, if you have outdoor plans, is that neither day will be a washout.  The bad news is that some areas may get less than .1″ of rain.  Those that are lucky enough to get some of the heavier showers might get .5″ or more but that is too tough to predict this far out.

The rest of the workweek should be uneventful weather-wise.  I know everyone wants to know about the upcoming holiday weekend.  Right now it looks like Saturday could be similar to Tuesday…warm and muggy with a few spotty (mainly afternoon) showers and thunderstorms.  The rest of the weekend should be OK.  Don’t ask me for much more than “OK” at this point…there are still some details to work out.  But put it this way, I’m not too worried about my July 4th plans just yet.