Dangerous tornado outbreak expected Saturday; Gulf of Mexico SSTs warmest on record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:57 PM GMT on April 13, 2012

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A dangerous tornado outbreak is expected on Saturday over the Plains, says NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC). Warm, moist air flowing northwards from a Gulf of Mexico that has record-warm waters will collide with cold air funneling down from Canada, creating a highly unstable air mass capable of creating strong thunderstorm updrafts. An impressive upper-level low, accompanied by a jet stream with 105 - 125 mph winds at middle levels of the atmosphere, will create plenty of wind shear, giving the air the spin it needs to form tornadoes. SPC has has issued their highest level of alert, a "High Risk," for much of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska for Saturday. Included in the "High Risk" area are the cities of Wichita, Oklahoma City, and Lincoln. This is the second time SPC has issued a "High Risk" forecast this year; the first "High Risk" forecast came for the March 2 tornado outbreak, which killed 41 people and did $1.5 - $2 billion in damage. It is very unusual for SPC to issue a "High Risk" forecast more than a day in advance of a suspected tornado outbreak; according to Wikipedia, today's "High Risk" forecast is only the second time SPC has ever done this. The other instance was for the April 6 - 8, 2006 tornado outbreak focused over Tennessee, which generated 73 tornadoes that killed 13 and did $1.5 billion in damage. People living in the threatened area need to pay close attention on Saturday to this dangerous severe weather situation.


Figure 1. Severe weather risk for Saturday, April 14, 2012, from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

Gulf of Mexico water temperatures the warmest on record
Temperatures in the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico were the 3rd - 7th warmest on record during the first three months of 2012, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. This allowed Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) in the Gulf of Mexico (25 - 30°N, 85 - 90°W) to climb to 1.4°C (2.5°F) above average during March 2012, according to a wunderground analysis of the Hadley Centre SST data set. This is the warmest March value on record for the Gulf of Mexico, going back over a century of record keeping. During the first two weeks of April, Gulf of Mexico waters remained about 1.5°C above average, putting April on pace to have the warmest April water temperatures on record. Only one year in the past century has had April water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico more than 1.1°C above average; that year was 2002 (1.4°C above average.) All that record-warm water is capable of putting record amounts of water vapor into the air, since evaporation increases when water is warmer. Because moist air is less dense than dry air, this warm, moist air flowing northwards from the Gulf of Mexico into the developing storm system over the Plains will be highly unstable once it encounters cold, dry air aloft. The record-warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are a key reason for the high risk of severe weather over the Plains this weekend.


Figure 2. Departure of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) from average for April 12, 2012, as computed by NOAA/NESDIS. SSTs in the Gulf of Mexico are at their warmest levels on record for this time of year.

Follow Weather Underground on twitter for the latest on this potential severe weather outbreak.

Jeff Masters

April Storms (llpj04)
this storm greeted me as I came out of the grocery store, chased me home and got to my driveway the same time I did.
April Storms
Lightning Up the Pond - Oklahoma (mbryan777)
Last night we had a pretty spectacular lightning storm. I put the camera on the tripod in time-lapse mode and laid on my back on the hillside above the pond taking in an amazing show. When it got more exciting than I was comfortable with, I ran for the house.
Lightning Up the Pond - Oklahoma

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Large tornado on the ground!!
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23018
1706. hydrus
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
No reports of injuries so far... Wouldn't it be great if it stays that way.
Amen.
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Quoting Xyrus2000:
Current reports on this outbreak

And we still have all night with a high risk for tornadoes. Greensburg is in a heap of trouble btw!
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3813
Quoting ScottLincoln:
FYI... report from a close friend recently that a likely tornado just moved through northwest Creston, IA, with the bow echo, about 1 hour ago. Damage is near the hospital and college in town. Was under severe thunderstorm warning at the time. Main roads being blocked/detoured and numerous emergency services en route, don't see any info on injuries.


CRESTON, Iowa - A tornado damaged a hospital in Creston on Saturday night.
Authorities with the Creston Police Department said the tornado hit the Greater Regional Medical Center about 7:30 p.m.

The extent of the damage is not yet known.

Creston Mayor Warren Woods said power lines are down all over Creston, and much of the city is without electricity.

There are no reports of injuries yet.

Stay with KCCI-TV and KCCI.com for further details.

http://www.kcci.com/news/central-iowa/Creston-hos pital-hit-by-tornado/-/9357080/10820290/-/d80yobz/ -/index.html
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Current reports on this outbreak

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How about the storm near Goesell, KS... Looks pretty good to me.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7306
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Wow Greensburg cell is crazy good looking.

Rotation has gone up with it quite a bit the past few frames.



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Poor Greensburg things are not looking good for them at all. All the Chasers are on the Eastern storms and this one looks like it about to drop a monster.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3813
6 more S. Thunderstorm warning boxes in W. Kansas.

This is totally out of hand.

Can't even keep up with them all.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 32 Comments: 1505
FYI... report from a close friend recently that a likely tornado just moved through northwest Creston, IA, with the bow echo, about 1 hour ago. Damage is near the hospital and college in town. Was under severe thunderstorm warning at the time. Main roads being blocked/detoured and numerous emergency services en route, don't see any info on injuries.
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Northern OK storm seems like its about to drop a wedge on the other tornado. The other tornado is now the only and main one.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3813
Quoting 1900hurricane:
We're going to get a good look at the storms as they pass close to this radar:



We probably want them to pass farther away though. :P
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We're going to get a good look at the storms as they pass close to this radar:

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Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
tornado warning just outside of Greensburg, KS
Wow Greensburg cell is crazy good looking.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3813
I think he had some camera trouble and lost contact.


He's back filming, but the main tornado looks rain wrapped now.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 32 Comments: 1505
tornado on the ground for the marion, KS storm
Member Since: August 1, 2006 Posts: 28 Comments: 3716
No reports of injuries so far... Wouldn't it be great if it stays that way.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7306


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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

No more 45%
30% is still incredibly high. April 27th only got too 45% and for a short period as well.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3813
tornado warning just outside of Greensburg, KS
Member Since: August 1, 2006 Posts: 28 Comments: 3716
Quoting Xyrus2000:


This storm is still on a path for Wichita.
Tornadoes on these storms are roping out right now. They will recycle and man is Wichita in trouble.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3813
Tornado vortices in 4 states simultaneously.


R5 Alfalfa OK 63 dBZ 26,000 ft. 48 kg/m² 70% Chance 80% Chance 1.50 in. 33 knots SW (228)
0 A2 Graham KS 54 dBZ 25,000 ft. 26 kg/m² 40% Chance 100% Chance 0.75 in. 0 knots new (0)
0 G4 Lucas IA 66 dBZ 37,000 ft. 32 kg/m² 100% Chance 100% Chance 2.25 in. 0 knots new (0)
0 Z4 Howard NE 60 dBZ 17,000 ft. 12 kg/m² 60% Chance 60% Chance 1.00 in. 0 knots new (0)
0 K3 Loup NE 75 dBZ 32,000 ft. 51 kg/m² 100% Chance 100% Chance 0.00 in. 31 knots SW (231)
0 H8 Clarke IA 57 dBZ 14,000 ft. 10 kg/m² 0% Chance 0% Chance 0.00 in. 51 knots WSW (255)


Cherokee "multi-vortex" tornado is amazing.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 32 Comments: 1505
1683. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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Quoting EugeneTillman:
SPC with the update for 00Z

Still a large area under high and moderate risk.

Dangerous night tonight.


No more 45%
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7306
In summary **correction....Manhattan area of Oklahoma....**

(1) I hear of a tornado in Dacoma...
(2) near Dodge City...
(3) east Reno County Kansas (Hutchinson area)
(4) Salina-Manhattan area of Oklahoma (News9 converage with dramatic footage including explosion of gas tank & multiple vortices?)
(5) And finally a bow echo in Iowa with rotation near Des Moines...

Is there anything else I've missed?
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Member Since: October 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1267
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


This storm is still on a path for Wichita.
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Denzer has an incredible view. What a storm. I really hope no-one was in the path.
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Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30305
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:
Phew guys...I am trying to keep up with y'all...

In summary

(1) I hear of a tornado in Dacoma...
(2) near Dodge City...
(3) east Reno County Kansas (Hutchinson area)
(4) Salina-Manhattan area of Kansas (News9 converage with dramatic footage including explosion of gas tank & multiple vortices?)
(5) And finally a bow echo in Iowa with rotation near Des Moines...

Is there anything else I've missed? Trying to collect the moment of it all...
The tornado is in OK.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3813
I need to see the base getting lower for this one to become a wedge. Omg Randy Denzer has a great view.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3813
News 9 is excellent!
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7306
Phew guys...I am trying to keep up with y'all...

In summary

(1) I hear of a tornado in Dacoma...
(2) near Dodge City...
(3) east Reno County Kansas (Hutchinson area)
(4) Salina-Manhattan area of Kansas (News9 converage with dramatic footage including explosion of gas tank & multiple vortices?)
(5) And finally a bow echo in Iowa with rotation near Des Moines...

Is there anything else I've missed? Trying to collect the moment of it all...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
That is amazing.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30305
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TWO TORNADOES ON GROUND ON NEWS 9 STREAM. Wow...
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Stovepipe with a F0/F1 satellite.

Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 32 Comments: 1505
1665. Tygor
Fantastic coverage on news9.com
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God thats a big one.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3813
Channel 9 looks more like a Stovepipe at the moment. Channel might be transitioning to a wedge.
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Multi-vortex now... Wow...
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3466
We have really been lucky so far... Plenty of tornadoes, but no major areas hit.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7306
On the ground south of Cherokee: Link
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Stovepipe: Link
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Channel 9.

Massive multi-vortex tornado forming.

Half way to the ground I think.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 32 Comments: 1505
Randy Denzer following a big tornado
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.