Our planet just had the third warmest May in recorded history

Earth experienced its 8th warmest spring on record, and the third warmest May, with average global temperature in May 1.19 degrees F. above the 20th-century average, matching 1998 and 2005 for the third warmest May dating back to 1880. WaPo: "The global temperature has been above average now 339 straight months (more than 28 years). The last time global temperatures were below average (February, 1985)."

Your car is not a tornado shelter

Last Friday, a tornado near El Reno, Oklahoma killed scientist Tim Samaras, as well as his son and a colleague. The three were tracking the storm in a vehicle — storm chasing, if you will — as part of their ongoing efforts to deploy probes that could capture high-resolution video from inside a tornado. (Samaras' team was one of many practicing a type of science that can basically be described as Twister in real life.) Chasing storms was an important part of what Samaras did. National Geographic reports that tornadoes only developed in roughly two of every 10 storms Samaras tracked, and the probes were only useful in a fraction of the tornadoes they were deployed in.

Samaras' death is tragic, but he wasn't some untrained yahoo out running around on county roads in a tornado for fun. He was there to do a job; a job that would, eventually, help other people survive. That said, if a situation kills experts, you probably don't want to be that untrained person trying to navigate it on your own.

Which brings us to a key point. After a handful of people who survived the Moore tornado credited their survival to driving away from it, people in Oklahoma City apparently responded to Friday's storms by trying to do the same thing. For some, it worked. But others were killed or injured when traffic on highways in the tornado's path ground to a complete halt, clogged with cars full of people who were (either accidentally or intentionally) trying to flee the storm instead of hide from it.

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Storm approaches Pittsburgh

© Bri Anne

Vintage snapshots of wild weather

House of Mirth asked several vernacular photo collectors to share their favorite vintage snapshots of weather events. The wave shot comes from Erin Waters' collection and the tornado photo belongs to Steve Bonnos.

"Knock knock." Who's there? "Snow."

Josh Fitzpatrick, meteorologist with WSAZ TV, posts this photo (don't know who took it), with this factoid: "The deepest snow with the #blizzard of 2013 was 40" inches at Trumbull, CT! 7' foot drifts. "

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Weather Channel naming winter storms

The Weather Channel posted an internal marketing pitch, I mean feature article, about why they've deemed themselves the official naming entity for big winter storms. From the article:
During the upcoming 2012-13 winter season The Weather Channel will name noteworthy winter storms. Our goal is to better communicate the threat and the timing of the significant impacts that accompany these events. The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation…

This is an ambitious project. However, the benefits will be significant. Naming winter storms will raise the awareness of the public, which will lead to more pro-active efforts to plan ahead, resulting in less impact and inconvenience overall…

Finally, it might even be fun and entertaining and that in itself should breed interest from our viewing public and our digital users.

"Why The Weather Channel is Naming Winter Storms" (Thanks, Gil Kaufman!)

Australian heatwave goes into the pink

Yesterday, Australia experienced its hottest nationwide average temperature ever — 40.33 degrees C (104.6 degrees F). Today, the country's national weather bureau added a new color to official weather forecast maps, reflecting a need to predict temperatures higher than 52 C (125.6 F). Insert your Spinal Tap jokes and terrified flailing here.

1 WTC (Freedom Tower) as æolian harp

Winds from approaching Hurricane Sandy turned 1 WTC (previously known as the Freedom Tower) into an æolian harp. (via Doubtful News)

What makes wind?

It can be a nice breeze, or a destructive storm, but either way wind is just moving air. And moving air is just moving molecules.

In an explainer for kids that's actually pretty helpful for grown-ups, too, Matt Shipman reminds us that the air around us isn't totally weightless. It weighs something, because molecules all weigh something:

They don't weigh very much (you couldn't put one on your bathroom scale), but their weight adds up, because there are a LOT of molecules in the air that makes up our atmosphere. All of that air is actually pretty heavy, so the air at the bottom of the atmosphere (like the air just above the ground) is getting pressed on by all of the air above it. That pressure pushes the air molecules at the bottom of the atmosphere a lot closer together than the air molecules at the top of the atmosphere.

And, because the air at the top of the atmosphere is pushing down on the air at the bottom of the atmosphere, the air molecules at the bottom REALLY want to spread out. So if there is an area where the air molecules are under high pressure (with a lot of weight pushing down), the air will spread out into areas that are under lower pressure (with less weight pushing down).

Read the full story at Carolina Parent

Image: wind, katarinahissen, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from mararie's photostream

Chat about climate science and Sandy with Stanford's Noah Diffenbaugh

Yesterday, I told you that the relationship between Hurricane Sandy and climate change can be summed up with "It's Complicated". If you want a referendum on climate change, the data is in and we know it's happening. But if you're curious about this specific storm, what scientists know about hurricane systems, and how weather and climate interact, Scientific American has a live chat starting at 1:00 pm Eastern with Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University. Check it out!

Dying old satellites jeopardize future storm coverage

In the NYT, a story about "endangered satellites" that orbit the earth and provide essential data for tracking storms like Hurricane Sandy. But because of "years of mismanagement, lack of financing and delays in launching replacements," they could begin falling apart—with no functional plan in sight to maintain those resources.

Did climate change cause Hurricane Sandy? The answer depends on why you're asking

There are two answers here: One for the legitimately curious, and one for people who want a disaster to be a referendum on climate change.

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Eastern US braces for "Frankenstorm" Sandy's strike

NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured this image of Hurricane Sandy Oct. 28. The line of clouds from the Gulf of Mexico north are associated with the cold front with which Sandy is merging; the western cloud edge is already over the mid-Atlantic and northeastern US. Credit: NASA GOES Project.

Our readers along the East Coast of the US are in the path of Sandy, a storm expected to cause considerable rainfall, flooding, and high winds, with correspondingly high risk for property, structures, and life in more vulnerable areas. Sandy is now the largest tropical cyclone on record, with a radius of 520 nautical miles. The biggest threat? Too much water.

Turn off the breathless cable news coverage and instead read the reports from Dr. Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground. Snip:

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How to know when your epic storm weather news comes from nerds

NPR's Linda Holmes in an article about hurricane coverage written in August, 2011:

It takes a while watching TWC before you realize that they are such weather nerds that they sometimes tend to see things from the storm's point of view. They talk about the shape of the storm as beautiful, or "great," or "improving," and what they mean is that the storm is thriving. It's along the lines of, "This storm is looking great. Your lawn furniture? Not so much." At first, when they say the storm is getting better, you the viewer assume it means "less fierce." But they actually mean "more efficient, in terms of destruction." This is how you know that they are true nerds, and not just poseurs. CNN anchors would never accidentally say a storm is great because it's so beautifully shaped that it will look great on the radar as it tears a few shingles off the Hot Dog Hut in Atlantic City.

(Via Jennifer Ouellette)

Storm chaser's gorgeous photography

NewImage

Tornado-loving BB pal Jody Radzik just turned me on to Extreme Instability, a collection of one intrepid storm chaser's breathtaking weather photography. The above photo that I've taken it upon myself to title "Act of God" is from a bow echo in Watertown, South Dakota on August 3. The photographer: "I'm driving along, having gained at least a small bit of ground again, when I see this white cross and a roadside chapel next to the road. No way. Slam on the brakes, pull over and jump out of the car and shoot fast fast." Extreme Instability