Category Archives: weather

Fingers of God

tornado funnels

I am sort of a weather junkie and in the course of following the tornado outbreak in Oklahoma last Friday came across this video showing multi-vortices in the tornado. They form within minutes as you can see, come down, touch the ground, then dissipate. Watching it made me think of the fingers of God… how they can come down and touch something spot on… not random, but, as with all else under His wise and loving control.

The story that broke today about the three very experienced weather chasers who were killed on the same day and in the same area where this tornado was filmed, just reinforced the fact that none of us can ever have all the bases covered when it comes to knowing what’s going to happen. Two of the three men were renowned among the meteorological community, having appeared in Discovery Channel and National Geographic presentations on their work.

Tim Samaras worked out of Colorado and his first interest was research —  getting information needed to figure out how tornadoes are formed and behaved. Colleagues described him as “a veteran researcher not a thrill seeker” and a stickler for safety above all else. Yet even he, after 30 years of tracking tornadoes, found himself caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Apparently he and his team were  heading east on a side road along I-40 following the El Reno tornado some ways to the south as it plowed eastward  as well, following a straight track as it did so. Then suddenly it took a sharp turn northward  to I-40 itself, then it jogged east again to follow the interstate. When that happens the tornado can strengthen in power and size and, as one colleague put it, “you find yourself part of the tornado” and there’s no way to avoid it.

Anyway, to see Funnels Drop from Cloud near El Reno click on the link below:

Hurricanes, the Media and Politics

Well, apparently Hurricane Irene turned out to be a dud, at least in the media’s eyes (if not in the eyes of the people in its path who are still struggling with the flooding, crop and structure damage, power losses, etc, that it caused.) I had a feeling it wasn’t going to turn out as horrible as they were predicting. Living here in Arizona, known for how hard it is on weather forecasters, I’ve come to the conclusion that the really bad storms seem to come out of nowhere. Usually on a day they predicted no storms.

When they predict and warn and commend themselves for how they are protecting us all (as if we are incapable of looking out the window and judging for ourselves) and we’d better pay attention to them, tune in, twitter in, Facebook in… I tend to yawn. After all the hooplah, the actual storms usually turn out to be anticlimactic. And so it was with Irene, if only because the hooplah was so shrill and over the top this time.

As if happened, though I experienced an interesting confluence of timing over the weekend in reading George Bush’s account of what happened during Katrina in Decision Points, at the same time as everyone was caterwauling about Irene. I thought even back when the events of Katrina were unfolding that Bush was being unfairly accused of “mismanaging” the relief efforts, and his account pretty much reinforced what I’d already concluded. He was fully aware of and concerned about Katrina, and had ordered the federal government’s Emergency Management Agency well in advance to start stockpiling food, water, medical supplies, etc, and to move in troops and helicopters as near the target areas as was safe for the aid of those who might need them after the hurricane hit.

But the feds can’t come in until state and local officials request them to do so. In Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, there was no problem, the integration between state and local authorities and federal responders operating smoothly. But in Louisiana, things were different. Even though the President asked and asked and asked Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco to let him help, she refused to give him an answer, dithering the time away until it was pretty much too late. Then everyone blamed him.

In his book he graciously took responsibility for it, but I’m still struggling to see why he should have. The whole point of state’s rights is that we have the freedom to manage our own affairs. The US is not a kingdom but a federation of states, and if state officials don’t want to accept federal aid, that is their right. They are elected officials, so if they are inept, perhaps the people they supposedly serve will not re-elect them…

With all that in my mind, it was interesting to watch President Obama this time, a man who seems to have an eerie coldness and detachment when it comes to connecting with the “little people” even when he does descend from his chariot, er… airplane… to see the damage and try to lift their spirits. Given what the media had done to Bush, it seemed clear he wanted to make sure no one could accuse him of not caring or of being too slow in providing aid. Unfortunately, for me, he seemed only to be seeking a photo-op to enhance his current campaign. Nothing about him ever seems sincere, but rather condescending.

Others affirmed and elaborated on my observation, and this excerpt from Power Line blogger John Hinderaker in his post How to Politicize a Hurricane is not only amusing but apt:

“I’m sure it’s a relief to everyone on the East Coast to know that Obama is personally directing hurricane response efforts. Never mind that he isn’t competent to organize a Little League baseball team; today’s charade obviously is a corollary of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco, in which America’s mass media committed group malpractice, somehow managing to blame the inevitable consequences of a severe weather event, magnified by incompetent local authorities in New Orleans, on the Bush administration. Obama is setting the stage to receive praise, rather than blame, no matter what actually happens between now and when Hurricane Irene blows itself out.

This is one more step in the degradation of American politics. One hundred years ago, people understood that the president had nothing to do with hurricanes. Now, the president is expected to pretend to have control over more or less everything. This has something to do with the inexorable expansion of federal power, and also something to do with the dumbing-down of the American people.”

The Unruly, Unrestrained Jet Stream

“Record snowfall, killer tornadoes, devastating floods: There’s no doubt about it. Since Dec. 2010, the weather in the USA has been positively wild. But why?”

So starts an article published in Science@Nasa last June called What’s to Blame for the Wild Weather?

(Shall I add extreme drought and heat leading to horrific forest fires that have both scorched the southwest and are even now burning up Oklahoma?)

Some say it’s because of La Nina,  a band of cold water that sometimes stretches across the Pacific, and affects global weather patterns. We’ve had La Nina conditions before, however, and not all these weird weather problems.

NASA climatologist Bill Patzert doesn’t think it’s La Nina either.  “La Niña was strong in December,” he says. “But back in January it pulled a disappearing act and left us with nothing – La Nada – to constrain the jet stream. Like an unruly teenager, the jet stream took advantage of the newfound freedom–and the results were disastrous.”

“By mid-January 2011, La Niña weakened rapidly and by mid-February it was adios, La Niña, allowing the jet stream to meander wildly around the US. Consequently the weather pattern became dominated by strong outbreaks of frigid polar air, producing blizzards across the West, Upper Midwest, and northeast US.”

And that wasn’t all it produced as spring came and the unruly jet stream continued to be uncontrolled. Russell Schneider, Director of the NOAA-NWS Storm Prediction Center, explains:

“First, very strong winds out of the south carrying warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico met cold jet stream winds racing in from the west. Stacking these two air masses on top of each other created the degree of instability that fuels intense thunderstorms.”

According to NASA author Dauna Coulter, “Extreme contrasts in wind speeds and directions of the upper and lower atmosphere transformed ordinary thunderstorms into long-lived rotating supercells capable of producing violent tornadoes.”

And climatologist Patzert adds, “The jet stream — on steroids — acted as an atmospheric mix master, causing tornadoes to explode across Dixie and Tornado Alleys, and even into Massachusetts.”

I love his description of an unruly jet stream, free to roam about as it chooses — with devastating results. Because what a parallel to a people who have rejected God and gone their own way.

Especially when you combine the weather problems with the economic woes, the war issues, the rising crime, the emergence of mobs of young people running amok in various cities from Chicago to DC to Orlando…  I really do think God is trying to get our attention…

Read the article and look at the pictures HERE.

Tornado Destructive Beauty

Okay, I admit, I’m weird. It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in the midwest because I’d be one of those tornado chasers. I just find them fascinating. I feel the same way about thunderstorms. I think what I like about them both, in addition to the beauty and hypnotic grace in the images, is the fact that they show God’s power. I can’t speak for personally watching a tornado, but I’ve watched scores of thunderstorms and even been out in them, lightning cracking around on every side (that was not by choice… the worst part is how hard the rain pelts you — so hard you can’t open your eyes).  They are such awesome demonstrations of the power of God. Because His power goes way beyond a wimpy thunderstorm or tornado. That’s the cool part… here’s this manifestation of weather that completely humbles us. We can do nothing about it, nothing to stop it, nothing to control it… just get out of the way and pray.

And controlling a tornado is less than fingerwork for the one who actually holds all the universe together, keeps the sun in order, the planets, the galaxies, etc. I love considering those aspects of God. Because when you do, how can you worry about anything in life? He’s got it ALL under His control, everything chosen and incorporated into a plan that is not only holy and sovereign but wise and loving…

Anyway, all that to introduce this cool video of a tornado I just found:

And if you want to see some really still pictures of storms (accompanying an article on some British storm chasers in our own Tornado Alley) click here.