Category Archives: Story

A meteorologist can never win

Yesterday it rained here in Minneapolis, and it wasn’t exactly expected to happen. All afternoon, I had people telling me what a bunch of liars meteorologists are, since we collectively botched the forecast. And we did, I’m not denying that.
At least, though, I’m not one of those TV meteorologists who has to deal with complaints when they actually are giving important and up to date weather information. This lady just doesn’t care about that storm.

Minneapolis looks like a market where meteorologists will be receiving more complaints tonight, as a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for just north of town. I’m not lying.

From the comments…

I have definitely been remiss in mentioning the coolest comment I think I’ve ever received. If you’ll recall, about a week and a half ago, we featured Tonga on our country profile. In response, Mr. ‘Ofa Fa’anunu responded in the comments, providing some details on the Tongan Meteorological Service:

Just like to add that all 6 of our meteorological stations are manual (operated by humans) and are located at the 6 airports in Tonga. 65% of our work is towards aviation and the rest to public forecasts, Marine forecasts and climate. The Tonga Met Service is also responsible for tsunami warnings and for Coast Radio Surveillance. Weather Observations and reporting in Tonga started in 1929 although data is only available from 1944. There 28 staff. 6 Forecasters, 3 Climate Officers, 6 Coast Radio Operators and 13 Meteorological Observers. The Head Office is located at Fua’amotu International Airport on the main island of Tongatapu.

(see for further information)

keep up good work!!
best regards
‘Ofa Fa’anunu
Director Tonga Met Services

That’s right. Mr. Fa’anunu is the director of the TMS! You can certainly take his words to heart. Recently, he was also elected Vice President of the WMO Southwest Pacific Region, so not only is he willing to share his knowledge with our website and you readers, he is well respected among the leaders of our meteorological community. Thank you for your contribution, Mr. Fa’anunu, and best wishes to Tonga!

Another look at that Oklahoma tornado outbreak

I just wanted to share a couple of radar stills from the tornado outbreak of last Monday. The come courtesy of Plymouth State University’s NEXRAD archive. The first shows the cell that passed through Norman. The hook is muddled somewhat by the toads and county lines, but it is still there. Other local radars, such as the one housed by Oklahoma University, have better angles on the storm, but aren’t publicly available yet.

The second comes about an hour earlier, and is a of a storm near Wakita (if you have heard of Wakita, this might be why). It has perhaps the most pronounced hook of any storm that day.

I have nothing to add, really. It’s 6 days in the past, and this was a very well documented, well warned system among people that are used to such weather. Really, I just wanted to link to these, because they are definitely images that make a full blooded meteorologist say “whoa”.

Severe system spares Nebraska

Yesterday, a dynamic system moving into the Southern Plains organized and triggered a tornado outbreak over Oklahoma, the center of the tornado universe. In fact, the scientists at the National Weather Center, home to a combination of the Storm Prediction Center, NWS-Oklahoma City office, and a meteorological research campus of the University of Oklahoma saw a tornado out their window. They self reported! Unfortunately, this marks the second deadly outbreak of the year after last month’s twister that cut across Mississippi. 5 are dead and many more are injured in Oklahoma, most in Norman, just south of Oklahoma City where the NWC is located.
The images from this storm are incredible. We will look at some radar stills next week, when we don’t have forecasts scheduled every day. Speaking of forecasts, this is technically a verification post, which is why Nebraska was mentioned. Omaha was on the northern end of the system, and they mercifully only saw rain out of it. Temperatures were kept cool by persistent wind, and clouds. The rain didn’t start until Monday, which didn’t give Victoria-Weather the victory, it merely increased the margin of victory.
Actuals: Sunday – High 62, Low 38
Monday – .59 inches of rain, High 54, Low 48

Grade: B

Snowballs?… Snowballs?!!?

May is the time most people start to think of warm weather, sunshine, and the fun summer activities ahead. However, Mother Nature likes to sometime put a monkey wrench into our cheery outlooks. An area of low pressure is developing today over the Central Rockies and will push into the Central Plains by later this evening. A slew of moisture is streaming up from the Gulf ahead of it and will get wrapped around on the north side of it, and will result in some snowfall over the Northern Plains. In addition, as the low shifts eastward through Friday evening, another swath of snow looks to fall over northern MN and WI, with a couple inches possible. We’ve had a ludicrously warm spring we’ve had here in the Twin Cities, we haven’t had snow since February 23rd which led to our first ever snowless March and April on record, so this possible snowfall isn’t going to make people in Central MN and WI very pleased. Snowfall isn’t uncommon over the northern tier of states in early May, but after the warm spring this part of the country has had so far, it’s certainly not a welcome visitor.


When I look at a surface map, I think of it like a topographical map. The high pressure is like a mountain, low pressure is like a valley. The closer the lines are (the isobars, lines of constant pressure) the greater the change in elevation on our topographical map. The air is like, say, water. It will always try to flow downhill, and will move faster in steeper elevation changes.
This is obviously an over simplification, especially since it doesn’t accurately describe the directionality of the winds. Due to forces like friction and the rotation of the earth, the wind blows roughly 90 degrees to the right of a straight high to low pressure line. Basically, if you stand with your back to the wind and lift your left arm, you are pointing to the lower pressure. That said, it does do a slightly better job describing the speed with which the wind will blow. A steeper pressure gradient does mean stronger winds, just like my mental topographical map would indicate.
This is, by the way, one of the most fundamental things a meteorologist knows. The first thing I remember learning about in my meteorology class was high and low pressure and the immediate effect on wind. I remember walking home from that class lifting my left arm, trying to figure out where the nearest low was. Memories…

April Forecaster of the Month

The past 18 months or so have been tough for the folks from State College. They have been missing on a lot of short term forecasts and have been putting out some ludicrous long range forecasts, Well, this past month, they managed to stay at the top of the standings with several quality prognostications. It came down to the last forecast in Allentown, however, when they had the top forecast and The Weather Channel came in 4th, allowing Accuweather to sneak by the denizens of Atlanta for the top spot. Congrats Accuweather, it’s been a long time coming.

Now here is a look at some tornado safety tips.

Severe Season Is Upon Us

There isn’t any “official” start to the severe weather season, like the start of hurricane season is June 1, but it’s been a fairly quiet spring so far as far as severe weather outbreaks across the country. Outside of one outbreak over the Carolinas in late March, not much has happened. That changed in a hurry last week when many severe storms erupted ahead of a very strong occluded/cold front over the Southern Plains and Lower MS Valley over April 22-24. A couple days ahead of time the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) issued a moderate risk for the region, and on the morning of April 24 the SPC issued a rare High Risk, the first one this year. This came to fruition when a supercell dropped a tornado in far northeastern LA then rolled into MS. By the time the tornado finally dissipated, it had tracked for an incredible 149+ miles, one of the longest on record. Sadly, 10 people perished from this storm in 3 separate cities as it inflicted EF4 damage in cities across the state. The NWS out of Jackson, MS has a nice write-up and summary of the outbreak. With another strong cold front looking to move through the Central US over the next couple of days, it always pays to be vigilant to weather forecasts and heed warnings when they are issued. We know it’s tempting to want to go outside and take pictures or even chase after these storms, but please leave that to the professionals and seek safe haven for yourself. While there are hundreds of storm chasers across the US documenting storms, relaying storm reports to the authorities, and hoping for each cell to drop a funnel cloud, they never want to hear about them hitting towns and causing fatalities, since human life is worth infinitely more than any picture is worth.

This is the type of thing you don’t want to see out your window

More from the deadly tornado that cut Mississippi in half on Saturday. CNN has a video of the looming EF4 tornado that eventually devastated Yazoo City and a large swath of Mississippi. It ended up having a path of almost 100 miles, at times wider than a mile and a half. Fortunately, a twister of this duration and intensity is rare, but is the reason meteorologists so intently monitor the weather, and why storm chasers are so important. Naturally, Victoria-Weather extends our condolences to those who lost friends and loved ones in last weekends storms.