This blog provides commentary on interesting geological events occurring around the world in the context of my own work. This work is, broadly, geological fluid dynamics. The events that I highlight here are those that resonate with my professional life and ideas, and my goal is to interpret them in the context of ideas I've developed in my research. The blog does not represent any particular research agenda. It is written on a personal basis and does not seek to represent the University of Illinois, where I am a professor of geology and physics. Enjoy Geology in Motion! I would be glad to be alerted to geologic events of interest to post here! I hope that this blog can provide current event materials that will make geology come alive.

Banner image is by Ludie Cochrane..

Susan Kieffer can be contacted at s1kieffer at gmail.com

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brutal April weather

Statewide precipitation for April 2011
NOAA has released a report that confirms my intuition about where I live: April in Illinois was a miserably wet month! Nearby in our neighboring state, the residents of Hamburg, Iowa, are battling flooding caused by the breach of their levee system, reported in this earlier post.

But, my personal misery was small compared to the real disasters:

  • More than 500 confirmed tornadoes, possibly more than 800; very likely to approach the all-time monthly record of 542 tornadoes set in May, 2003.
  • 358 fatalities related to two tornado outbreaks
  • Record rainfall all along the Ohio River Valley
  • Record flooding along the Mississippi River
  • Drought and wildfires in the Southern Plains
  • $10-15 billion in damages
Note in this graphic that Arizona is listed as "near normal" conditions, but neighboring New Mexico is "below normal" in precipitation. The current wildfire, the largest in the history of Arizona, is actually nearly on the Arizona-New Mexico border.

It's being blamed on La Nina causing above-average snowpacks and heavy fall and spring rains and causing above-average water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico. This warm water fed the tornado. 

We have passed out of the strongest part of the La Nina, but hurricane season is now upon us.  The Climate Prediction Center of NOAA has projected that this will be a busier-than-normal hurricane season.  

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