Severe Weather and Coronavirus: A Bad Combo

Graphic:  The Washington Post, Capital Weather Gang

This year’s warm winter through most of the Lower 48 states has been great, right? Yes, but, but, but — the warm weather in the southeast was caused by the fact that the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are about 3 degrees warmer than usual, and that also increases the prospect for a very active spring tornado season and summer hurricane season.  Yes, just as they are still dealing with the coronavirus in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.  And Hawaii’s historic rains the past few weeks — in which a huge “Kona” storm caused extreme downpours and severe weather to parts of the islands — just as the number of coronavirus cases there is on the rise.

Why This Matters:  It was less than a month ago that a deadly cluster of severe tornadoes hit Nashville.  What if the city had been battling the surge of the virus at the time?  What if another storm like Hurricane Harvey hits Houston causing severe flooding when hospitals are overflowing with virus patients?  Imagine the injuries and the potential virus exposure such a collision of catastrophes would cause.  As Dr. Fauci has preached for months, we must prepare for the worst — a storm and virus double whammy.   Great.  

The Potential For An Active Tornado and Hurricane Season

According to the Capital Weather Gang, the warm waters in the Gulf have led to quite warm land temps across the region — it has been one of its top five warmest Marches on record, and many temperature records were broken as some cities temps have been in the 90’s last month. Cities right on the Gulf itself –Brownsville, Tex., Corpus Christi, Tex., Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Ala., and parts of Florida — have seen their warmest March ever.  The summer of 2017 was very similar, with quite warm water temperatures, which coincided with an above-average tornado season through the spring, and then Category 4 Hurricane Harvey that summer.  And the worst of the severe weather is still ahead of us — it is the clash of warm air from the Gulf and cold air from the Rockies that makes severe thunderstorms and tornadoes even more likely right now.  The Gang explains the science —  a paper in Science found that Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures in April have a “robust dynamical linkage” to annual tornado accounts in the southern Great Plains.  As for hurricanes, the warmer water is likely to cause hurricanes to be more intense and to dump more rainfall, just as what happened with Hurricane Harvey in 2017 when the waters were last this warm.


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