Friday, May 29, 2020
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Deadly tornadoes strike southeastern U.S.

Thunderstorms with tornadoes in Mississippi and five other states in the southeastern US killed at least 18 people there over the weekend, the New York Times reports.


Mississippi National Guard (via Flickr CC) assists civilian authorities near Hattiesburg.

President Donald Trump said he had spoken to Gov Nathan Deal of Georgia about the damage sustained there and a declaration of a state of emergency in seven counties, where up to 20 tornadoes had been reported.

“The state is making all resources available to the impacted areas,” the Times quoted the governor as saying in a statement, adding that he was likely to seek federal help.

The weather also caused damage in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, although loss of life wasn’t immediately reported there. Over all, at least 43 people reported sustaining non-fatal injuries from the three days of tornadoes.

In addition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, said Florida was under a high risk of severe storms. At least 34 tornadoes were reported, the administration said, in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The Weather Channel reported that the tornado that struck Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was an EF3 storm.

Several schools were closed in the Hattiesburg Public School District as well as the Forrest County School District, either due to direct tornado damage or power outages that hadn’t been fixed by Monday. Other schools dismissed students early or canceled after-school activities on Monday, including schools in the Jefferson Davis School District, the Marion County School District, school districts in Lamar and Perry counties, and the Petal School District.

Why are storms becoming more dangerous?

Researchers know that more, and more dangerous, storms have begun to occur as the climate warms, a new study partially out of the California Institute of Technology and the University of Houston has found. A team of scientists has reported an underlying explanation, using meteorological satellite data gathered over a 35-year period.

The examination of the movement and interaction of mechanical energies across the atmosphere, published today in the journal Nature Communications, is the first to explore long-term variations of the Lorenz energy cycle—a complex formula used to describe the interaction between potential and kinetic energy in the atmosphere—and offers a new perspective on what is happening with global warming.

“It is a new way to look at and explain what people have observed,” said Liming Li, assistant professor of physics at the University of Houston and corresponding author of the paper. “We found that the efficiency of Earth’s global atmosphere as a heat engine is increasing during the past four decades in response to climate change.”

Because the overall energy is increasing, “the efficiency of Earth’s global atmosphere as a heat engine increased during the past 35 years,” the study concludes.

According to the laws of physics, the total mechanical energy of the global atmosphere remains constant over time, but there’s been a significant increase in what researchers describe as “eddy energies,” or the energies associated with storms (eddies and turbulence).

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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