Interesting Weather Information

Friday, June 16, 2017

Tornado Database Update from SPC

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has updated the tornado database and all tornadoes from 1950 through 2016 are included.

Below are maps of all tornadoes, without comments I plotted from the data for the Cincinnati area.
All maps plotted using the free, open source MapWindows GIS program and U.S. Taxpayer data from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

Click on any map for a larger version.

National and Regional Maps




Thursday, May 25, 2017

So what does James Whitcomb Riley, the great poet and author from Indiana have to do with the storms of March 24, 2017?

Riley, known as the "Hoosier Poet" and the "Children's Poet" is also credited with the following witticism, “When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.”

Thus was born the "Duck Test", finding the simplest explanation for something you observe. Unfortunately the Duck Test often fails for complex systems like clouds associated with thunderstorms.

Let's re-phrase Riley's saying, When I see a cloud that moves like a tornado, touches the ground like a tornado and comes from a thunderstorm like a tornado, I call that cloud a tornado.

The problem is ... is that there are many low clouds that at first glance look like a tornado.


Take a look at this photo from NOAA.

This is a rain shaft, an intense downpour from a thunderstorm in the Great Plains. We see rain shafts here too. Take a look at these 3 photos from FOX19 Viewers.

Mary Campbell - Rain Shaft

Kelly Sears - Rain Shaft

Photographer Not Known - Rain Shaft

 Notice there are no horizontal striations or other indications of rotation. Rain shafts are often reported as tornadoes but they do not rotate and are not tornadoes.


How about this photo?
Scud clouds - Courtesy Washington Post.

Nope, not a tornado. It looks like one but there is no rotation, these are scud clouds.

Scud clouds can be very tornado-like. Clouds material gets caught up in the turbulence and down draft of a thunderstorm and can masquerade as a tornado.
 Here are three more scud cloud photos:




This one was taken by FOX19 NOW viewer Kathleen Niece in Glencoe, KY.

Photo by: Kathleen Niece


This is a scary looking thunderstorm, but there is not a tornado here. The wall cloud is large and low and wall clouds can partially descend to the ground.

Now take a look at these photos, sent to my by viewer Shannon Cross from Warren Co. last evening (WED may 24, 2017). She saved them from the Facebook pages of people in the area around Franklin and Carlisle, OH in Warren Co. and wanted to know if this was a big tornado like some people claimed.

The answer is, "NO", these pictures, of the same storm, do not show a tornado.


  • 1 The rotation as shown on radar was very weak.
  • 2. There are no - zero - damage reports
  • 3. The photographs show us this is not a tornado
  • Photo A  - No rotation evident, ragged edge like scud
  • Photo B - Still no rotation evident, dark back side looks interesting
  • Photo C -  A better look at the back side - the descending cloud formation is hollow
  • Photo D - The air is descending at the back of the cloud, not rising like in a tornado - look at the curl!

Weird clouds like these arise from the interplay of warm moist air flowing up and into the storm and cool, drier air sinking and flowing out of the storm.

Take a look at this amazing cloud  photograph taken by Stephanie West in Hebron, KY on June 15, 2012.

This is a shelf cloud and it forms from the interplay of inflow and out flow as shown in the second version of her photograph. The cool outflow is more dense and the warm, moist inflow rises op and over it. Beneath the warm air clouds descend in the sinking air.

To show how different one cloud can look from different directions, here is the same cloud, at the same time from in front of it near CVG.

Now ... imagine tilting the top photograph - left side up - and it does not take much imagination to get to what was seen in Warren Co.

So ...
It does not move like a tornado (no rotation).
It does not touch the ground like a tornado (no debris and no damage).
It does not come from a thunderstorm like a tornado (descending air not rising.

So it is not a duck. Oops! I mean it is not a tornado. It is a formation of scud clouds.

Thank you James Whitcomb Riley

Steve Horstmeyer

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Ohio River Flood of 1937

January, 1937 was the wettest month in Cincinnati history with 13.68" of rain. Heavy rains were common during the second and third weeks of January, 1937 all over the Ohio River Basin and most of the Ohio River drainage area had precipitation totals 300% to 400% of normal.
This resulted in the most devastating flood in Ohio River history. In Cincinnati the river was above flood stage for 431 consecutive hours and at the record setting crest OF 80' above datum (i.e. the reference level) for 8 hours.

I plotted hourly river stages for you through the high water episode and re-drew a map from the FEB 1937 issue of "Monthly Weather Review" showing the heavy rain area.
In addition I graphed the highest and lowest river stages for each year from 1858 - 2014 and illustrated some highlights.

Note when the Markland Dam went into operation. Contrary to popular myth the dam system on the Ohio River is to control low water levels and keep the river navigable and not for flood control.

Reds Pitcher Gene Schott - left - and Lee Grissom boating in Crosley Field
John Roebling Suspension Bridge, Jan 26, 1937.
John Roebling Suspension Bridge, Jan 26, 1937.
Cumminsville - The ramp is from Central Parkway.

Rainfall, amount and percent of normal, January 1937. Monthly Weather Review, Feb. 1937
Simplified version of map above. Steve Horstmeyer

Graph of data above - Hourly Stages of the Ohio River at Cincinnati. Steve Horstmeyer

High and Low Ohio River Stages at Cincinnati 1858 - 2014. Steve Horstmeyer

The Great Blizzard of 1978

From WED JAN 25 through FRI JAN 27, 1978 the Great Blizzard of '78 visited - or should I say pummeled - Cincinnati.
On the 25th the high was 37 with 0.84" of rain soaking the soil and everything else. It changed to very heavy wet snow that evening and overnight and as the temperature plummeted to -1° by dawn on the 26th. The slushy snow froze solid and more snow fell on top of it. The official snow total was 6.9".
I lived in Silverton, OH at the time and we had 3"- 4" of solid ice with an inch or two of snow on top. No one could really tell how much fell because wind gusts were as high as 50 mph, blowing the snow into 4 feet high drifts and sweeping other areas clear of snow.

The death toll was high: Indiana - 11, Kentucky - 5 and Ohio 51. Twenty-two of those either froze to death or died of hypothermia when trying to walk from stranded cars.
Meteorologists say a storm like this "bombed" - meaning rapid explosive development and the very low pressure set new record low values across Ohio. In fact the pressure at Cleveland was the lowest outside of a hurricane in the continental U.S. for years.
The barometric pressure graph I plotted from hourly data at CVG. The photos (in order CVG, Eden park, I-275 at Exit 84 in NKY and a store front in Covington) are courtesy of the Kenton County Public Library and the weather maps are from NOAA.

Clearing Snow at CVG

Eden Park

I-275 N. Kentucky near Exit 84.

All Maps at 7AM the day indicated.

Covington store front.

Hourly pressure at CVG by Steve Horstmeyer.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Three Years Back - The Tornadoes of March 2, 2012

CLICK on any image for a larger view
The Crittenden-Piner-Morning View EF4 tornado just after touchdown before it struck Piner, KY.
Taken from south of Crittenden. .Photographer unknown.

Three times in my 36 year career I have looked at the camera and told my viewers to stop watching and take cover immediately.

The first was June 2, 1990 when Harrison, OH and many other communities were struck by a F3 tornado (the EF system began Feb. 1, 2007).

The second time was during the early morning hours of April 9, 1999 when a F4 tornado struck first near Rexville, IN and travelled through Sycamore Twp. and Blue Ash.

March 2, 2012 was the third. That's an average of once time every 12 years.

No matter how long a TV meteorlogist is on the air, no matter what we do someone will not get the life-saving information they need. On March 2, 2012, 9 individuals died.

We tracked the supercells from 10:20AM EST (15:20z) until nearly 7PM EST (00z March 3). That 's 8.5 hours as they travelled more that 500 miles. 

Satellite Views

The GOES East satellite loop showing the progression of the tornadic supercells.
POES (Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite) NOAA-15 HRPT image strip taken on 02Mar2012, from 2133 to 2141z (4:33 to 4:41 PM EST). Tornadic thunderstorms moving through the Cincinnati tristate area.

Enlargement of  the NOAA-15 image strip above. Cincinnati at the yellow circle.

The "V" shape indicates the storms were energized by a jet-streak which is a strong disturbance in the jet stream

Tornado Hook Echoes

Take a look at the 4 radar images below. They are from the EF4 and EF3 tornadoes that struck the  FOX19 NOW viewing area 2 March 2012. The first two images are fro just before the Crittenden-Piner-Fiskburg-Morning View tornado struck Piner, KY. The third is from the Peach Grove-Moscow-Hamersville tornado and the fourth is from the Holton, IN tornado.

Here is what TCVG,  the Terminal  Doppler Weather Radar near CVG in Kenton County, KY at 4:21:26:57 PM EST (21:26:57 UTC) Friday 2 March 2012.The well defined hook echo, just minutes before the tornado struck Piner, KY is attenuated by heavy rain at the radar site (blank circle north of the hook). A debris ball is visible near the end of the hook.  Just what is a debris ball? It is parts of houses, trees, peoples memories and prized possesions aducted and pirated away by the 160 mph winds of the EF4 Crittenden-Piner-Fiskburg-Morning View tornado.