Monster El Reno tornado widest ever recorded killed at least 18 including 4 chasers

June 7, 2013

tornado EF scaleThe National Weather Service reported Tuesday that the killer tornado that struck near Oklahoma City last Friday was a ferocious EF5 twister, which had winds that neared 295 mph.

An EF5 tornado, the highest number on the “Enhanced Fujita Scale of Tornado Intensity,” is any tornado that has wind speeds of 200 mph or higher.

This beats every world wind record except the more-than-300-mph reading measured during the Moore, Okla., tornado in 1999, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Jesse Ferrell.

The weather service also said the twister’s 2.6-mile width is the widest ever recorded. According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the tornado blew up from 1 mile to 2.6 miles wide in a 30-second span. For perspective, Manhattan is 2.3 miles wide at its widest point.

The tornado, which carved a path 16.2 miles long near El Reno, OK surpasses a 2.5-mile-wide F4 tornado that hit Hallam, Nebraska in 2004.

El Reno EF5 tornado AP

The below video is an animation showing the approximate location of the El Reno tornado with chaser positions from the Spotter Network overlayed. The tornado path and size based on radar and path compiled by NWS. (A commenter added … Spotter Network is a smart phone app, like 4 square and other social media apps that can use the GPS functions of a smart phone to give live tracking data, the video is a very simple video representation of the raw data about heading and GPS location. The data was masked on to a map along with an animation of the Tornado track, that data provided by the NWS.)

The Weather Channels’ Tornado Hunt vehicle got thrown nearly 200 yards by the El Reno Tornado in Oklahoma City. Tornado Hunt crew and Mike Bettes were all okay. Photo Credit: @SeanSchoferTVN

El Reno Oklahome EF5 tornado hunt vehicle by sean schofer

Sadly 3 veteran storm chasers were among the 18 people killed during the May 31st tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma. According to the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office, Tim Samaras, 55, his son Paul Samaras, 24, and Carl Young, 45, died while chasing a tornado in El Reno. Tim and Carl starred in the Discovery Channel series “Storm Chasers”.

storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and Carl Young killed in El Reno tornado

Below photo from G+ Sid Burgess shows the chaser community saying their goodbyes to Tim, Paul and Carl in chaser fashion.

El Reno tornado RIP tim samaras

And earlier this week the Daily Oklahoman reported a 4th chaser perished in the El Reno storm: Richard Charles Henderson, an amateur chaser.

The paper writes:

From his pickup, amateur storm chaser Richard Charles Henderson took a cellphone photo of the first tornado Friday and excitedly sent it to a friend. Minutes later, that tornado would kill him.

R.I.P. chasers… and our thoughts are with all those affected by the twisters in Oklahoma and across the country.  Stay safe, j & B

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Friday Fotos: Stunning Turquoise Ice on Ancient Lake

April 5, 2013

Russian landscape photographer Alex El Barto Trofimov, who lives in the heart of Siberia, travels nearly 400 miles south to photograph one of the world’s most voluminous and oldest freshwater lakes – his favorite place to take pictures, according to Weather.com.

Lake Baikal contains roughly 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water and more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, with more than 80 percent of the animals being unique to the area.

The 25 million-year-old lake’s water is so clear that when it freezes over in the winter you can see a little over a 100 feet below. The lake can be crossed by foot when it freezes, but those who choose to cross it run the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

In March, due to a natural phenomenon the lake is particularly amazing to photograph. The temperature, wind and sun cause the ice crust to crack and form beautiful turquoise blocks or ice hummocks on the lake’s surface.

Below photos by Alex Trofimov

Siberia's Lake Baikal turquoise ice

Siberia's Lake Baikal turquoise ice by Alex Trofimov

Have a great weekend everyone! j & B


Friday Fotos: Mystical Fairy Circles of the Namib Desert

March 29, 2013

Nambia fairy circles Mysterious bare spots called “fairy circles” dotting the sandy desert grasslands of Nambia have long stumped scientists who have no idea how they form.

Fairy circles crop up in regular patterns along a narrow strip of the Namib Desert between mid-Angola and northwestern South Africa, and can persist for decades.

HuffPo reports the cause of these desert pockmarks has been widely debated, but a species of sand termite, Psammotermes allocerus, could be behind the mysterious dirt rings, suggests a study published yesterday in the journal Science.

Scientists have offered many ideas about the circles’ origin, ranging from “self-organizing vegetation dynamics” to carnivorous ants. Termites have been proposed before, but there wasn’t much evidence to support that theory. While studying the strange patterns, biologist Norbert Juergens of the University of Hamburg noticed that wherever he found the dirt patches (the barren centers inside fairy circles), he also found sand termites.

According to LiveScience, the smallest fairy circles are about 6.5 feet (2 meters) in diameter, while the largest can be almost 40 feet (12 m) across. Eventually, plants move back in, re-colonizing the circles and leaving only slightly indented “ghost circles” behind. And a study published June 27, 2012 in the journal PLOS ONE, suggested the small circles stick around for about 24 years, while the larger ones stay put as long as 75 years.

fairy circles of the Namib DesertCredit: N. Juergens

fairy circlesCredit: N. Juergens

fairy circles Jagkop after rainCredit: Mike and Ann Scott of the Namib Rand Nature Reserve

Nambia fairy circlesCredit: Image courtesy of N. Juergens

Have a fun, safe Easter weekend everyone! 🙂 j & B


Friday Fotos: More Volcanic Eruptions and new study suggests massive spewage caused widespread extinction 200 million years ago

March 22, 2013

Although we did a Friday Foto post on volcanic eruptions last month, a new study suggests that mega volcanoes may have led to the extermination of half of Earth’s species some 200 million years ago.

pin-volcanoAccording to LiveScience, the release of gases from giant eruptions caused climate change that led to the End-Triassic Extinction, the widespread loss of land and sea species that made way for the rise of the dinosaurs, the research says.

The new study, published Thursday, March 21, in the journal Science, shows that a set of major eruptions spanning from what is now New Jersey to Morocco occurred very close to the time of the extinction.

Scientists suspected previously that such volcanic activity and the resultant climate change were responsible for this major extinction and at least four others. But researchers weren’t able to constrain the dates of the eruptions and extinctions well enough to prove the hypothesis. The new study, however, dates the End-Triassic Extinction to 201.56 million years ago, the same time the volcanoes were blowing their tops.

Facts and figures about volcanoes

A volcano is a mountain that opens downward to a reservoir of molten rock (like a huge pool of melted rocks) below the earth’s surface. Unlike mountains, which are pushed up from the earth’s crust, volcanoes are formed by their buildup of lava, ash flows, and airborne ash and dust. When pressure from gases and molten rock becomes strong enough to cause an explosion, it erupts and starts to spew gases and rocks through the opening.

Volcanic eruptions can hurl hot rocks (sometimes called tephra) for at least 20 miles (32 km) and cause sideways blasts, lava flows, hot ash flows, avalanches, landslides and mudflows (also called lahars). They can also cause earthquakes, thunderstorms, flash floods, wildfires, and tsunamis. Sometimes volcanic eruptions can drive people from their homes forever.

Did you know…

  • at least 20 volcanoes will probably be erupting as you read these words?! For example, Italy’s Stromboli has been almost continuously erupting over 2,000 years.
  • there are an estimated 1 million volcanoes on the ocean’s floor that pump out roughly 3/4 of the lava reaching the earth’s surface?!
  • the “Ring of Fire” that encircles the Pacific Ocean has about 450 historically active volcanoes?!
  • more than 65 active or potentially active volcanoes exist in the U.S. and over 40 of them are in Alaska?!
  • Yellowstone National Park actually sits on top of a supervolcano which erupted 3 times in the past 2 million years forming 3 massive calderas (or huge craters). The largest one — Yellowstone Caldera — is more than 60 miles (100 km) across. Some other large calderas formed by supervolcanoes are in Alaska, eastern California, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand and South America.

Nature’s fury and beauty

Although volcanic eruptions can create havoc, misery and death with their fury, they can also provide spectacular views and beautiful photos. For example…

Lightning flashes around ash plume of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano chain near Entrelagos, Chile. (Carlos Gutierrez/Reuters

Puyehue-Conron Caulle volcano in Chile

An arching lava fountain, about 12 meters high, spurts from an early vent in the Puu Oo eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. U. S. Geological Survey photo by Jim Griggs

USGS photo of arching Lava fountain in Hawaii

   

 Mount Etna

Mount Etna

Mt Etna spew

Lightning over Sinmoedake peak REUTERS/Minami-Nippon Shimbun/Handout via Totallycoolpix.com

lightning over Shinmoedake peak

Shinmoedake volcanic eruption with lightning

Also check out our Friday Fotos: Amazing Volcanic Eruptions (and links to our As the Earth Hurls series) …

Have a great weekend! 🙂 j & B


Friday Fotos: Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuke plant disasters

March 15, 2013

boat on top of building after Japan tsunamiThis past Monday March 11, 2013 marked the 2 year anniversary of the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disasters in Japan.

The 9.0 Tohoku earthquake, the strongest ever to hit Japan and among the five most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, along with the subsequent tsunami claimed the lives of over 20,000 people

Some mindboggling figures from the trifecta disaster include…

6 = approximate number of minutes the shaking lasted during the 9.0 earthquake in Sendai (80 miles or 130 kilometers west of the epicenter). It’s also the number of miles the tsunami traveled inland in areas.

133’ = the massive tsunami that slammed parts of Japan reached heights up to 133 feet (40.5 meters) in some places! The waves that struck the Fukushima reactors were almost 46 feet (14 meters) high.

961 = Total number of aftershocks in Sendai on March 11, 2011 (Note: This is total for 1 day only and a tally of magnitude 4.0 – 9.0 quakes only..! There were many smaller aftershocks too.)

19,349 = Total number of magnitude 3.0 or higher earthquakes in and around Japan in 2011 (total from Jan 1 – Dec 31, 2011).

270,000 = number of buildings damaged or destroyed

386,739 = number of homeless people at one point.

Below are a tiny sampling of photos from Japan’s devastating 2011 disaster…

tsunami floods Japan

debris after Japan earthquake and tsunami

flooding after 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami

flooding after Japan earthquake and tsunami

military aircraft damage after Japan tsunami

explosion and fire at Fukushima power plant

Sendai after Tohoku earthquake and tsunami

We also wanted to share an awesome video from people in the Tohoku area expressing their gratitude to all of the international aid that helped them. (video from Nov 2011)

Also read our March 2012 Updates and Arigato from Japan enews article with more stats and resources.

Photos from Totallycoolpix.com and Japanearthquakepictures.com


Friday Fotos: Mysterious Ice Circles

March 8, 2013

Ice CirclesLast month we did a Friday Foto post about a magical frozen bubble lake and while researching it, we stumbled upon another type of mysterious frozen beauty called ice circles.

According to Wikipedia, an ice circle, ice disc or ice pan is a natural phenomenon that occurs in slow moving water in cold climates. Ice circles and discs have most frequently been observed in Scandinavia and North America, but they are occasionally recorded as far south as England and Wales.

Ice circles are thin and circular slabs of ice that rotate slowly in the water. It is believed that they form in eddy currents and they vary in size with some reported to be more than 4 metres (13 ft) in diameter.

Ice discs form on the outer bends in a river where the accelerating water creates a force called ‘rotational shear’, which breaks off a chunk of ice and twists it around. As the disc rotates, it grinds against surrounding ice — smoothing into a circle.

Ice pans are surface slabs of ice that form in the center of a lake or creek, instead of along the water’s edge, according to river specialist and geography professor Joe Desloges. As water cools, it releases heat that turns into frazil ice — a collection of loose, randomly oriented needle-shaped ice crystals that can cluster together into a pan-shaped formation.

There are many gorgeous photos and videos about ice circles online and below are some of our faves…

photo of ice circles by Gary Lane - Wapiti River Guides

ice circle

ice circle in river

Sheridan Creek, Rattray Marsh in Ontario, Canada (Source)

view of ice circle in Russia's Lake Baikal from ISS

Lake Baikal in Russia (Spotted by ISS astronauts)

ice circles in Russia

 Russia (Source)

See more cool ice circle photos and watch a short video on FeedFury.com … and have a great weekend everyone! 🙂 j & B


Friday Fotos: Massive Sinkholes

March 1, 2013

Last night a Florida man fell into a sinkhole that opened suddenly and swallowed the bedroom of his suburban Tampa home. CNN reports the sinkhole is about 20 feet to 30 feet across and may be 30 feet deep, but sadly there are no signs of life as of tonight.

Sinkholes are common in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The state lies on bedrock made of limestone or other carbonate rock that can be eaten away by acidic groundwater, forming voids that collapse when the rock can no longer support the weight of what’s above it. In fact, many of the lakes in Florida are relic sinkholes.

But sinkholes can happen anywhere in the world as shown below…

APTOPIX Germany Landslide and sinkhole

sinkhole in parking lot

sinkhole in road

collapsed segment of a street in Germany

sinkhole in Guatemala

Guatemala sinkhole

Great blue hole

Have a great weekend! 🙂 j & B


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