Fire and rain: Fed scientists point to wild April

May 10, 2011 By SETH BORENSTEIN , AP Science Writer

(AP) -- April was a historic month for wild weather in the United States, and it wasn't just the killer tornado outbreak that set records, according to scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

April included an odd mix of downpours, and wildfires. Six states - Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia - set records for the wettest April since 1895. Kentucky, for example, got nearly a foot of rain, which was more than three times its normal for the month, NOAA reported.

Yet the U.S. also had the most acres burned by wildfire for April since 2000. Nearly 95 percent of Texas has a drought categorized as severe or worse, exacerbated by the fifth driest April on record for the Lone Star state.

Add to a record 305 from April 25-28, which killed at least 309 people and the most tornadoes ever for all of April: 875. The death toll and total tornado figures are still being finalized.

Much of the southern and eastern United States were near record hot for April, while northwestern states were cooler than normal. Overall, the month was warmer than normal for the nation, but not record-setting.

The odd mix of massive April showers and bone-dry drought can be blamed on the cooling of the central Pacific Ocean, which causes storm tracks to lock in along certain paths, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

"It's very consistent with La Nina; maybe we've had more extremes," Halpert said. "It's a shift of the jet stream, providing all that moisture and shifting it away from the south, so you've seen a lot of drought in Texas."

U.S. scientists also looked for the fingerprints of global warming and La Nina on last month's deadly tornadoes, but couldn't find evidence to blame those oft-cited weather phenomena.

NOAA research meteorologist Martin Hoerling tracked three major factors that go into tornadoes - air instability, and - and found no long-term trends that point to either climate change or La Nina. That doesn't mean those factors aren't to blame, but Hoerling couldn't show it, he said.

Climate models say that because of changes in instability and water vapor, severe thunderstorms and maybe tornadoes should increase in the future. But it may take another 30 years for the predicted slow increase to be statistically noticeable, said NOAA research and tornado expert Harold Brooks.

But Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, said the preliminary study that Hoerling conducted was flawed and too simplified. He said there is evidence of an increase in instability in the atmosphere happening now.

Explore further: Avoiding ecosystem collapse

More information:
NOAA on April weather: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/

The NOAA study on the tornado outbreak: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/csi/events/2011/tornadoes/index.html

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ted208
1 / 5 (1) May 10, 2011
Say no more!
Alarmist Kevin Trenberth has a lousy prediction track record! He is a poor excuse of a scientist.
Kevin you and your kind are a dying fossilized breed, you tried and failed to foist the CO2 scare on the world and we are not buying it, you are preaching to the choir and many of them are questioning CAGW. You have blackened the eye of all decent/ honest scientist in every field especially so called climate science. It is La Nina and many more qualified and real scientists have stated this fact, sorry to burst your AGW panic button!

Kevin Trenberth climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, said the preliminary study that Hoerling conducted was flawed and too simplified. He said there is evidence of an increase in instability in the atmosphere happening now.

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