Eastern New Mexico, West Texas, and the Texas Panhandle have not been having the best weather the last few days as upper-level disturbances combined with a collision of cool, northern air and warm tropical air have produced persistent severe thunderstorms during the evening hours, enhanced by daytime surface heating. Below is a [textbook] radar image of a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado moves from Southeastern New Mexico into West Texas, northwest of Midland and Odessa (rural Andrews & Ector Counties) this evening (September 17th).
At the time this image was produced by the radar (and warned for by the National Weather Service), it was unknown if any tornado was actively on the ground. Nonetheless, there was certainly some heavy rain, even large hail, produced by this storm, while strong indications of a tornado were present, as seen in the image on the right showing green colors adjacent to red colors (where the hook echo is noticed).
Green colors indicate airflow toward the radar, and the red show airflow away from the radar. When they are next to each other in a strong storm such as this, meteorologists read this as an indication of strong rotation.
This was a supercell thunderstorm- a large, dangerous storm. Not all create tornadoes, but nearly all can produce strong wind gusts (seen as the outflow boundaries labeled above), lots of lightning, heavy rain and flooding, and large hail.
And, they all look pretty much the same on radar. They all have some sort of hook, or rotation within them. Nearly all have a double-tail. And, in most cases in the United States, they are oriented with the hook-echo facing south, open to the southeast, and the tail facing north or northeast. This is the case because the hook serves as the inflow device for the storm...the mouth, if you will. This storm is fueled by warm, moist air....and through much of the United States, that comes from the Gulf of Mexico (to the south/southeast).
If you ever see one of these guys on the radar, go ahead and stay inside!
Dan, the Weatherman
During the middle of August, portions of southern and eastern Louisiana were devastated by flooding produced by extremely persistent, heavy rainfall.
It is estimated that over 40,000 homes were destroyed. In some places, over 30 inches of rain (2.5 feet) was recorded in one day alone.
There have been several speculations and estimations of the amount of rainfall that actually fell through the region, but the general consensus is if you were to bottle all of the water up into one-gallon jugs, you would have about seven trillion jugs. Seven Million Gallons. Although difficult to compare to Hurricane Katrina, this is about three times as much water (that fell from the sky).
Since the Olympics were kicking off at the same time, we can compare Louisiana's recent floods to about the equivalent of 10 million Olympic swimming pools.
7,000,000,000,000 gallons x 8 lbs/gallon = 56,000,000,000,000 pounds
The rain had to come from somewhere.
Assuming that the clouds were at about 1000 feet off the ground, or 300 meters,
Work Done = Mass (kg) x Gravity (m/s^2) x Height (m) =
Work Done = 25,401,172,720,000 kg x 9.8 m/s^2 x 300 m = 7.4679448x10^16 Joules, or nearly 21 Billion Kilowatt Hours.
That's enough energy to supply nearly 2 million houses (given the US's 2014 average) with electricity for an entire year.
In reality, this rain was scooped up by evaporation, mostly from the Gulf of Mexico. all 56-trillion pounds of it was suspended in the air, and dropped over Louisiana by the energy of 74 quadrillion joules.
Now, like most men, I'd like to think I am pretty strong. I'm no body-builder, and I used to be able to lift more before I hurt my back. But, even in my prime, I was proudly a member the 225lb-bench-press-club, on a good day.
But, even my pride cannot fathom 56 Trillion Pounds, lifted into the air and then displaced over half a state. But, Job in the Bible (I think he was the world' first scientist, just a hunch) even said: "He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight." (26:8).
Well, they eventually burst and, undeniably, displayed how powerful our atmosphere is that I steadfastly believe God created. I'll put it this way...if anyone can create a machine that can suspend that much water weight, disperse it over that much area, in that amount of time, all without any electricity or gasoline to create 21 Billion kilowatt-hours of energy...I rest my case.
- Dan, the Weatherman