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Climate change delivers U.S. another deadly, record-smashing tornado

Last week I wrote about the string of freak tornado records being broken down south. Two days later, on May 31st, the atmosphere over Oklahoma unleashed yet another record breaking monster. The "El Reno" tornado was the largest tornado ever recorded -- an amazing 4.2 kilometers wide at one point.

Tuesday the US National Weather Service (NWS) put out this message:

"THE WIDTH OF TORNADO WAS MEASURED BY THE MOBILE RADAR DATA TO BE 2.6 MILES AFTER THE TORNADO PASSED EAST OF US HIGHWAY 81 SOUTH OF EL RENO. THIS WIDTH IS THE WIDTH OF THE TORNADO ITSELF AND DOES NOT INCLUDE THE DAMAGING STRAIGHT-LINE WINDS NEAR THE TORNADO AS DETERMINED BY THE HIGH-RESOLUTION MOBILE RADAR DATA. THE 2.6 MILE TORNADO PATH WIDTH IS BELIEVED TO BE THE WIDEST TORNADO ON RECORD IN THE UNITED STATES."

To help put that in perspective, here is a map of Vancouver with the footprint of the "El Reno" tornado funnel superimposed:

 

Next time you are looking at downtown just imagine a tornado funnel so large it stretches from the Lions Gate Bridge to City Hall. BC Place would be like a wee pebble under the foot of such a beast.

As a meteorologist for the US National Weather Service told the Associated Press: "A two and a half mile wide tornado would not look like a tornado to a lot of people." Maybe that is because nobody has seen one that big before.

Not only was this tornado unbelievably massive, it was also a top-of-the-charts EF-5 powerhouse with winds reaching 475 km/hour. These are possibly the fastest tornado winds every recorded at surface level.

Here is an amazing video of a barn exploding across the path of one of four separate tornado chase vehicles that got too close to this monster:

For a white-knuckle accounting and more videos of several other such close calls I highly recommend reading meteorologist Dr. Jeff Master's gripping article on this epic event.

As I recounted in my article last week, nobody knows how climate change is affecting tornadoes because the records from the past are unreliable. Our fossil fuel pollution might be a critical factor in pushing these new tornado records in recent years but we don't know. It is a high stakes guessing game.

The last three years have witnessed:

  1. Such an extreme number of strong tornadoes over 12 months that it should happen only once every 62,500 years
  2. The three most destructive tornadoes in world history
  3. The most destructive "super outbreak" of tornadoes ever recorded
  4. The largest tornado ever recorded and possibly the most extreme surface level winds as well

I've added this new record busting "El Reno" twister to my chart from last week:

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