What meteorologists will say causes a tornado will not well focus on
what really causes them. The will say that the phenomenon is simple
heating and humidity caused by warm Gulf water. They will say that
when the warm, moist air rises in reaction to this wall of cool air
it naturally swirls and funnels. These air funnels have to reach the
base point of resistance according to the laws of physics. The base
point is the ground. Because the action is mostly happening above,
this tail-end of the swirling air reaches down through thick air in a
tight funnel - even though the main rotation is much wider and much
higher. Because this "grounding" part of the formation is tight it
spins at wicked speed. Hence a tornado.
I do not disagree with that localized physics description. However,
let's see if we can frame the paradox. The problem with this theory
is you would expect that in order to have an outbreak such as we did
that the Gulf of Mexico would have extreme warm anomalies to bring
the warm, moist air to the event. But, indeed, the Gulf of Mexico
had cooled from rain flowing down the Mississippi and from a cold
front that had dropped south over the Gulf:
This is a very very cool picture of how rapidly the GOM cooled. You
CANNOT explain those tornadoes, those deaths, on a warm GOM. Sorry--
it won't work.
If you put you hand over a burner--only two feet above it--you will
not get burned. That warm moist air does not well translate very far.
Something else explains the movement of cloud changes from such a
distance so quickly.
The ONLY thing that reasonably explains the forcing involved is that
the GOM was relatively SALINE (even as it had cooled) from
evaporation from previously being warm anomaly. And therefore it was
more CONDUCTIVE. The disturbance was from the Pacific anyway. I know.
It rained on me here first.
Let me also say this. If you watch a movie like Twister and also
examine the cult of tornado chasers they are looking for the wind
event itself, to be close to it to study what makes it tick. What I
am saying is what makes them happen or not occurs by feedback from
the thunderstorms, causing couplings in the tropics that THEN sends
relatively warm moist air that, because of the capacitive coupling
over the GOM, cannot convect. But as it crosses over the land and
comes north, draw with the front, eventually the warm moist air is
protected by both the land and the water itself, with its dielectric
value, and so it can start to interact with the cold, frontal air and
convect. It convects with more intensity BECAUSE it comes with higher
relative humidities FROM CAPACITIVE COUPLINGS OPERATING ON
Frankly, this was a storm that first organized in the Pacific
relative to strikes from a catagory 5 storm in OZ. It's complex, but
one thing is for SURE--it's about large scale microphyscis changes
and lightning strikes. I have the picture of the strike event in its
early stages right here on the front page of our group.
Then it was only a 22 k event but it went as high as 26 k.
The highest strike totals seen are in the 60k range, but this is more
than enough strikes this time of year to cause a substantial
capacitive coupling in the GOM, because the rest of the oceans around
the Gulf are so cold that they are not conductive and the only
conductive pathway of least resistance is the GOM. Remember for each
degF increase of SSTs there is a corresponding drop in resistance of
But, again, the key here was salinities. More saline, more
conductive, for a given SST.