Winter Storm Euclid Punctuates Year of Extreme Weather

A water vapor view of winter storm Euclid on Wednesday. Scientists say that heavy snowfall is related to increasing temperatures on the Earth's surface. (Image: NOAA)

Winter Storm Euclid Punctuates Year of Extreme Weather

Record breaking tornadoes, 'thundersnow' and cross-country snow fall: a sign of things to come

Winter storm Euclid continues its assault on the US today as it pounds New England with heavy snow while scientists caution that monumental snowfalls are a sign of things to come.

On Christmas Day a massive swath of the country experienced weather so extreme it will likely go down in history as the worst Dec. 25 tornado outbreak on record.

Co-founder and director of meteorology at the Weather Underground, Dr. Jeff Master, writes:

The impressive storm is highly likely to set a record for most tornadoes spawned on Christmas Day, as 11 tornadoes have been confirmed, and there are at least 14 other suspected tornadoes that occurred. The most tornadoes ever recorded on Christmas Day was twelve, back in 1969. The storm spawned an additional confirmed tornado on December 26 in North Carolina.

He says that at least two of the Christmas Day tornadoes were rated EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which rates the strength of tornadoes based on the damage they cause; only four other EF-3 tornadoes have been recorded on Christmas Day since 1950.

"The EF-3 that hit Pennington, in Southeast Texas, completely destroyed a feed store and a restaurant, and had winds up to 150 mph. The other EF-3 hit McNeil, Mississippi, and was rated a weak EF-3 with winds of 140 mph. The tornado cut a path 24 miles long, injured 8 people, and damaged or destroyed 46 homes," Master reports.

Watch this video taken from a store surveillance camera, of a tornado hitting Mobile, Al.

The Weather Channel, which has taken it upon itself to begin naming winter storms, says that by the time it's done Euclid "will have deposited snow from California's Sierra Nevada Mountains to New England" with up to 2 feet of snow expected in some areas of northern New England by the time the system moves out to sea late Thursday.

Climate Central's Andrew Freedman writes that "snow accompanied by lightning and thunder--a combo known as "thundersnow"--was observed in several states, including Arkansas, Ohio, and Indiana. Thundersnow is an indication of tremendous vertical motion of air taking place in the atmosphere, which can lead to heavy snowfall rates of 2 or more inches per hour.

In a video by Climate Central, scientist Jay Lawrimore and meteorologist Dan Satterfield explain how increased temperatures can affect the formation of snowstorms.

"Strange as it may seem that there can be more severe snow storms in a warming climate, thats in fact what we've observed over the past couple decades. Increasing temperatures actually increases the amount of moisture in the atmosphere that can lead to heavier snow storms," Lawrimore says.

Satterfield adds:

I get a lot of feedback from viewers when I talk about a big snow event coming, saying "What do you think about climate change now?" If you add that moisture into the atmosphere, you're gonna get more snow, and we're gonna get storms that are heavier. And I think that's something that's hard for the non-scientist non-weather geek to get their head around, that this heavy snowstorm could actually be related to increasing temperatures on the planet, but there's no doubt about it.

According to the Associated Press, the death toll has risen to at least 15 people--most of which were either related to traffic fatalities or fallen trees.

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