Winston Churchill had it right. The future is a riddle, wrapped inside a mystery, inside an enigma. Predictions are always tenuous, but one thing is increasingly apparent: what worked in the 1970s probably will not work in the 2030s. The election of President Joseph Biden has accelerated a transition to a more sustainable, clean-energy future for the United States. But federal incentives and stimulus are only part of the equation. …

Focused evacuations and new sheltering options may help to lower risk.

Hurricane evacuations are chaotic under the best of circumstances. But the specter of evacuees trying to outrun a hurricane and a deadly bug sounds like something out of a dark Stephen King novel.

Why would I leave the safety of my home to mingle with unknown, potentially un-masked strangers in hotels and auditoriums who might be infected with Covid-19? Why expose my family to additional risk? I’ll just stay where I am and take my chances with the storm.”

Hurricane Dennis file image: NASA.

Which may be precisely what not to do with a…

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania — Amish country. My late mother was fond of noisily clanging pots and pans together to get us to come inside for dinner — or warn of an impending storm. Low-tech, yes, but it worked. Today we have a myriad of ways to get severe weather notifications. More than ever, there is no reason to miss a critical warning.

Graphic credit: Des Moines National Weather Service.

Emergency managers point out the need for “multiple safety nets”. The more sources of severe weather information, the greater the odds you will get word in time to take evasive action. Not becoming dependent…

Many days the news headlines sound like a movie trailer for The Apocalypse. For many years I’ve wondered if media and social media are merely doing a better/faster job of reporting weather extremes that have been fairly constant over time, or is a warmer, wetter, more volatile atmosphere loading the dice in favor of more meteorological mayhem? Billion-dollar weather disasters have roughly tripled since 1980. Don’t believe me? Compare a recent insurance bill from something you paid 20 or 30 years ago. All of us are paying a price for an uptick in extreme weather. Is this a cosmic coincidence…

“A Category 5 Winter Storm?” NOAA Testing New Winter Rating Scale

Weather is democratic. An EF-3 tornado is just as destructive in Nashville as it is in Pittsburgh. A Category 2 hurricane threatening Tampa will have impacts similar to a Category 2 hurricane pinwheeling toward Houston.

But winter storms are a different beast altogether. Half a foot of snow will all but paralyze Dallas and Atlanta, but 6 inches of powder falling on Minneapolis or Denver in January? Just another Thursday. …

MIT Tropical Expert: “The Saffir-Simpson scale is deeply deficient and should be discarded.”

Science evolves over time. Our understanding of the natural world improves as new technology comes online, leveraging more granular, reliable, repeatable data sets. The science of meteorology, like every other science, is a moving target. The Fujita tornado rating scale was upgraded and enhanced in 2006 to better reflect observed wind damage. NOAA is launching WSSI, the Winter Storm Severity Index, a new, experimental winter storm rating scale with five categories. Sound familiar?

Is it time to rethink the Saffir-Simpson rating scale for hurricanes, which only predicts…

Hurricanes are America’s deadliest natural disasters. They’re expensive, too. According to USA FACTS, adjusting for inflation, 7 of the 10 most expensive natural disasters have been hurricanes. Of those 7, 6 have happened since 2000.

Technological breakthroughs like weather satellites and computer models have lowered the death toll over time, but there are harrowing exceptions. In spite of timely warnings, Hurricane Katrina (2005) left 1,833 dead and Hurricane Maria (2017) killed 2,981 people. It may be counterintuitive, but most of the deaths occurred days or even weeks after the hurricane struck. “Statistics now show that more people are being killed…

True story. One of my previous weather-tech companies, EarthWatch Communications, created 3-D weather graphics for the 1993 movie blockbuster “Jurassic Park”. While filming special effects at Universal Studios, I had a chance to chat with Steven Spielberg. My brush with fame. What did we talk about? The weather, of all things. Spielberg described filming conditions on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai as Category 4 Hurricane Iniki approached during September of 1992. “Hotel staff led us down into the basement to ride out the storm” Spielberg explained. I remember being shocked by this. “The basement? In a tornado you want to…

Hurricane Maria (September 2017) file image courtesy of AerisWeather.

Hurricanes have killed more people in the last 50 years than any other natural cataclysm” according to MIT meteorology professor and tropical scientist Kerry Emanuel.

I’m an old Eagle Scout, and the motto: “Be Prepared” is as relevant today as ever. Get out in front of risk. Take steps (now) to avoid serious problems (later). That mindset certainly applies to the biggest, wildest, most terrifying storms on the planet. What have I learned tracking these fickle weather beasts over the course of 4 decades? Don’t count on the latest technology or the government to save you. At the end of…

Photo credit: National Weather Service, Birmingham.

America’s tornado drought is officially over. The last few years have been relatively quiet, with few large, violent tornadoes. In 2018 there were no tornado-related deaths in traditional Tornado Alley, stretching from Texas to Iowa. But so far in 2019, 31 Americans have lost their lives to tornadoes, nature’s most extreme, unpredictable and capricious wind storms. In the last 2 weeks at least 366 tornadoes have been observed east of the Rockies. Once again, the United States is living up to its reputation as the tornado capital of the planet.

Over the last couple weeks I’ve watched in morbid fascination…

Paul Douglas

Paul Douglas is a nationally-respected meteorologist, with 40 years of broadcast television and radio experience.

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