Decoded Science Names Severe Weather Outbreak Beaver; The Weather Channel Misnames It Zephyr


Home / Decoded Science Names Severe Weather Outbreak Beaver; The Weather Channel Misnames It Zephyr
Beaver threatens wild Mother's Day weather in a wide arc. Courtesy of NOAA

Beaver threatens wild Mother’s Day weather in a wide arc. Courtesy of NOAA

The Weather Channel has decided to name winter storm Zephyr, as though the completion of the alphabet is more important than meteorological accuracy.

The current situation will be the second severe weather outbreak of the spring season, with damaging tornadoes, widespread hail, lightning, wind, and heavy downpours.

The first such event, given the name Aardvark by Decoded Science, ravaged parts of the eastern United States a couple of weeks ago.

Aardvark was not considered worthy of a name by The Weather Channel, even though tornadoes and flooding killed several dozen people and flattened whole towns.

Yes, Beaver will cause snow in the mountains of Colorado, up to 18 inches at higher elevations, but most of the snow will fall far from any cities. Furthermore, snow is not uncommon in Colorado at this time of year. Nearly as much snow normally falls in May in Colorado Springs as in February.

The Weather Channel does a disservice to those who will be affected by the violent weather by diverting attention to the snow.

Another Slow-Moving Upper Air Low Pressure Center Is Responsible For Beaver

Like Aardvark, Beaver will owe its strength and sluggish movement to a cutoff low pressure center in the jet stream. A trough (dip) in the stream passed California on Saturday and rapidly deepened and cut off from the main flow. When this happens, the new eddy takes on a life of its own and simply meanders rather than travelling at the typical trough speed of 25 miles per hour.

Whom Will Beaver Affect?

Beaver will wish mothers a happy day in an arc from Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. At this time, the greatest threat of tornadoes in large cities is in Des Moines and Omaha, but anyone in the danger zone should pay attention to National Weather Service watches and warnings.

Beaver will then move slowly eastward, with thunderstorms and the threat of tornadoes continuing for much of the week. On Monday, the greatest danger will again be in the plains with severe storms also possible in the Mississippi Valley; Tuesday, violent weather is likely eastward to the Appalachians. By Wednesday, Beaver should be affecting the east coast.

The Western Edge Of Beaver

Besides producing turbulent weather eastward from the plains and snow in the Rockies, Beaver’s hindmost appendage, normally broad and flat, will be hot and dry. Just as a Santa Ana (hot, dry northeast wind) developed behind Aardvark, the same will occur on the west side of Beaver. Temperatures in southern California, even those on the coast, could top the 100 degree mark on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; records are likely to fall as far north as Oregon.

The Santa Ana results in high fire danger, especially in canyons, which can funnel the northeast winds at speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour, fanning any flames in the tinder-dry brush.

Are More Animals In Sight?

The weather pattern of a southward-depressed jet stream with frequent cutoff lows shows signs of weakening and flattening out. As the calendar moves past the May peak of seasonal tornadic activity, there could be a period of more moderate weather. A nor’easter is possible late in the week as Beaver reaches the coast, and this could dissipate some of the energy in the jet stream.

Winter Storm Zephyr? Naming Non-tropical Weather Systems

The Weather Channel has already begun sounding defensive about its naming of Zephyr, which is not a winter storm by any normal definition. Decoded Science made the decision to name severe weather outbreaks, beginning with Aardvark, and chose to give them names of animals. This may appear somewhat whimsical, but to be able to refer to these weather events by some designation is quite useful.

Decoded Science supports The Weather Channel’s naming of winter storms, though we disagreed with a couple of their calls this year, and calling the imminent severe weather outbreak a winter storm is clearly absurd.

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