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On the Radar


Jonathan is an emergency management coordinator with a passion for all things weather. He currently lives in south-central Pennsylvania with his wife and son.

Severe Weather Hits Early; Hot and Dry Weather Continues for South America

Jan 25, 2012

This past weekend saw severe weather blossom over the Southern US bringing more than two dozen tornadoes. Unfortunately, the tornadoes left two people dead and millions of dollars in damage. While tornadoes are not uncommon in the South this early in the year, the type of severe weather outbreak is.

Mangled street signs lie among fallen timber in Center Point, Ala., Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. A series of tornadoes struck Alabama Monday, killing two people and destroying over 400 homes. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
The weekend outbreak saw the formation of supercell thunderstorms.  These storms, in some cases, produced multiple or long-lived tornadoes. Forecasters warm this may be indicative of an earlier-than-normal severe weather season; and they blame the lack of cold air so far this winter. Since cold air has not been drawn into the South to cool the Gulf of Mexico, any on-shore flow from the Gulf will be rich in moisture – fuel for supercell thunderstorms and as tornadoes.
As the week continues, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are likely to continue across Texas and into the South.
A silver lining to the expected severe weather outbreak will be beneficial rains for portions of Texas and the Arklatex regions. Although the benefit does come with the risk for large hail, flash flooding, dangerous lighting, damaging winds, and tornadoes.
Rainfall from Tuesday night through Thursday night is expected to stretch from Texas through the Ohio Valley, with more than six inches of rain possible over portions of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. While the rains will be beneficial, especially in areas where drought conditions have persisted, the rate or rainfall could be problematic.
US Drought Monitor drought conditions across Texas.   
If the rain falls too fast, it will run off, leading to flash flooding and urban flooding. Drought-stricken regions of the South need a slow, steady rain. Mother Nature may be more obliging this time. Storms in this region are expected to be slow-moving, providing several inches or rain. 
As the storm systems moves east, another round of severe weather is expected to set up across the South through the weekend. By Thursday, damaging thunderstorms are forecast to occur anywhere from the southern Tennessee and the southern Appalachian Mountains south from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle. The primary threat will be damaging thunderstorms, although isolated tornadoes cannot be ruled out.
By Friday, the severe weather threat will diminish as it shifts east. However, those in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast should not let their guard down. Flash flooding, damaging thunderstorms, and isolated tornadoes will remain a threat, just in fewer numbers.
South American Weather Roundup
Despite recent beneficial rainfall, the overall crop picture (specifically corn and soybeans) for Argentina and Brazil continues to raise concerns as both countries will see a continuation of warm, dry weather. 
Recent rainfall in Argentina helped to relieve immediate concerns about the soy bean and corn crops in areas north of Buenos Aires, but the overall trend points to a continuation of warmer and drier than average weather. 
In the soybean producing regions of Brazil, the story is much the same. Forecasters expect warm and dry conditions to return to most of the south, including the state of Rio Grande do Sul; while some areas to the north, including Parana and Mato Grosso do Sul, will see favorable conditions continue for soybean, cotton, and coffee crops. However, the overall picture continues to look grim for Brazil and experts continue to expect a reduced soy bean crop over last year.
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