It’s mid-May. The persistent cold, dry air typical of spring so far is long gone from the Plains. A multi-day severe weather outbreak begins Saturday in the Plains states from the Dakotas to northwest Texas, and continues Sunday into Monday.
The setup this weekend has three of the main ingredients that we look for in a potential severe thunderstorm outbreak:
1) A jet stream dip, or trough, advancing east into the Plains from the Rockies.
2) Well-defined frontal system (warm front, dry line, cold front) with an intensifying area of low pressure.
3) Plenty of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.
Below is a look at the threat areas each day:
- Saturday – northwest Oklahoma to South Dakota and southeast North Dakota. Large hail greater than two inches in diameter, damaging winds and tornadoes are all possible. Peak tornado threat: western Kansas, southwest Nebraska, northwest Oklahoma. Threat begins late afternoon and continues into the evening.
- Sunday – extreme north Texas into central/eastern Oklahoma, central/eastern Kansas, western Missouri, eastern Nebraska, western/central Iowa, southeast South Dakota and central/southern Minnesota. Tornadoes, large hailstones greater than two inches in diameter and damaging winds are all possible. Peak tornado threat: eastern Kansas, north-central and northeast Oklahoma, north & western Missouri, western/central Iowa. A few tornadoes could be strong!
- Monday – north Texas and Oklahoma northeastward through northwest Arkansas, southeast Kansas and Missouri into parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes.
- Tuesday into Wednesday – Additional severe thunderstorms are possible as the system advances slowly to the East. Details at this time are uncertain.
No cities are in the vicinity and the bright spot didn’t exist six years ago
When NASA revealed its stunning new images of the Earth at night – or the Black Marble, as some referred to the darkened planet – one NPR correspondent noticed something unusual: a mysterious mass of lights in North Dakota near the Canadian border. The sighting was surprising for a few reasons. First, there are no large cities in the region that would cause the phenomenon, and second, the lights didn’t exist in that same spot six years ago. So how to explain them?
Far below the Earth’s surface in this once-desolate region lie vast oil deposits, which in recent years have been captured by fracking, a process that fractures rocks below the surface to release the oil. With this innovation, oil fields have sprung up in a remote corner of North Dakota, along with hundreds of requisite oil rigs – and their bright lights.
Still, oil rig lights are not the sole cause of the mass of lights in the NASA image. As oil is being captured by fracking, less valuable gas is also released. Rather than capturing all of the gas, oil companies are letting nearly a third of it burn – creating brights bursts of flames, or as we see in the image, an additional surge of light, according to the NPR post.