Thirsty Jet stream: Part One

A New Theory on the Origin of Storms

Jim McGinn, Theoretical Scientist

The Premise
Tornadoes are a type of storm.  So, if one is to theorize on the origin of tornadoes it makes sense to theorize on the origin of storms.  Accordingly, we can ask ourselves some rhetorical questions: Why do storms exist?  Why do they happen where they happen?  Why are storms cold? Why do storms cause precipitation?  Why are storms windy? What causes low pressure? (Specifically, where does a storm's low pressure come from?) And why do storms eventually go away? 

I submit that all of these questions are answerable through understanding that the jet stream gets thirsty and must drink to quench its thirst. 

Actually this isn't just one premise, it is three:

1) The jet stream is an entity and, as such, it maintains varying and relative degrees of causal discreteness between the molecules that are internal to its boundaries and those that are external (link).

2) The jet stream is goal oriented and, as such, is able to take actions (storms) to an increasing degree until it achieves its goal at which time it reduces and even stops taking actions (link).

3) The jet stream's goal is to pull (vacuum) water (humid air) up into the flow of the jet stream thereby increasing its moisture content.

As will be explained herein, these three concepts are the keys to understanding the origins of all instability in the atmosphere, including that of the most violent form of atmospheric instability, tornadoes. The greater goal of this presentation is to produce specific recommendations as to how tornadoes can be better predicted and even prevented.  

Did you notice that I asserted anything controversial up to this point in this presentation? Most people will, I suspect, assume that with this question I'm referring to the assertion that the jet stream is an entity and/or is purposeful. And they would be right in that these notions are provocative or, at least, not widely accepted.  But if you are educated in the field of Meteorology or any of the disciplines that study the atmosphere you may have also noticed the first sentence in the previous paragraph as being controversial.  Because it purports to explain something that is already explained: the origins of instability in the atmosphere.  In Part Two of this presentation I will argue that the current understanding of the origins of instability in the atmosphere is blatantly fallacious in that it relies upon precepts that violate the law of gravity.  (See also Humid Air Heavier.)

From Convoluted to Clear
Starting from a hunch and trying to make a convincing case for why something that few people ever thought of as being a purposeful entity, the jet stream, actually is a purposeful entity is especially difficult if you can't simply state what that purpose is. In my first attempt at theorizing the origin of storms and tornadoes I had not yet hit upon the last of the three premises mentioned above, that the jet stream's goal is to drink in water (humidity). In lieu of such I bolstered my argument by drawing an analogy between the jet stream and a river. Therein I attempted to describe storms as the result of a temporary down reaching tributary (tornadoes being a particularly strong variant thereof) that fed up into the river of the jet stream.  I was, I now realize, mostly guilty of creating an overarching analogy. And despite the fact that my explanation was, I only now fully realize, irretrievably convoluted I didn't drop the project because it seemed to offer an avenue for explaining something that theretofore had, in my opinion, not been adequately explained: the source of the tremendous destructive force of tornadoes.  As I envisioned it, the force could be better explained not as a result of the local factors but as a result of the jet stream, an entity that stretched over thousands of miles and that was capable of sending pulses of low pressure energy up its length from downstream locations originating maybe hundreds of miles away and, simultaneously, producing blasts of cold windy air from upstream, both of which, somehow and for some mechanistic (but not yet known) reason, breaching (breaking through) the pipe wall structure of the jetstream, resulting in down reaching, swirling low pressure. As I hope will become apparent in what follows, conceptually it all eventually came together with the realization of water's central role thereof, culminating in a relatively simple and straightforward understanding of both why and how the jet stream is capable of such. 

To see this first attempt at theorizing the origins of storms and tornadoes follow this link: Original Version of Solving Tornadoes (July 2012).  As indicated therein, parts of this have been retracted. Nevertheless, I still stand by many aspects of this original composition, especially those that relate to the first two of the three premises mentions above: 1) That the jet stream is an entity and, 2) that the jet stream is purposeful. But, it's important to note, the biggest shortcoming of this first attempt at theorizing tornadogenesis was not these retractions.  Rather, its biggest shortcoming was that it did not result in any kind of specific recommendation for how to prevent or mitigate tornadoes. I am attempting to correct that here.  I hope that you will agree that the measures indicated in Part Three are feasible and that you will want to join us as we attempt to make them a reality: Zero Death April.

If it is true that storms originate from the jet stream as a result of the jet stream becoming desiccate then we should expect to find observational evidence that confirms that notion, I reasoned.  More simply put, we should expect to find evidence that storms tended to begin when and where the jet stream itself tended to become desiccate.  The fact that tornado alley is located on the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains and, therefore, the jet stream must increase its altitude in order to clear this high relief and, as a result of adiabatic cooling, would become more desiccate seemed to be an observation that confirmed this reasoning.  

Another observation consistent with this reasoning is the observation that tornadic conditions from year to year in tornado alley are greater in years in which the Pacific Ocean experiences the cooler surface temperatures of a La Nina (link).  Theoretically, cooler surface temperature dictate less evaporation which dictates less atmospheric humidity available to the jet stream as it passes over the ocean. Consequently the jet stream would be more desiccate right from the start as it traveled over the western part of the North American continent.  See also: Roger Pielke.

In the same sense that I had reasoned that I should expect to find evidence of storms beginning when and where the jet stream is thirsty, I reasoned that I should expect to find evidence of storms ending or dissipating when and where the thirst of the jet stream had been quenched.  Storm tracks on a map of tornado alley, National Geographic (April, 2004, page 19) indicate some tornadoes coming to an abrupt end as they enter large bodies of water (great lakes).   Of course this observation might be more directly attributable to the lack of data left behind by tornadoes passing over water.  However, I was unable to find any instances where the tornado continued on the other side of the lake.  (I am curious if a more comprehensive study might reveal other tornadoes dissipating rapidly while or soon after passing through smaller water features: smaller lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, etc.)  

Another observation that seems to confirm the notion that tornadoes dissipated rapidly after the jet stream's thirst had been quenched is the observation that tornadoes seem nonexistent or very weak (water spouts) over oceans. In consideration of the fact that the factors associated with tornadoes (cool dry air aloft, warm moist air at the surface, an extensive flat landscape, and being leeward of mountains) are not all that rare, in conjunction with the fact that oceans make up almost two thirds of the surface area on this planet, and in conjunction with the fact that oceans often provide one an unobstructed view for miles in all directions, it seemed we should expect an abundance of sightings of tornadoes on oceans. Yet the history of sighting of tornadic activity on oceans is limited to relatively rare and relatively benign water spouts.

Water Spout

Another observation that struck me about water spouts is the top to bottom uniformity of the tubular structure of their vortex in comparison to that of most tornadoes, which often appeared haphazard and even strained. Likewise, tornadoes tend to appear rapidly, sputter, skip a few hundred yards, come back into existence, and generally move along the surface in a fast and somewhat haphazard manner in comparison to water spouts, it seems, tend to attach themselves firmly to the surface of the water and maybe not travel much at all before dissipating.  It was beginning to become obvious that the difference had to do with the fact that water spouts had an abundance of water available to them and, most importantly of all, I was beginning to realize that water (and/or humidity) was significant not only on the basis of being the object of the jet stream's desire but also on the basis of being the means by which the jet stream achieved its goal in that it (water and/or humidity) was instrumental in the construction of the vortex, it being the "straw" from which the jet stream drank in the water that quenched its thirst. Moreover, and maybe most significantly of all, I was beginning to consider the vortex (the "straw") as itself being part of the jet stream--a temporary but literal extension thereof.

Jet Stream as a "Strange Attractor"
Not everybody is comfortable with terminology that suggest that phenomena like the jet stream can accurately be considered purposeful or goal oriented.  For these people we have the thinking and terminology of Chaos Theory (and/or The Science of Complexity) which allows us to describe such phenomena more along the lines of producing repeatable or predictable behavior.  Using the terminology of Chaos Theory (and/or The Science of Complexity) we can, I contend, describe the jet stream as an attractor (or strange attractor) or more simply as a dynamic system:

Specifically, we could describe it as a attractor (or strange attractor) or dynamic system that operates between two extreme states and associated sets of behaviors:

1) A high humidity state: constant and smooth (laminar) flow; high structural integrity of its pipe wall structure results in little or no molecular interchange between the molecules inside boundaries of the jet stream and those external to the boundaries of the jet stream (reference to web page discussing rules of entitiness); and gradual and constant loss of humidity;  and 

2) A low humidity state: interrupted and turbulent flow; low structural integrity in the pipe wall structure of the jet stream resulting in a breach and resulting molecular interchange between the molecules inside boundaries of the jet stream and those external to the boundaries of the jet stream including: a) fast moving (windy) air from exposed upstream literally blowing and b) low pressure (updrafts) from exposed downstream pipe literally sucking; creating a swirling and naturally down-reaching (following path of most resistance) vacuum effect, bringing humid air up into the flow of the jet stream, returning it to a high humidity state. 

The Central Irony of storms
Implicit in this understanding is the conjecture that water (and/or humidity) is instrumental in allowing the jet stream to achieve the structural integrity that underlies its ability to operate.  The exact physical properties of water, H2O, that underlie this effect is sometimes referred to as the self stickiness of water, or the hydrogen bond. 

More on the hydrogen bond:

In discussing the dipole aspect of the water molecules electro-chemical composition, Pamela Conrad (Astrobiologist, Jet Propulsion Lab) stated: "This enables water to do something pretty spectacular when it is in combination with other water molecules. The hydrogen part get attracted to the oxygen part of its nearest neighbor." This self stickiness, I contend, in the context of swirling and/or fast moving air spins the thread and weaves the fabric that comprises the strong but fluid structure that underlies the jet stream's ability to produce the repeatable and predictable (and, in my opinion, purposeful) behaviors theorized herein.   

Regardless of the underlying physical properties involved, we are also assuming that same is true for the means by which the jet stream attempts to drink.  I refer to this as the central irony of storms: the jet stream must drink from a straw that is, in part, comprised of the same element it is attempting to drink in, humid air (water). As should become apparent to you in Parts Two and Three, this concept is essential to understanding and preventing large destructive tornadoes.

Subpages (1): La Nina