March Promises Us Some Weird “Wizard of Oz” Weather

North of Hannibal, Mo, 2003. Photo: STL NWS.

By Don Corrigan

March brings us Mardi Gras, Irish revelry, International Fanny Pack Day and wild-ass weather. Tornadoes are just around the corner, which is why it is an American family tradition to watch “The Wizard of Oz” on TV in March.

There is no better movie tornado scene than Dorothy and her little dog Toto trying to find shelter as a Kansas cyclone bears down on them. The tornado in “Oz” is every bit as scary as anything in the more recent movie, “Twister.”

If “The Wizard of Oz” classic were filmed today, the setting would have to be moved from Kansas to Missouri. That’s because changing weather patterns have meteorologists telling us that Tornado Alley is moving eastward.

Missouri and states to the southeast are seeing more and more tornadoes. On a recent drive to the Florida Panhandle, this scribe witnessed plenty of tornado damage in Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.

Meteorologists are predicting twice as many tornadoes this spring because of what used to be called “global warming.” That terminology has changed to “climate change,” because a warming atmosphere gives us weather extremes of hot and cold.

February 2022 has exhibited this phenomenon. It has been a roller coaster. Sunny, balmy days followed by ice, sleet and snow and an occasional polar vortex. It has been roller coaster weather.

The weather roller coaster of extremes in February has put us on a track for violent tornadoes in March. So grab Toto and be ready to take shelter as dark and ominous roll clouds wind their way up I-44 in Missouri, a super highway which has become Missouri’s very own Tornado Alley.

Global Weirding In Oz-land

Some experts think it is time to drop terms like “climate change,” “global warming” and just start using the term, “global weirding.” If global warming is a poor descriptive, then the new term, global weirding, better describes the erratic weather we are experiencing.

The new term was first coined by American environmentalist Hunter Lovins. It was popularized by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman a decade ago.

Friedman used it to describe how climate change is resulting in severe, adverse weather conditions. This can include extreme hot and cold temperatures, flooding, droughts — all which will become more intense as global temperatures rise.

Writer Elizabeth Lopatto used the term, “global weirding,” in her humorous piece on the science and technology blog, The Verge. Her essay was entitled, “Modes of Transportation in The Wizard of Oz Ranked.”

Modes of Transportation

Lopatto ranks the tornado as the worst way to travel in the movie, “The Wizard of Oz.” She notes that it’s the worst way to get around because of a propensity for involuntary manslaughter when, for instance, the tornado abates and drops your house on an unsuspecting bystander.

However, Lopatto remarks, that this method of transportation is likely to only become more common as “global weirding” from climate change continues. Tornadoes are destined to be more frequent, and not just in the Midwest.

Lopatto also is not very high on broomsticks or hitching a ride with flying monkeys. Relying on the grip strength of flying monkeys – so you don’t hurtle to your death – is foolhardy at best.

The broomstick seems to be an emission-free mode of transportation, except when skywriting “Surrender Dorothy.” She gives the broomstick and the air balloon in “The Wizard of Oz” some points for environmentalism.

Nevertheless, Lopatto reserves her highest marks for skipping, walking, bicycling and the use of ruby red slippers for travel – all depicted well in “The Wizard of Oz.” She finds traveling thanks to a “horse of a different color” a bit strange with obvious emissions problems

Although there is no yellow brick road to skip down in the St. Louis region, the area does have great trails to hike, bike and skip, thanks to those Greenways people.

Just be sure to have an emergency plan when you are outside on those trails in threatening weather. You don’t want to be as clueless as Dorothy or Toto when a funnel cloud appears on the horizon.

Outside on a trail, you don’t know where you’ll end up when an F-4 tornado crosses your path. Yes, it is true that Dorothy did find her way safely back home because of the magic of some ruby red slippers.

You will not be so lucky. You cannot count on friendly fairies, wise wizards, flying monkeys or those gleaming slippers to get you back home. The slippers are securely ensconced in the Smithsonian. They aren’t going anywhere.

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