Sunday, November 24, 2019

Tempest, Whirlwinds, Lightnings and Exceedingly Great Quaking

In the Book of Mormon, we find mention of hail and whirlwinds, specifically that the Lord would “send forth hail among them” (Mosiah 12:6) referring to king Noah and the unrighteous Nephites. He also describes that the Nephites will “reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind” (Mosiah 7:30), describing another type of calamity. In seeking the location of the Land of Promise through the scriptural record, we might want to pay attention to these statements, since hail and whirlwinds do not occur just anywhere.
    First of all, to describe hail and where it is found and upon what type of landform is hail likely to fall, large or destructive hail forms inside thunderstorms and warm air in updrafts pulled up into the thunderstorm can exceed 100 mph, which allows the hail to stay in the thunderstorm clouds and grow to very large size.
Large hail recovered after a hailstorm

While it is true that hail stones begin as very small ice droplets 0.01” in size, this growth can be enormous and reasonably quick as the updraft contains the hail as it freezes and grows from the moisture in the clouds to over three inches in diameter—over twice the size of a golf ball. The largest recorded hailstones in the U.S. have been eight inches. In fact, during thunderstorms, hail is the predominant reason for losses to cars, homes, and crops—according to meteorologists, of the estimated $10 billion in losses annually from severe thunderstorms during the past decade, hail accounted for at least half the cost to both property and agricultural insurance entities.
    The costliest hailstorm in U.S. history hit the Phoenix metro area on Oct. 5, 2010 with an estimated $2.8 billion in damages according to NOAA’s storm data. Hailstones up to three inches in diameter were measured in the West Chandler area adjacent to Phoenix.
    In April of 2001, a single supercell thunderstorm with hail up to three inches in diameter tracked across Missouri to St. Louis. The storm began in west-central Missouri and produced five tornadoes, damaging winds and then the hailstorm in St. Louis. Total insured losses alone were estimated to be $2.2 billion. Two more of the costliest hailstorms on record were in Minneapolis in May, 1998, and another hit Fort Worth, Texas, causing $2 billion in damage.
    Secondly, when in his "fierce anger" the Lord warned the people living in the land of Nephi, that if they did not repent, he would "send forth hail...and it would smite them..." there is every reason to believe that the threat was understood by the people. They understood the threat of hail, just as they understood the threat of being "smitten with the east wind" and of having "insects...pester their land...and devour their grain" (Mosiah 12:1-6).
In the middle part of a cumulonimbus cloud, where the air temperature is between 0 and -40º C, there is a mixture of supercooled liquid water droplets and ice

It should also be noted that hail forms in thunderstorms and thunderstorms are caused by air that is forced up by a mountain or hillside. Air mass thunderstorms are the result of localized convection in an unstable air mass and frontal thunderstorms occur along the boundaries of weather fronts (cold fronts). All of this means that hail does not form in the tropics, like Mesoamerica, nor do they have whirlwinds—the tropics have hurricanes and violent storms which do not create hail for they form out over warm ocean waters near the equator.
    Third, the Semitic word translated "hail" in the King James Bible is "barad" (בָּרָד), which means “cold” or “become cold.” In this event, the Lord no doubt intended the people of Nephi to recall the extraordinary destructive hail brought upon the Egyptians (Exodus 9:18, 24-25; Psalms 78:46-48; 105:32-34). However, it is apparent that severe hail was an occasional weather condition impacting the lives of Book of Mormon peoples as well.
    Severe hail forms in thunderstorms with powerful updrafts (66 to 131 feet per second or more). Tropical oceanic storms tend to have weak updrafts. A good portion of the upper cloud layer needs to be below freezing (0 C, 32 F). But the formation of hail is not a simple matter of temperature and latitude. The highlands of Kenya receive hail capable of damaging tea crops, even though the hailstones are quite small, while many tropical highlands, including those in Central America have hardly any hail—none of these events occur around or the tropic area of Mesoamerica.
Hail is one of the biggest hazards with severe thunderstorms while it is usually small, and relatively harmless, it may grow to tennis ball sized or even larger. It may cause severe damage, injuries and in extreme cases even death

For hail pellets to accrete, and become threatening to man and beast, the ice needs to be kept aloft. In Guatemala, rain tends to fall on top of the updraft. This weakens the mechanism needed for hail to accrete. On the other hand, the low level jet streams in the U.S. and east of the Andes in South America play an important role in the formation of severe hail storms in temperate zones
    The atmospheric and topological conditions of northern America favor the creation of tornadoes more than anywhere else, however, tornadoes hit every continent in the world except Antarctica, though none are related to Mesoamerica, Guatemala, etc.
    Another factor would be whirlwinds. They are not only mentioned in Mosiah, but also in the period of destruction associated with the Lord’s crucifixion, as well as in 2 Nephi 15:28, Alma 2:6, Helaman 5:12 and 3 Nephi 8:16.
    The Hebrew words translated "whirlwind" (s'arah = סְעָרָה, sufah = סוּפָה) in the King James Bible, can be translated "storm-wind" or "tempest"). The word מערבולת, translated as “whirlwind” also means tornado, twister, hurricane.
    A biblical "whirlwind" is not necessarily a tornado. This should be kept in mind when interpreting "whirlwind" in the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, the destructive effect of "whirlwinds" (plural) described in 3 Nephi 10:13-14) and also in 2 Nephi 26:5), sounds a lot like the work of what we call twisters, which is simply another name for tornadoes.
A whirlwind from a tornado passing through a rural city, scattering debris along its path, including a ripped up building on the lower right, a semi-truck and trailer and various large-scale structures. This is the major type whirlwind that picked up people, animals and buildings in the 3 Nephi 8
The winds of some tornadoes have been estimated to exceed 300mph, with layers of air swirling about the funnel with contrasting characteristics, temperature, moisture, density, and wind flow—with the complicated energy transformations producing the tornado vortex.
    Whirlwinds occur all over the world and in all seasons, and are categorized as major or minor whirlwinds. The former are associated with tornadoes, waterspouts and landspouts, which are formed from supercell thunderstorms (the most powerful type of thunderstorm) or other powerful storms. When the storms start to spin, they react with other high altitude winds, causing a funnel to form and spin with a cloud forming over the funnel, making it visible—which last longer because they are formed from very powerful winds, and it is hard, though not impossible, to interrupt them.
    Minor whirlwinds are gustnado and fire whirls, down to dust devils, steam devils and snow devils, shear eddies like mountainado and eddy whirlwinds, and occur when local winds start to spin on the ground, causing a funnel to form—they are not as long-lived because the winds that form them do not last long, and when a minor whirlwind encounters an obstruction, like a building, house, tree, etc., its rotation is interrupted, as is the windflow into it, causing it to dissipate.
    Supercell thunderstorms, other powerful storms, and strong winds are seen with major whirlwinds, whereas wind storms are commonly seen with minor whirlwinds, or small, semi-powerful "wind blasts" may be seen before some minor whirlwinds, which can come from a wind storm.
    These wind blasts can start to rotate and form minor whirlwinds. Winds from other small storms such as rainstorms and local thunderstorms can cause minor whirlwinds to form, and can be dangerous at times. However, the whirlwinds suggested in 3 Nephi 8 were not only major whirlwinds, but most likely devastating and powerful tornadoes
The winds of some tornadoes have been estimated to exceed 300mph, with layers of air swirling about the funnel with contrasting characteristics, temperature, moisture, density, and wind flow—with the complicated energy transformations producing the tornado vortex

The whirlwind/tornado descriptions in 3 Nephi 8 suggest what modern science records as numerous observations of lightning strokes and a variety of luminous features in and around tornado funnels which lead them to speculate about the relationship between tornado formation and thunderstorm electrification. This hypothesis explores the alternative possibilities that atmospheric electricity accelerates rotary winds to tornado velocities, or that those high-speed rotary winds generate large electrical charges. Here, as in most attempts to understand complex atmospheric relationships, the reach of theory exceeds the grasp of proof.
    However, Nephi describes the “great storm, such as one as never had been known in all the land” (3 Nephi 8:5), where the “terrible tempest, and the terrible thunder, that shook the whole earth as if it was  about to divide asunder” (3 Nephi 8:6), in which “there were exceedingly sharp lightnings such as never had been known in all the land” (3 Nephi 8:7), in about the same way we see the highest degree of tornadoes described, even though the word “tornado” is not used in the scriptural record.

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