New research links tornado strength, frequency to climate change

Aug 06, 2014

New research by a Florida State University geography professor shows that climate change may be playing a key role in the strength and frequency of tornadoes hitting the United States.

Published Wednesday in the journal Climate Dynamics, Professor James Elsner writes that though are forming fewer days per year, they are forming at a greater density and strength than ever before. So, for example, instead of one or two forming on a given day in an area, there might be three or four occurring.

"We may be less threatened by tornadoes on a day-to-day basis, but when they do come, they come like there's no tomorrow," Elsner said.

Elsner, an expert in and weather trends, said in the past, many researchers dismissed the impact of on tornadoes because there was no distinct pattern in the number of tornado days per year. In 1971, there were 187 tornado days, but in 2013 there were only 79 days with tornadoes.

But a deeper dive into the data showed more severity in the types of storms and that more were happening on a given day than in previous years.

"I think it's important for forecasters and the public to know this," Elsner said. "It's a matter of making sure the public is aware that if there is a higher risk of a storm, there may actually be multiple storms in a day."

The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country, and despite advances in technology and warning systems, they still remain a hazard to residents in storm-prone areas. The 2011 , for example, had nearly 1,700 storms and killed more than 550 people.

So far, in 2014, there have been 189 storms with a death toll of 43, according to the NOAA/National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.

One bright spot of news in the research, Elsner added, was that the geographic areas impacted most regularly by tornadoes do not appear to be growing.

Explore further: Magazine reporting below average numbers of tornados in 2013

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers develop model to correct tornado records

Sep 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —In the wake of deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma this past spring, Florida State University researchers have developed a new statistical model that will help determine whether the risk of tornadoes is increasing ...

No rest for the tornado

Jul 30, 2013

(Phys.org) —Do tornadoes take the weekends off? Researchers from NC State University examined the question of the connection between tornado frequency and aerosol pollution, and found that any link between ...

Recommended for you

Tree rings and arroyos

5 hours ago

A new GSA Bulletin study uses tree rings to document arroyo evolution along the lower Rio Puerco and Chaco Wash in northern New Mexico, USA. By determining burial dates in tree rings from salt cedar and wi ...

NASA image: Agricultural fires in the Ukraine

7 hours ago

Numerous fires (marked with red dots) are burning in Eastern Europe, likely as a result of regional agricultural practices. The body of water at the lower left of this true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging ...

NASA marks Polo for a hurricane

7 hours ago

Hurricane Polo still appears rounded in imagery from NOAA's GOES-West satellite, but forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect that to change.

User comments : 0