United States

US Witnesses More Tornado Outbreaks Despite Decrease In Tornado Days, Study Finds

Recent research indicates that although the number of days with tornadoes in the US is decreasing, the average annual number of tornadoes remains steady. This paradoxical trend points to more tornado outbreaks occurring on fewer days. Climate change may be a contributing factor, with rising temperatures creating favorable conditions for tornado formation.

A tornado spins through Hawley, Texas on Thursday May 2, 2024. Photo: AP

Despite a decline in the number of days with tornadoes across the United States, recent research indicates a steady rate of tornado occurrences, with an alarming uptick in tornado outbreaks, particularly in warmer months, according to experts.

Last week, a flurry of over 125 tornadoes ravaged states such as Iowa, Missouri, Georgia, and Mississippi over a five-day span, marking a continuation of a concerning trend outlined by researchers, as reported by ABC News.

The latest data, compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Severe Storm Laboratory, reveals a paradoxical shift in tornado patterns. Harold Brooks, a senior research scientist at NOAA, noted a decrease in the number of days when tornadoes form but an increase in the number of tornadoes per occurrence.

"This dichotomous trend reflects a decline in the number of tornado days annually but an incline in tornado outbreaks," explained Robert Trapp, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, underscoring the complexity of tornado behaviour in recent decades.

The forthcoming study examining tornado activity through 2022 sheds light on the profound impact of climate change on tornado behaviour, suggesting a correlation between rising global temperatures and heightened tornado activity. Brooks emphasized the role of increasing temperatures in providing conducive conditions for tornado formation, particularly by amplifying atmospheric instability and moisture levels.

Trapp highlighted a concerning trend in tornado activity during cooler seasons, positing it as a significant indicator of climate change impacts. Notably, there has been a surge in tornado occurrences during the cooler months in the Southeastern US, defying conventional expectations due to the absence of typical energy sources for tornadoes in colder weather.

Moreover, recent studies suggest a geographical expansion of tornado-prone regions, with tornado frequency declining in the Great Plains but rising in Eastern states, indicating a dynamic shift in tornado patterns influenced by climate factors.

Jana Houser, an associate professor of meteorology at Ohio State University, emphasized the evolving nature of tornado-prone regions, underscoring the need for heightened preparedness in areas witnessing increased tornado activity. The socio-economic implications of this shift are profound, with densely populated regions becoming increasingly vulnerable to tornado-induced destruction.

The unpredictability of tornado seasons, coupled with the escalating climate crisis, underscores the urgency for proactive disaster preparedness measures. American Red Cross spokesperson Stephanie Fox stressed the organization's commitment to bolstering community resilience in the face of escalating weather-related disasters, urging communities to prioritize readiness in the wake of increasing climate-related threats.