Weather Report: Historic Tornadoes Strike Southeastern States [Dec 11, '21]
New records may have just been broken for longest and strongest tornadoes, but what does climate science have to say about it?
The Weather Report:
Big unstable storm beats southeastern USA
Last night, a pretty significant storm hit the southeast. This photo from CNN shows roughly where I’m talking about:
There are a ton of photos and videos circulating now that the storm has passed, but so far I believe that this one is pretty good (Heads up, the following is footage of mass destruction in Mayfield Ky)
And here is a longer version of that same footage.
It’s pretty bad, over 50 people are confirmed dead, an amazon warehouse got destroyed, and entire areas have been reduced to their foundations.
The government hasn’t released official data yet, but preliminary reports suggest that this tornado cluster was a record breaker, with one tornado having traveled over 200 miles!
Tornadoes and a changing planet
For those of us outside of tornado alley, tornadoes seem like a horrifying thing that would never happen here. For others, they are a part of life.
There is not a lot of good data yet on how tornadoes are changing as a result of climate change. Further, tornadoes are one of the hardest things to attribute to climate change. Noah Diffenbaugh, a professor of earth systems science at Stanford told the NYTimes: “Tornadoes are the kind of extreme event where we have the least confidence in our ability to attribute the odds or characteristics of individual events to an influence of global warming.”
However, there is evidence that tornado clusters (like the cluster that just happened yesterday) are becoming more common. This matches up with what I have been learning in class, and is backed up by counting the amount of tornadoes per day in the USA. Additionally, it seems like tornado alley is shifting eastwards, with parts of Ohio having less tornadoes while further east more tornadoes are touching down.
In short: we can’t yet 100% link climate change and changes to tornadoes, but we see stronger tornadoes and more tornado clusters each year. Climate change is probably playing a role and we have tons of reasons why we are seeing the changes to tornadoes, but nothing 100% yet.
This does not mean climate change is not changing tornadoes, it is. We just don’t certainly know how.
In the end, it pays to be prepared!
When you receive a weather alert, take it seriously. Our planet is changing and these storms are getting wetter, stronger, and nastier as a result.