Author: Rachel Treisman

The exact link between tornadoes and climate change is hard to draw. Here's why:

Source(s): NPR


Years of research have shown how climate change intensifies rain storms, heat waves and hurricanes, as NPR has reported.

The same can't exactly be said for tornadoes, however.

Scientists know that warm weather is a key ingredient in tornadoes and that climate change is altering the environment in which these kinds of storms form. But they can't directly connect those dots, as the research into the link between climate and tornadoes still lags behind that of other extreme weather events such as hurricanes and wildfire.


Warm winds from the south fueled the storm at ground level, it adds, while westerly winds of the jet stream generated extreme amounts of "wind shear" — the change in wind speed and/or direction with height that can lead to the development of tornadoes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says as few as 20% of all supercell thunderstorms produce tornadoes, but that those are the most common — and often the most dangerous — kind of twister.


"Climate projections for the late 21st century have suggested that the conditions favorable to the development of the severe storms that produce tornadoes will increase over North America, and the impact could be greatest in the winter and fall," he added.

[Tornado scientist Harold] Brooks, of NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory, said the U.S. is likely to see more tornadoes in the winter (and fewer in the summer) as national temperatures rise above the long-term average. 

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Hazards Tornado
Country and region United States of America
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