Are tornadoes becoming more frequent and more violent because of climate change?
A powerful tornado as much As 3 kilometres wide devastated the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on May 20. The tornado reportedly boasted winds above 300 kilometres per hour as it ripped through homes and schools, leaving a huge path of destruction and fifty one of people, including twenty children. People have started to ask the questions about what causes these shattering tornadoes, and a lot of people have started to ask if we are to play for these severe tornadoes because of human induced climate change.
Trying to establish whether tornado activity will change as the climate changes is complicated for a few reasons. Firstly scientists don’t have a good quality, complete data set on tornadoes that have already occurred. Without a reliable record, scientist can’t accurately look to see how tornadoes have changed since temperatures started rising. Secondly, computer simulated models can’t tell scientists much about tornadoes either. Because these models work on large scales, simulating changes in the ocean and the atmosphere on a global scale. In contrast, tornadoes are minor weather events. As Dr Suzanne Gray, a meteorologist from Reading University explains:
"Tornadoes are too small-scale for current climate models to simulate, so it is not possible to say very much about how strength and occurrence might alter under climate change."
Research published in the journal Climate Dynamics shows that tornadoes are occurring on fewer days per year than they have before, but they are forming at a greater density and strength. This indicates that on the days when tornadoes do form, there tends to be more of the tornadoes forming and they’re often more powerful.
Tornadoes are narrow, spinning columns of air reaching from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. They actually only account for a fraction of the energy released in a thunderstorm, but that energy...
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