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US Southeast to See More Tornadoes Due to Climate Change

Feb 09, 2015 05:06 PM EST

(Photo : Flickr: Daniel Rodriguez)

After a study already suggested that the United States will experience a real-life 'Into the Storm' as climate patterns around the globe change, now new research says the US Southeast in particular will see more tornadoes due to climate change.

It seems that every sector of the United States can expect some form of extreme weather as temperatures continue to rise. The US Southwest, for one, may see megadroughts over the next century, the East Coast will reportedly experience daily tidal floods by 2045, and the Northeast may see more snowstorms inbound like the recent "historic" snowfall.

And now, researchers have found that while the yearly tornado total will climb by 2080, the number of tornadoes will also fluctuate from year to year. According to the results published in the journal Climatic Change, weather can get stuck in a pattern that favors tornadoes while other times conditions will stymie this stormy weather.

"We see this trend in a lot of extreme weather," lead study author Victor Gensini, a severe storms climatologist at the College of DuPage in Illinois, told Live Science. "Changes in the jet stream are causing the jet to break down and get stuck in these blocking patterns," Gensini said. "It just so happens it could be in a favorable pattern for tornadoes or a really bad pattern [for tornadoes]."

Researchers also anticipate that these severe weather conditions are more likely to occur during the heart of tornado season - March, April and May. The areas that will be most affect are in the US Southeast, like across the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio River valleys.

Typically, climate models can't predict how climate change will affect tornadoes because the storms are smaller than the resolution of climate models. However, Gensini's forecasting model overcomes this limitation and can recreate the hazardous storms that generate tornadoes, hail and damaging winds.

"This is a model that can see thunderstorms, and climate models don't know anything about thunderstorms," said Harold Brooks, a senior scientist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory, who was not involved in the study.

More specifically the model can predict the two main factors that control the birth of a tornado: convective available potential energy (CAPE) and vertical wind shear.

The available potential energy relates to warm, moist air at low altitude and cold, drier air above. Combined with wind shear - which involves changes in wind direction and speed with height - they can spawn rotating air that triggers a tornado.

Right now researchers aren't sure if the total number of tornadoes will shift during other months of the year besides March, April, and May, but states in the Southeast are warned that warmer temperatures may bring stormier weather.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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