Published: 2014-05-19 05:59:17
Updated: 2014-05-19 05:59:17
Posted May 19, 2014
By Aimee Wilmoth
While I’m not a terribly superstitious person, writing the next sentence has me searching for some wood to knock on. For the third year in a row, tornado season has gotten off to a slow start.
Don’t worry – I knocked!
No doubt about it: We have certainly had some bouts of severe weather this year. Most recently, the Raleigh National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-1 tornado struck 3 miles southwest of Durham on Thursday, May 15.
But start thinking back to 2011, and more more specifically, April 16. If you were in the area, you know where I’m going. Thirty tornadoes touched down in North Carolina, the greatest one-day total for NC on record. It was a scary day for many North Carolinians. And sadly, 24 people lost their lives.
A total of 1,691 tornadoes was reported during the 2011 season nationwide, the second-highest on record.
So, another sluggish start to tornado season for the third straight year after such an active season in 2011 leaves scientists scratching their heads and
trying to decipher what gives? Why are some years more active than others? Could climate change be playing a role? Some studies have found that severe storms are likely to increase as the country warms, at least in the eastern U.S., along with the possibility of more days supportive of tornadic storms.
However, research has also found that wind shear (a key ingredient for tornadoes to form) may decrease as the U.S. gets warmer. This would actually increase the stability of the atmosphere and mean fewer tornadoes.
Climate scientists and meteorologists are working very hard to get a better grasp on why we can have such big swings in tornado activity year to year. A better understanding of climate change, and all things weather-related, typically leads to improved weather models and more advanced forecasting tools (which really gets us excited!).
For now, let’s just hope we will have a slow finish to what has been a slow start to the tornado season!