The world’s weather has become more unpredictable as global temperatures rise – and new research shows that U.S. tornadoes have been shifting southeast over the last few decades. The trend shows natural disasters moving away from Tornado Alley and towards Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
A recent study in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology detailed twisters over a period of 60 years. Two groups were studied: tornadoes taking place during the cooler temperatures of 1954-1983 and the warmer decades of 1983-2013. The researchers found that tornados are increasingly shifting out of Tornado Alley, which encompasses northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska to what is called Dixie Alley.
The new region includes Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee – which experienced that most significant increase in tornado days between the two time periods. Is it a coincidence that this shift is taking place during a huge, climate change-fueled, global temperature spike? Scientists aren’t sure, but they suspect there is a link.
Rising sea temperatures lead to faster surface evaporation, which, when paired with rapidly rising air, creates more likelihood of thunderstorms. These more frequent summertime storms can naturally lead to more tornadoes. The closer you get to the warm coastal waters, the more damp, rising air you will encounter, which could account for the southeastern migration of twisters over time. More research is needed to say this with certainty, but it certainly adds up.