National Weather Service storm prediction map
National Weather Service storm prediction map, April 6.

South braces for third week of severe weather

Does this map look familiar? That’s because it is the third week in a row that severe weather and tornadoes make their way across the South. On Wednesday, the southeast U.S. will be prepping for more severe weather, including thunderstorms and tornadoes, while still recovering from major storms just earlier this week. 

This spring has been off to an intense start, breaking the record for the most tornado reports than any other March on record. The United States had around 270 tornado reports this March, breaking the record of 225 reports in 2012, according to daily preliminary records released by the National Weather Service.

Tornado season usually peaks sometime between May and June, but this season also started earlier and moved further east, than the typical “tornado alley”. 

There is some evidence that climate change is causing tornadoes to shift east. New Orleans and the surrounding area, was hit by an E3 tornado two weeks ago, on March 21.

Anthony Torres, Currently’s chief meteorologist, says that the connection between climate change and tornadoes is difficult to pinpoint in the short term. 

“Severe weather episodes, like thunderstorms that produce tornadoes, have a lot of ingredients that have to mesh together just right for the tornadoes to form,” said Anthony Torres, Currently’s chief meteorologist.

However, scientists still believe that climate change has a large impact on when and where severe weather events occur.

“Our future projections of how severe weather may change in the future are really showing two things,” told Victor Gensini, an associate professor at Northern Illinois University, to CNN. “They kind of show an earlier start to the severe weather season — so more severe weather in February, more severe weather in March — and then also sort of this eastward increase.”

Other factors may predict a greater likelihood of tornadoes. For example, because the Earth is experiencing a La Niña this year — meaning that the Pacific Ocean is momentarily cooler than normal — the environment, especially in the South and Southeast regions, is perfect for violent tornadoes.

And, with all three March tornado outbreaks, the jet stream went down into Northern Mexico. The cold air interacts with the Gulf of Mexico — which is warmer than average right now — and so the cold and warm, humid air masses clashing create a moist environment that’s perfect for thunderstorms. 

“That helps set up the fuel for tornado outbreaks to happen the entire month because the Gulf isn’t going to change temperature very quickly,” Torres said. “As long as the jet stream interacts with the Gulf of Mexico the way that it has, that would increase the chances of more outbreaks.”

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