Deadliest US Tornado in 37 Years Wracks the South... But Is Climate Change to Blame?

The tornado that stomped through six states has claimed the lives of over 300 people, making it the deadliest US tornado in 37 years. Stunning videos of the storm, taken by both stormchasers and weather reporters, show its powerful scope and breadth -- in this clip from a mall parking lot in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it looks like The Nothing, sucking up the entire sky:


So it would make sense that this type of bigger-than-life storm correlates to climate change and global warming, right? Maybe not entirely, according to Discovery:

Climate change doesn't act in any particular way on the level of tornadoes. What's more, the frequency of tornadoes in one month does not predict how many twisters will strike in the months that follow.

Instead, this month's turn of events is a result of a sort of perfect atmospheric storm. Unusually strong winds have been persistently blowing eastward out of the southwest, leading to a layer of relatively cool and dry air lingering aloft above the Midwest and southeast. Beneath that layer, stalled cold fronts have pushed a mass of warm, moist air further north than usual.

This particular mixture of conditions -- with cool, dry winds consistently gusting above warm, moist air -- has produced an environment that is ripe for the formation of tornadoes.

La Niña is most likely responsible for the increased storm activity, and while climate change does play a small role in the intensity of the airstream -- particularly with regard to rising water temperatures -- it's not completely out of the ordinary. According to Discovery, the 'La Niña springs of 1974, 1999 and 2008 likewise featured an excessive number of destructive tornadoes.'


AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at April 29, 2011, 5:14am

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