Study suggests tornado strength, frequency is increasing
Wednesday, August 6, 2014, 4:36 PM - A new study out of Florida State University suggests that the strength and frequency of tornadoes hitting the United States has risen sharply since the 1950s.
Professor James Elsner says that while tornadoes are forming on fewer days each year, the twisters that develop are stronger than ever.
"We may be less threatened by tornadoes on a day-to-day basis, but when they do come, they come like there's no tomorrow," Elsner says in a press release.
His team examined historical weather data and only counted tornadoes that ranked as EF1 or higher on the Enhanced Fujita scale.
“It occurred to us that even though the annual number of tornadoes may be stationary, it’s possible there are other metrics that could be analyzed. When you start looking at the number of days in which a lot of tornadoes occur, you see change,” Elsner told Climate Central.
According to Elsner, the number of days with large tornado outbreaks has been steadily increasing over the last 60 years. Researchers recorded a significant spike in activity after the 1980s.
When examining clusters with more than 32 tornadoes, Elsner saw a 200 percent increase in the annual number of tornadoes per cluster.
There are a few theories about the upswing in tornadic activity. Some experts say it could be due to our changing climate while others attribute it to the increased number of people reporting severe weather via social media.
The United States is a global twister hotspot, with an average of over 1,000 tornadoes occurring each year.
This year alone 43 people have died during severe weather events, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.
Elsner's paper was published Wednesday in the journal Climate Dynamics.