MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Great Plains is typically referred to as Tornado Alley, but researchers are finding evidence that tornado alley is shifting away from the plains and into the Southeast, putting a bull’s-eye on the Mid-South.
A new study published in the journal of Climate and Atmospheric Science, shows that tornado frequency has increased across the eastern third of the United States, especially in the Mid-South.
As tornadoes increase over the southeast, twister activity is starting to decrease in a large portion of the Southern Plains, primarily in Oklahoma and Texas.
This is especially problematic since the Southeast is a very vulnerable region with low visibility, denser population centers and lack of underground storm shelters. The biggest tornado frequency increase was in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Researchers of the study, Vittorio Gensini, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Northern Illinois University and Harold Brooks, a scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Oklahoma, also point at the varying change in year to year tornado activity. The amount of tornadoes per year has not necessarily increased, but the parameters are definitely more favorable for development.
Researchers used the Significant Tornado Parameter (STP) to show tornado activity shift over the years of 1979 to 2017. It is a complicated index of twister ingredients, such as moisture and winds, that measure the potential potency of the tornado environment. The researchers found a lowering trend in the Great Plains but an upward trend in the Southeast and Midwest.
While the shift in tornado alley is apparent, the question is why this shift is taking place. The researchers think that it could be from a warming Earth due to climate change, but more research needs to be done on the topic.