Scientists make progress in assessing tornado seasons

Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 13:30 in Earth & Climate

Meteorologists can see a busy hurricane season brewing months ahead, but until now there has been no such crystal ball for tornadoes, which are much smaller and more volatile. This information gap took on new urgency after tornadoes in 2011 killed more than 550 people, more than in the previous 10 years combined, including a devastating outbreak in April that racked up $5 billion in insured losses. Now, a new study of short-term climate trends offers the first framework for predicting tornado activity up to a month out with current technology, and possibly further out as climate models improve, giving communities a chance to plan. The study may also eventually open a window on the question of whether tornadoes are growing more frequent due to long-term climate warming.

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