2017 May Be A Very Big Tornado Year!
There's no doubt that 2016 has been a slow year for tornado outbreaks across the U.S. And this has been very good news for families who live in the most frequently hit areas of the country. But, can we expect 2017 to continue to be as relatively calm as this year was?
Scientists have found a definite correlation between the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the frequency of tornadoes in the U.S. This is because, when water temperatures rise in the Gulf, a severe weather ingredient called "CAPE" is present (CAPE stands for Convective Available Potential Energy). Warm water temperatures provide more energy to fuel convection and span tornadoes as the warm, moist air moves upward from the Gulf waters into the U.S. This warm, moist air is one of the most important ingredients of the storms that spawn supercells and tornadoes in the Midwest.
When the warm, moist air is lifted by a front, it creates an updraft. The rising air cools and can't continue to hold the moisture, causing clouds to form and, eventually, thunderstorms to rumble. The updraft strengthens and the air below the storm, closer to the ground, blows at different speeds, causing wind sheer. If the wind sheer is pulled into the updraft, becoming vertical instead of horizontal, they give the thunderstorm rotation. A supercell is formed! The vertical tube of the supercell stretches upward, sucking the air upwards, too. Air near the ground rushes in to equalize the pressure caused by the air-sucking supercell, and a tornado is formed.
So, knowing that the water temperature in the Gulf Coast is slightly warmer than average this winter, scientists are predicting heightened summer tornado activity in 2017. While there isn't a guarantee that they'll be right, the data certainly supports their predictions. If you and your family live in an area prone to tornado outbreaks, keep an eye on the sky this spring and summer and, maybe, ask Santa to leave a weather radio under your Christmas tree!
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