El Nino & Tornadoes

 

Chances of a tornado increase along the Gulf Coast with the current El Niño, a large-scale weather pattern associated with warming of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. As these waters warm, they force the development of a stronger-than-average jet stream emanating from the eastern Pacific and extending across the southern tier of the United States. The impact of this jet stream is most apparent from January through late March when it enhances severe thunderstorm and tornado potential over coastal states.

Nearly 80 percent of cool-season tornado deaths in Florida occur during El Niños, many after dark. This type of deadly nighttime tornado activity occurred as recently as February 2007 when an outbreak caused 21 fatalities and 76 injuries, and February 1998, when tornadoes killed 42 people and injured 259. Other recent deadly cold season tornado outbreaks have affected parts of Georgia, Texas, and Mississippi during El Niño years.

Having a NOAA Weather Radio at your bedside is the best way to know when a tornado is on the way. These small units receive a special tone that activates the radio alarm before broadcasting emergency announcements, such as a tornado warning issued by NOAA’s National Weather Service. This feature is especially crucial when severe storms or other events occur at night when most people are sound asleep.

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Past Weather Quiz Answers

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