Tornado Alley: Where do the strongest tornadoes form in the US?

Tornado Alley: Where do the strongest tornadoes form in the US?

There are few more terrifying spectacles in nature than a powerful tornado. These violently spinning columns of air can reach the ground from a thundercloud and are usually visible due to the condensation and dust and debris they kick up.

Many tornadoes occur in the area we know as "The Alley tornadoes, and most last only a few minutes and have wind speeds of 100 mph (161 kilometers per hour) or less. But the most destructive tornadoes can occur outside of "Tornado Alley" and last more than an hour, and wind speeds, according to the National Weather Service, range from 200 to 300 miles per hour (322-482 kilometers per hour).

When it comes to severe weather, tornadoes can be incredibly destructive; the most powerful of them can lift cars into the air, blow houses to pieces and turn debris into deadly missiles.

Where is Tornado Alley? Tornado Alley: Where do the strongest tornadoes form in the US?Tornado Alley: Where do the strongest tornadoes form in the US?photo:

"Tornado Alley" is a term that refers to the region of the central United States that experiences the highest number of tornadoes per year and where conditions are most favorable for their formation. This region extends from northern and central Texas and Oklahoma north to Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, explains Jason Furtado, assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology.

"People who live in this region tend to be most susceptible to tornadoes in a given year and should be prepared accordingly, such as having storm shelters, weather radios, evacuation plans,", Furtado writes.

The term "Tornado Alley" was coined back in 1952 by two Air Force meteorologists, Major J. Ernest J. Fawbush and Capt. J. Robert C. Miller. The two were tasked with working on tornado forecasting and issued the first-ever tornado warning, according to an article from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. (NOAA).

"Tornado Alley" and Super Storms

To understand why "Tornado Alley" especially susceptible to tornadoes, it is necessary to know a little about the tornado development process.

«Storms that produce tornadoes form due to both instability (warm, moist air beneath cooler, dry air) and wind shear (change in wind direction with height),» Ross says. Lazear, a meteorologist at the University at Albany.

The reason why in "Tornado Alley" experiencing some of the world's largest tornado outbreaks, lies in the region's proximity to warm, moist sources such as the Gulf of Mexico, as well as cold air from higher elevations in the west.

"The combination—and layering—of these disparate air masses leads to both instability and wind shear,” says Lazear.

Tornado Alley: Where do the strongest tornadoes form in the US?Tornado Alley: Where do the strongest tornadoes form in the US?photo:

Keeping track of how many tornadoes occur and where they occur is not easy. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, detailed records of tornadoes in the U.S. only go back to the 1950s, and the information collected has not always been consistent, which can make it difficult to determine long-term trends. It wasn't until 2007 that scientists developed the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF), a standard for measuring the intensity of tornado damage.

“The frequency of tornadoes in a region has historically been determined by compiling local tornado reports and observations during a given year,” Furtado explains. "There are many people involved in this, including citizens, government officials, trained meteorologists, etc. who report these tornadoes to local offices of the "National Weather Service".

After a storm warning or thunderstorm in which there are reports of tornadoes, the "National Weather Service" will dispatch trained meteorologists to areas and confirm, based on damage, (a) whether a tornado occurred, and if so, (b) what the tornado rating is (EF-0 to EF-5), Furtado says.

&# 34;Tornado Alley" changing

"Tornado Alley" The Great Plains is certainly not the only area where they occur.

"Other parts of the United States outside of what has historically been called "Tornado Alley" also frequently experience significant, very powerful tornadoes are the Southeastern United States (e.g. Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee) ", says Lazir. "Although tornado outbreaks are possible in the United States every month of the year, they are more likely in the southern portion of "Tornado Alley" in late winter and early spring, and the tornado season migrates north to the Northern Plains by mid-summer.

Tornado Alley: Where do the strongest tornadoes form in the US?Tornado Alley: Where do the strongest tornadoes form in the US?photo:

But since tornadoes happen in so many places across the map, the traditional concept of "Tornado Alley" not accepted by all meteorologists. Some reject this term. As Furtado explains, tornadoes occur when the right conditions exist, not because of the location of the thunderstorm.

"Meteorologists predict severe weather and tornado activity based on the components present (for example, (1) warm, moist and unstable air and (2) significant changes in wind speed and direction with height), rather than on a specific climatology, Furtado says.

But there are signs that the boundaries of "Tornado Alley" may shift. According to a 2023 study by "Northern Illinois University", "supercell" have shifted east, targeting areas like eastern Arkansas.

"Over the last couple of decades, we have seen a clear increase in the frequency of tornadoes further east into the Mississippi River Valley," says Furtado. "This means that new populations are becoming increasingly vulnerable to tornado activity. This shift has been characterized as "shift" in "Tornado Alley".

This new "Tornado Alley" often called «Dixie Alley» and it includes approximately Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. Visibility is poor here as tornadoes are often shrouded in rain or obscured by trees and hills. And there really is no specific tornado season.

But another study conducted by Dr. Harold Brooks, a senior scientist at the "National Severe Storms Laboratory" in Norman, Oklahoma, showed that this does not mean that "Tornado Alley" moving east.

Why? Because the formation of tornadoes is associated with the possibility of thunderstorms, and they found that today in "Dixie Alley" There's just a better chance of thunderstorms than in the area around "Tornado Alley". Why? Climate change.

Although the relationship between tornadoes and climate change is not fully understood, research has shown that the conditions that produce the most severe thunderstorms that can form tornadoes are likely to occur more frequently as the world warms. planet.