Well timed to coincide with our feature on the Joplin tornado and its relation to climate, scientists from Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society are looking into climate indicators that tell us when tornadoes will appear.
Tornadoes are more difficult to predict than other weather occurances because a large number of factors have to come together to create one - moist air, a thunderstorm, and the meeting of cold and warm air.
The study looks at climate and tornado records to identify correlations between the two. The scientists analysed average monthly atmospheric conditions and referencing these against average tornado results in each month for the past 30 years. They then experimented by seeing if they could predict tornado activity based on the climate factors they had found were good indicators of tornadoes.
Understanding how climate shapes tornado activity makes forecasts and projections possible and allows us to look into the past and understand what happened," said lead author and climate scientist Michael Tippett in a Columbi University press release.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was then able to use the study’s data to accurately predict periods of tornado activity last year.