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Predicting Tornadoes

Did you know that tracking weather in the Pacific gives meteorologists advanced warnings of coming tornadoes here on the mainland?

Destructive tornado on tropical beach

Photo: Nature Explorer (flickr)

Tornado on a popular beach in Indonesia

Did you know that tracking weather in the Pacific gives meteorologists advanced warnings of coming tornadoes here on the mainland?

Tropical Pacific water temperatures fluctuate in two- to seven-year cycles, and those temperature events can last five months or longer. For years we’ve known that during El Niño events, when the Pacific waters are warmer, the weather is generally wetter in North and South America and Africa, and can cause massive floods. At the same time, it’s drier in Asia and Australia, causing droughts. During La Niña events, when the Pacific is cooler, it’s just the opposite.

So, what does this have to do with winter tornadoes?

Since tornadoes are so destructive, meteorologists at the NOAA Storm Prediction Center are always looking for new ways to predict where and when they will occur. They have discovered that during El Niño years, more winter tornadoes occur in Florida and the Gulf states. During La Niña years, there are more tornadoes in Texas and the upper Midwest.

So, knowing what’s happening in the Pacific gives meteorologists advanced warning.

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