WASHINGTON (AP) — The calendar said December but the warm moist air screamed of springtime. Add an eastbound storm front guided by a La Nina weather pattern into that mismatch and it spawned tornadoes that killed dozens over five U.S. states.
Tornadoes in December are unusual, but not unheard of. B ut the ferocity and path length of Friday night’s tornadoes likely put them in a category of their own, meteorologists say. One of the twisters — if it is confirmed to have been just one — likely broke a nearly 100-year-old record for how long a tornado stayed on the ground in a path of destruction, experts said.
“One word: remarkable; unbelievable would be another,” s aid Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini. “It was really a late spring type of setup in in the middle of December.”
Warm weather was a crucial ingredient in this tornado outbreak, but whether climate change is a factor is not quite as clear, meteorologists say.
Scientists say figuring out how climate change is affecting the frequency of tornadoes is complicated and their understanding is still evolving. But they do say the atmospheric conditions that give rise to such outbreaks are intensifying in the winter as the planet warms. And tornado alley is shifting farther east away from the Kansas-Oklahoma area and into states where Friday’s killers hit.
Here’s a look at what’s known about Friday’s tornado outbreak and the role of climate change in such weather events.
Nemo me impune lacessit