More tornado-producing storms could arrive in Louisiana – possibly as early as next week

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Tuesday’s series of tornadoes was not the first to hit southern Louisiana, and it won’t be the last. In fact, some meteorologists say the region could face an increased threat even this year as thunderstorms become more intense and the temperature of the Gulf of Mexico continues to rise.

Thanks to the combined effect of a persistent cold event known as The Ninota and a warmer Gulf, Accuweather forecasters predict a particularly active severe weather season this spring which could produce the conditions necessary for tornadoes through April.

Because the Gulf Coast is usually the first to enter the peak of the severe weather season, senior meteorologist Paul Pastelok said Louisiana has “more opportunity to be hit by severe weather.”

Accuweather’s severe thunderstorm season forecast placed Louisiana at moderate risk for weather from March through May of this year.

Pastelok, who also leads long-range forecasting for Accuweather, said similar conditions that led to Tuesday’s EF3 tornado, which had peak winds of 160 mph, caused significant damage and resulted in one death, could repeat themselves as early as the middle of next week.

This is because there is a chance that another “higher level system” – or a disturbance capable of creating upward movement or lifting in the middle or upper parts of the atmosphere – will again move into The area. On Tuesday, one such system descended from the Pacific Northwest, pulled south by a jetstream.

Right now the gulf is 2-4 degrees warmer than usual, so next week’s system will once again mix with the warm, moist air, likely causing more disruptive weather. Although the system could push just north of New Orleans, he said the storm was too far away to predict exactly where it might hit, so anyone recovering should prepare. If it’s not a tornado, the weather could at least bring heavy rain and high winds.

And this severe weather, while it may vary from year to year, is only expected to intensify as the planet warms due to human-induced climate change.

So far, the world has warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius since people accelerated the burning of fossil fuels and wood during industrialization, and research has shown that with each additional degree of warming, conditions become 14-25% more favorable to create severe storms.

Tornado David Pagan

Shalina Chatlani

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Gulf States Newsroom

David Pagan, pastor of La Vid Verdadera Church in Arabi, La., stands in front of what remains of his church at the corner of Friscoville and St. Claude avenues, Wednesday, March 23, 2022. The night before, an EF3 tornado struck torn through the area, leaving one dead, several injured and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed.

With stronger storms and a longer storm season, there is potentially a greater opportunity for more tornadoes.

Although the Great Plains experiences the most tornadoes in the country, Louisiana and other states along the Gulf also experience significant numbers of resulting tornadoes. in the most deaths due to several factors, including population density and the increased likelihood of occurring at night, such as Tuesday’s tornado.

“The reality is that for the Gulf Coast, the conditions that make it such a great place to live are also the conditions that make it such a risk for some of these other hazards,” said John Allen, associate professor of meteorology at Central Michigan. University.

The warm, juicy air fuels thunderstorms that could create a tornado. The warmer the air, the more energy in the atmosphere that could be released in the form of a severe thunderstorm or tornado.

Or at least that could be what is happening. Climate science is still unsettled on which aspects of tornadoes are affected by global warming.

“Intuitively, I could have guessed because of climate change, because what is a tornado? If it’s a manifestation of available energy, it’s there. And as things heat up, there’s more energy. But that’s just a story, it’s not really science,” said Michael Wehner, principal investigator at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and lead author of the Sixth International Climate Report. “The question is, does this story make sense scientifically? And I don’t think we’re there yet.

Allen and Wehner said it was clear that more tornadoes were developing east of the traditional “Tornado Alley” region. appearing more frequently in the Midwest and Southeast, especially in winter and early spring. It’s linked to climate change, they said, but scientists don’t yet know how.

Because tornadoes are made up of so many ingredients—temperature, humidity, winds, upward motion—and a small weather event in terms of size, they are more complicated to model on a longer climate scale. Even when conditions are right for a tornado, it may not appear.

Allen compared a tornado to the many moving parts and components of an orchestra. The research seeks to understand how the whole orchestra will change over time, as opposed to a single section.

There are also studies that suggest that while the number of days with tornadoes is decreasing, the number of outbreak days — or days with multiple tornadoes spawned by the same weather system — could increase. Storms that are most likely to produce strong tornadoes at an EF2 rating or higher cause the most damage, Wehner said.

But Allen, whose research focuses on the relationship between tornadoes and climate change, said some of the increase could be linked to better identification of tornadoes in recent decades.

The gray area leaves more room for study in the coming years, especially as more computing power becomes available to model tornadoes on a longer timescale and as young researchers enter the field. It will take more money.

“It’s a difficult problem. But for a scientist, it’s good. Easy problems are all solved,” Wehner said.

That a funnel touches the ground, it is recognized that the probability of severe thunderstorms will increase in the years to come, especially during the winter months when Louisianans generally hope for a respite from the extreme weather conditions.

That means residents should extend their preparation beyond hurricane season, Pastelok said, and develop a plan for when they are alerted to severe storms and tornadoes.

“Just say ‘What would I do if a tornado hit my house? Where am I going? And try to figure that out right now so that when it happens everyone is on the same page and ready to go,” he said. “Predictions are getting a bit better for lead times (before tornadoes). So you have some time to come up with this plan if you can.

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