The first two weeks of May this year saw the largest cluster of tornadoes in the Midwestern U.S. since record keeping began in 1950. In a ten day period of time, 465 tornadoes touched ground. There is a clear explanation for why this happened. However, the implications of that explanation lead to some serious conclusions.
More tornadoes occur in the Midwestern U.S. than anywhere else in the world. The reason for this is the unique geographic features that border on this region. Cold, dry air flows eastward from the Rockie Mountains until it hits the warm, moist air flowing northward from the Gulf of Mexico. The area where these two air masses come together in the Midwest is known as "Tornado Alley."
Normally, the meeting of these two air masses is disbursed over a wide area, and as such, large clusters of tornadoes over a short period of time are a rare event. Enter El Nio. In the years when El Nio occurs, there is a southward shift in the Jet Stream. Visualize the flow of the Jet Stream across the U.S. during El Nio years as lazy "S". The bottom of the "S" sweeps across northern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The "S" then turns northwards across western Arkansas and Missouri, before again curving eastward toward the State of New York.
What happens during is the bottom crook of the lazy "S" path of the Jet Stream traps the cold, dry air flowing down from the Rockie Mountains in a relatively small area. The Jet Stream also increases the flow northward of the warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. Two unstable air masses are thus drawn together in a small geographic area, and this result creates a cluster tornado event (further complicated by the continuing north-south and east-west shifts of the Jet Stream's S-like flow).
While it is known with reasonable certitude why the recent cluster tornado event occurred, the question remains, why was it the largest such event ever observed My friend Dave Thomson who made a special May 6th appearance on Dreamland states that heat is the underlying force driving all climate events. I concur with Dave's opinion, and once it is understood that heat is the driving force, it becomes clear why so many tornadoes occurred in such a short period of time.
It should be clear to any person of reason that the Earth's global climate is warming. This is a natural cycle caused by variations in the output of radiation from the Sun that can be traced back at least 350 million years. But we must take into account what the consequences of that warming will be.
The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are essentially a shallow and enclosed body of water. It readily retains any heat transferred to it from the atmosphere, and this is exactly what has happened.
The Earth's atmosphere is warming. That warmth was transferred to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Those waters in turn transferred their heat to the Jet Stream, which in its own turn transferred the heat into the atmospheric bottleneck of the U.S. Midwest caused by El Nio. This is the reason why there were so many tornadoes in such a short period of time.
This is not the end of the story, and this is what makes this cluster tornado event important to the global super storm theory. During the time of the cluster tornado event, meteorologists or other climate scientists observed a 50° F drop in the temperature of the Stratosphere over the event. It appears that the tornadoes were not only drawing heat from the warm, moist air of the Gulf of Mexico, but they were also pulling heat out of the upper regions of the Earths atmosphere.
This observation precisely fits into what global super storm theory states will happen. What may have happened with the recent cluster tornado event is a precursor to a global super storm.
We may have escaped a global super storm this time around. But the Earths atmosphere is going to continue to warm, and El Nio is going to continue to occur every four or so years. The question is at what point will continued global warming provide sufficient heat for the energy to create a super storm If the historical evidence revealed by ice core drilling is indicative of what we face in the future, we are in for some very rough times, and we are possibly facing another ice age.
Henry Willis is the author of Earths Future Climate.
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