Deadly tornadoes in the United States — is climate change playing a part?
Several U.S. states have been hit by stormy weather in the past weeks, wreaking havoc on infrastructure and even causing deaths.
So far this year, 38 people have died in 10 tornadoes in the country.
The National Weather Service had already received at least 27 more reports of tornadoes on Tuesday, suggesting that the record for consecutive days would be broken once the official totals are in.
The weather service has received 934 tornado reports so far this year, up from the yearly average of 743 observed tornadoes. The actual number is likely lower, however, because some of the reports probably come from different witnesses who spot the same twister.
WATCH: Drone footage captures aftermath of tornado in Trotwood, Ohio
The U.S. typically sees a spike in tornado activity between March and June. Global News meteorologist Anthony Farnell explained that this year’s tornado outbreak saw more than 500 of the storms within 30 days.
“The month of May is the typical peak of the U.S. tornado season, and this year is no exception,” Farnell said. “Almost right on cue, the pattern is expected to shift by the beginning of June, bringing an end to the active tornado streak.”
Farnell explained that while the active season may raise concerns of climate change, there is no proven link.
“There has been no noticeable increase in tornadoes due to climate change and, in fact, over the past several decades,” he said. “Strong tornadoes have actually been on the decline, and last year was the least active year on record.”
The U.S. has experienced a lull in the number of tornadoes since 2012, with tornado counts tracking at or below average each year and meteorologists still working to figure out why.
One study published in Nature released last year found that the parts of the U.S. that are prone to tornadoes are increasing.
Previously, the “tornado alley” mostly covered Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, but other states such as Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri are now seeing the storms as well.
Farnell noted that tornado activity has been shifting further north in the summer months in recent years.
Tornado season in Canada
According to Environment Canada, the peak tornado season is between June and August. During that time, there are typically around 43 tornadoes across the Prairies and about 17 in Ontario and Quebec.
“With a displaced jet stream, tornado numbers have been on the increase across the Canadian Prairie provinces in the past decade,” Farnell noted, but he added that it’s too early to tell if this is part of a long-term trend.
The Ottawa area suffered from damage following tornadoes last September, but Environment Canada notes that they weren’t the worst on record.
WATCH: Path of Ottawa-Gatineau tornadoes
The deadliest tornado recorded in Canadian history was in June 1912, when 28 people died in the Regina area.
In terms of this year’s tornado season in Canada, Farnell said that it can be difficult to predict.
“It’s very hard to predict how many tornadoes will occur on any given day, let alone over the course of a year,” Farnell said.
He added, however, that there is a “back-and-forth pattern” expected in Central and Eastern Canada this summer, which means the chances of severe storms increase.
“Only time will tell if that also means more tornadoes,” he said.
—With files from the Associated Press
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