TAMPA, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – A new study has found that climate change might be playing a role in the frequency and strength of tornadoes.

Researchers from Florida State University found that even though tornadoes are happening fewer days per year than they used to, they are forming at a larger density and strength. There’s more tornadoes that are extremely powerful when they do form.

Florida State University geography professor James Elsner and his colleagues used data from the Storm Prediction Center to study tornadoes with EF-1 intensity and stronger.

He told CBS News “that when he first looked at tornado days with at least four tornadoes, he noted no change. However, when he looked at instances with larger numbers of tornadoes in a single day, he found a significant increase.”

More than any country in the world, the United States experiences the most tornadoes that can happen anywhere in the country. However, the highest concentration take place in “Tornado Alley,” an area that stretches through Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Forty-three people have died so far in a total of 189 confirmed tornadoes this year, according to the NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center.

Researchers found that before 1980 there were three or four days per year with at least 16 tornadoes on average. But that average has doubled since 2000.

“The bottom line is that the risk of big tornado days featuring densely concentrated tornado outbreaks is on the rise,” the study explains.

Researchers shared that their findings suggest that climate change could be a factor.

“These trends represent observational evidence of changes in severe deep moist convection possibly related to our changing climate,” they wrote.

The study was published in the journal Climate Dynamics.


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