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Tornado Alley Making Eastward Shift

Tornado Alley
Tornado | Image by John D Sirlin/Shutterstock

There is growing evidence that “Tornado Alley” is shifting eastwards, exposing new locations to an increased risk of tornadoes.

Tornado Alley, a region of the central Plains that stretches through Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, has long been notorious for its high frequency of tornadoes. However, recent data suggests that tornado activity has been shifting over the past decades, with areas in the Midwest and Southeast now seeing heightened tornado activity.

A study published in April in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology suggests that states further east, such as Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, are currently seeing the “greatest tornado threat.”

By mapping tornado activity between 1951 and 2020 and focusing on two 35-year periods (1961-1985 and 1986-2020), the study’s authors were able to distinguish patterns in tornado formations and track their changes.

Tornadoes occurring in what has been commonly understood as Tornado Alley actually decreased by 25% between the first and second periods, with 8,451 logged between 1951 and 1985 and 6,307 between 1986 and 2020.

Meanwhile, the number of tornadoes occurring east of Tornado Alley increased by 12% between the first and second periods. A total of 9,469 tornadoes were logged between 1951 and 1985, compared to 10,595 between 1986 and 2020.

The study also found that tornadoes have trended away from the warm season, particularly summer, and more towards the cold since 1951.

There has been considerably more tornado activity last month nationwide, with 1,117 logged by the National Centers for Environmental Information. Meanwhile, 704 were counted in May of last year and 740 the May before that.

According to David Parkinson, senior weather producer for CBS News, tornadoes are not only forming more often but are getting stronger as well.

This year’s tornado season saw several twisters recorded across North Texas, including in Cooke, Collin, Denton, and Hunt counties, per the National Weather Service Fort Worth-Dallas.

On May 25, five tornadoes touched down across the region, with three appearing in the DFW metroplex, as The Dallas Express reported.

These tornadoes ranged from EF1 to EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

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