Draft 1 - Tornadoes and Climate Change

This topic submitted by Drew Vankat and Michael Pateman ( patemamp@miamioh.edu ) on 1/23/02 .

When the El Nino/Southern Oscillation peaked in 1997 and 1998, much talk was given to the theory of global warming and its possible connection to an increase in extreme weather. In Ohio and other areas of the United States, tornadoes are and have been a serious risk to property and lives. Are tornadoes part of this web of phenomena possibly related to the theory of global warming?

We intend to investigate tornadoes, their frequency in the last 50 years, and examine how that relates to climate data in two different regions. We will select one region which historically has experienced high tornado activity, and another which has not seen many tornadoes. It is also our intent to become familiar with the conditions favorable to tornado formation, as well as the inner workings of the storms and tornadoes themselves. Our research of tornadoes and climate data for the two regions should allow us to determine if there is a correlation between that data and the frequency and magnitude of the region’s tornadoes in the last 50 years.

From preliminary research, we have found that tornado activity in the United States has increased significantly since the middle of the 20th century. We believe that this increase is related to an increase in global temperatures. We also hypothesize that our designated tornado ‘hot spot’ will have seen an increase in the frequency and magnitude of tornadoes, and that our ‘quiet area’ will not see much of an increase.

We will utilize statistics to compare data and regions. This will enable us to found out if the differences are statistically significant. All of our data will be entered into StatView.


C. Church, D. Burgess, C. Doswell, R. Davies-Jones, Editors. American Geophysical Union. The Tornado: It’s Structure, Dynamics, Prediction, and Hazards. Washington, D.C., 1990.

Allaby, Michael. Dangerous Weather: Tornadoes. Facts on File, Inc. New York, 1997.

Grazulis, Thomas P. The Tornado: Nature’s Ultimate Windstorm. University of Oklahoma Press. Norman, 2001.

Lutgens, Frederick K. The Atmosphere: Eighth Edition. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2001.

Rampino, Michael R., Sanders, John E., Newman, Walter S., Konigsson, L.K. . Climate: History, Periodicity, and Predictability. Van Nostrand Reinhold. New York, 1987


The Tornado Project

Tornado and Storm Research Organization


Understanding Tornadoes

The On-Line Tornado FAQ

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