Tuesday, March 30, 1999

More tornadoes coming?


Purdue study says la Nina puts 10 states at risk

BY LEW MOORES
The Cincinnati Enquirer

when tornadoes are most likely
        Ohio is among 10 states that could experience more tornadoes this year than last, the result of a La Nina year that could bring more tempestuous weather to the Midwest during the tornado season.

        Ernest Agee, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Purdue University, says Ohio, as well as Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, could see more tornadoes because of La Nina.

        “In fact, those 10 states may expect twice as many tornadoes as last year, when they were at a lower risk of tornado activity due to the strong El Nino,” Mr. Agee said in a news release.

        Meteorologists describe El Nino as an unusual warming of water in the eastern Pacific Ocean. It eased last spring, but only after triggering disastrous weather around the world for more than a year.

        However, instead of returning to normal temperatures, the Pacific cooled drastically. That is known as La Nina. Under that weather system, the subtropical jet stream pushes warm, moist air north. That can supply the conditions to build severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

        Mr. Agee said the findings are based on a study done by Suzanne Zurn-Birkhimer, a Purdue graduate student who looked at tornadoes over an 81-year period, comparing El Nino with La Nina years.

        States in the Midwest and Ohio and Tennessee valleys had more tornadoes during La Nina years.

        “Preliminary reports from the National Weather Service show that there were 169 tornadoes in January, and 19 tornado-related deaths,” Mr. Agee said.

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