Tornado Alley is Shifting into the Natural State, Research Shows

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NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA) – Tornado season is here. The threat of tornadoes in the Natural State increases as new research shows the line of ‘Tornado Alley’ is shifting to our backyards.

“I’m one of those crazy storm chasers who go out to the Great Plains and really over the past couple of years we’ve noticed really far fewer events than we’re used to,” Northern Illinois University Meteorology Professor Victor Gensini said.

Studies show the line is moving east covering more of Arkansas and the southeast region

“We’ve seen at least as much if not more tornado activity along, and, east of the Mississippi River,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Dennis Cavanaugh said.

“If you think of tornado alley, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas — the trend there is for fewer reports. The trend is upwards in places like Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and portions of the Midwest as well,” says Gensini.

In December 2018, two tornadoes touched down in Crawford County. 130 homes were damaged and five were completely destroyed.  

What may be causing the shift is still unknown but researchers believe it could be due to climate change.

“Texas and Oklahoma will continue to dry out due to climate change and these hotbeds for severe weather activity will shift East and the climate models have been consistent is showing that,” said Gensini.

The National Weather Service out of Little Rock says although some think the hills and Ozark Mountains stop tornadoes from entering places like Northwest Arkansas, that isn’t the case.

“Our terrain differences here in Arkansas are just too small for the tornado to care much about,” says Cavanaugh.

Tornadoes aren’t just rolling across the open Oklahoma fields, the shift is making its way to highly populated areas.

“That’s significant, right? If we take a lot of these tornadoes that are happening in the central Great Plains and shift them east there’s a lot more population density so there are a lot more people at risk,” says Gensini.

According to the National Weather Service, the United States is one of the only regions in the world with two distinct severe weather seasons. March through May for the springtime, and November and December for the fall.

You can stay alert during severe weather by downloading our NWA Weather Authority app.

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