The Plains have always been thought of as home to “tornado alley” – where one should find the most tornadic activity. However, Oklahoma and other hotspots may not be the prime location for storm chasing anymore.
It seems the location of tornado alley has been shifting towards the Southeast over the past 50 years. Now, there appear to be higher numbers of tornadoes in places like Alabama and Mississippi.
100th Meridian on the Move
Climate change may be the driving force behind the many changes happening to weather across the U.S. and beyond.
In the U.S., the 100th Meridian has always been a rough line of division between climates. To the west of the line, the weather is more arid; to the east, there’s more moisture in the air. This invisible line affects weather as well as agriculture.
As weather patterns have changed, scientists have now concluded that the line has shifted. Since 1980, it seems it’s moved approximately 140 miles to the east, towards the 98th Meridian.
That’s not the only thing that’s moved though, Tornado Alley has also migrated about 500 miles towards the Southeast.
Tornado Alley’s New Location
It wasn’t always common for there to be so much severe weather in areas like Alabama. However, there have been multiple tornado outbreaks this year already.
In March, an EF4 tornado ripped through more than 60 miles of land. 23 people were killed and over 90 sustained injuries. Later in the month, there were another 15 tornadoes spawned across the state. Still, more have occurred this month as well.
With above average temperatures and an increase in moisture from the Gulf, there may still be more to come, too.
So, is the Southeast home the new Tornado Alley?
More Tornado Outbreaks
This year, in March and April, the greatest source of tornadoes was, in fact, farther down in the south. And while this area isn’t known for tornadoes, perhaps it should be.
While the Great Plains are still a hotbed of activity, it’s not the only one – or even the most active. Now, we’re seeing more severe storms down towards the Gulf Coast in early spring.
As we move into late spring and early summer, however, there will likely be more activity in the plains. Oklahoma and the rest of the original Tornado Alley tend to have more tornadoes in May.