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Tornado warnings are up. Will touchdowns increase too? Meteorologists aren’t sure just yet

 A tornado touches down in a field.
Justin1569 at English Wikipedia

This year, the National Weather Service saw a general increase in the average number of tornadoes in Wyoming. Not only that, but researchers believe tornado alley may be expanding, and that some tornado seasons could last into the winter months. So what does this mean for Wyoming and its recent touchdowns?

Rob Cox, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Cheyenne said a number of factors go into determining weather cycles. Conditions of the atmosphere off the coast of Peru could influence Wyoming weather just as much as the snowfall in the Rockies. In both cases, conditions have been above average this year.

A tornado even touched down on a coal mine near Gillette. Emergency crews were prepared as they had been monitoring the storm with the help of the National Weather Service.

As Tornado Alley, once squarely in the middle of the country, now expands to the South, global climate conditions are cited as major factors in that change. However, Cox cautions that it’s not as simple as pointing to a warming climate.

“If there is an increase in tornadoes, obviously, that is not always related to climate change. But it can be related locally to just how the atmosphere is saturated. Right now it is extremely saturated, compared to what we were last year at this time. So having that more saturated atmosphere, that ground being really saturated, has really caused the potential to be a little bit higher this year for more tornadoes. And we haven't had an extreme amount yet. But you know, that could change as the year wears on.”

As researchers across the nation continue to study severe weather trends, Cox asks that the public be ready regardless of whether there’s an increase.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center keeps meteorologists like Cox informed of developing weather events. The center issues the “watch” warning for severe weather; it's then up to local weather offices to use resources such as radar, satellite monitoring and storm chaser teams to determine if weather conditions are sufficient for a “warning” label.

Cox suggests using the N.W.S. website, following the National Weather Service on social media, and investing in an NOAA weather radio to help stay informed.

Jordan Uplinger was born in NJ but has traveled since 2013 for academic study and work in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He gained experience in a multitude of areas, including general aviation, video editing, and political science. In 2021, Jordan's travels brought him to find work with the Wyoming Conservation Corps as a member of Americorps. After a season with WCC, Jordan continued his Americorps service with the local non-profit, Feeding Laramie Valley. His deep interest in the national discourse on class, identity, American politics and the state of material conditions globally has led him to his current internship with Wyoming Public Radio and NPR.
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