What you need to know, currently.
The United States had more tornado reports in March 2022 than any other March on record, with around 270 reports, breaking the record of 225 reports in 2012, according to daily preliminary records released by the National Weather Service. This is more than double the average.
The season also started earlier, as its peak is usually sometime between May and June.
Anthony Torres, Currently’s chief meteorologist, says that the connection between climate change and tornadoes is difficult to pinpoint in the short term.
“Severe weather episodes, like thunderstorms that produce tornadoes, have a lot of ingredients that have to mesh together just right for the tornadoes to form,” said Torres.
However, scientists still believe that climate change has a large impact on when and where severe weather events occur.
“Our future projections of how severe weather may change in the future are really showing two things,” Victor Gensini, an associate professor at Northern Illinois University, told CNN. “They kind of show an earlier start to the severe weather season — so more severe weather in February, more severe weather in March — and then also sort of this eastward increase.”
There are also things that can predict a greater likelihood of tornadoes. For example, because the Earth is experiencing a La Niña this year — meaning that the Pacific Ocean is momentarily cooler than normal — the environment, especially in the South and Southeast regions, is perfect for violent tornadoes.
And, with all three March tornado outbreaks, the jet stream went down into Northern Mexico. The cold air interacts with the Gulf of Mexico — which is warmer than average right now — and so the cold and warm, humid air masses clashing creates a moist environment that’s perfect for thunderstorms. “That helps set up the fuel for tornado outbreaks to happen the entire month because the Gulf isn’t going to change temperature very quickly,” Torres said. “As long as the jet stream interacts with the Gulf of Mexico the way that it has, that would increase the chances of more outbreaks.” —Aarohi Sheth