Thursday, May 26, 2011

Quick Exit of La Nina, Hot and Cold Extremes Blamed for Tornadoes

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2011 at 10:09 AM

A staff writer for tries to find some simple answers to a horribly complex issue: 2011's tragic tornado season.

According to preliminary numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, nearly 1,200 tornadoes have swept through the United States this year. The death toll has already topped 500, a number not seen since 1953.

  • NOAA

Andrea Mustain explains that three key factors are driving much of the tornado activity:

• La Nina's exit: The weather maker that cooled the waters of the equatorial Pacific Ocean made a sudden exit three months ago.
• Hot and cold: Last winter's record snow packs have kept northern air especially cold, while the Gulf of Mexico is warmer than average.
• Numbers game: A century ago, when the country was more sparsely populated, fewer tornadoes were spotted.

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