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The Midwest Tornadoes, Climate Change, And The Future Of Extreme Weather

Bowling Green, Kentucky was one of the towns struck by a tornado.
Bowling Green, Kentucky was one of the towns struck by a tornado.

On Friday, deadly tornadoes tore through parts of the Midwest and the South. The tornadoes touched down in Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri, with western Kentucky the hardest hit. More than 100 are feared dead because of the storm.

While FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell called the event “unprecedented,” she also described it as “our new normal.”

“The effects that we’re seeing from climate change are the crisis of our generation,” Criswell told CNN.

there is a clear link between worsening weather events like the weekend’s tornadoes and climate change:

The primary way climate change appears to be increasing thunderstorm and tornado intensity, especially in the cooler months, is simply because relentless warming is providing more fuel for these storms. Warmer Gulf of Mexico waters mean more warmth and moisture for air masses moving north over land, where they collide with cold winter air moving southward, often setting up the conditions needed for severe thunderstorms and destructive tornadoes. As global warming continues, we can expect these types of air mass collisions to occur further and further north, broadening storm risks to an increasing number of Americans.

Vulnerable populations like people living below the poverty line, the disabled, and the elderly are likely to feel the brunt of such extreme weather events. What’s the link between climate change and the weekend’s tornadoes? And what can we do to be as prepared as possible for the future?

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Amanda Williams, Avery Kleinman