Friday night’s tornado outbreak across nine southern states is now the deadliest December tornado outbreak in history.
December tornadoes are not uncommon in the South, in fact, there’s a regular second tornado season
that happens almost every year there. Nearly one-third of all tornado deaths in Alabama happen in November & December, for example. Nighttime tornadoes are deadlier than tornadoes during the day
, mostly because it’s much more difficult for people to take notice and rush to safety.
There’s also evidence that this specific event was made worse by global warming
. Temperatures were among the warmest ever recorded
in the month of December, providing a surge of tropical moisture and energy to make the storms stronger. Past studies have shown that although the total number of tornadoes is not increasing due to climate change, they are coming in bunches and outbreaks more often, making it more difficult to seek shelter.
Evan Bentley, one of the forecasters at NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center who helped forecast the tornadoes, said
that scientists “will spend years and probably decades trying to decipher” the exact causes of what made this particular event so damaging.
The Appodlachia Podcast has compiled a thread
of local organizations and mutual aid groups that are helping with relief efforts if you’d like to help.
— Eric Holthaus