COLUMBIA --- University of Missouri researchers say the Pacific Ocean could be a determining factor in the strength and location of tornadoes during severe weather season. Scientists say when the ocean's surface has a higher temperature, they've noticed tornadoes are more frequent in the west and north of tornado alley. There are also stronger ones rated EF-2 through EF-5 when the ocean is warmer.
On the other hand, more tornadoes are seen in states farther east and south when the ocean's temperature is cooler. Researchers hope their study will help community and state officials prepare for future severe weather events.
"The importance of looking a season ahead is that the state emergency management officials can prepare in case there is a large event like we had in Joplin," says Professor Tony Lupo, MU Atmospheric Science
"What we hope for our research that it can be used as a tool for states to use for budget planning for tornado relief during a typical summer or spring season," says Laurel McCoy, MU Atmospheric Science Graduate Student.
Currently, researchers say the Pacific is in a "cool" phase, so they are predicting more tornadic events for states like Alabama, Tennessee, Illinois, and Indiana this year. These new findings will be presented to meteorologists from across the nation this weekend at the National Weather Association Conference in South Carolina.