Where is Tornado Alley now?

Already we are seeing reports of tornadoes along this line and it's headed east

For decades we’ve heard of Tornado Alley, running from North Texas across Oklahoma and Kansas across the corn belt to Minnesota. The central United States is where, geographically, warm and moist Gulf air has met cold air off the Rockies to set up the perfect tornado recipe: warm air below, cold air above, spinning winds from several directions at the surface of the Earth with faster winds above. That recipe more and more is moving East. Already this morning (around 4:20 a.m.) a destructive tornado tore through Springfield, Arkansas. Here’s ExactTrack radar:

I've highlighted the area that saw a tornado this morning

The forecast from the Severe Storms Prediction Center puts a bullseye for severe weather over Mississippi this afternoon.

from the Storm Prediction Center courtesy NOAA

You can see what our KPRC2 Futurecast has lined up for that state later today:

This afternoon's line of storms will likely produce tornadoes

Tornado outbreaks in Texas and Louisiana last week, Kentucky last December and now today for the southeast. What is happening?

Tornado Alley shifts

Research from NOAA indicates a pretty obvious shift of tornado outbreaks, at least statistically speaking:

Mean number of days per year with a tornado registering EF1 strength or greater within 25 miles (40 km), 1986-2015.

Ernest Agee, atmospheric scientist from Purdue University, explains that what is happening is that the dry line traditionally in West Texas and western Oklahoma is shifting east due to drier air in the west. We’ve talked about how the west has been hit with drought so severely the past decade and it’s hard to ignore the increase in wild fires. So, basically, if dry air is predominant in the West then the moist air that triggers the tornadoes and severe storms will be in the East. That means that Tornado Alley shifts east. No doubt, climate change and a warming world is playing a role. You can read the entire article with Professor Agee in The Conversation published right here.

The upside, if there is one, is that technology has become such that these tornadic outbreaks are much better forecast than before, people are more prepared and aware, and social media warns faster and better of what’s coming our way. So while it’s a changing world, it’s not all for the worse!

Have a safe day today and if you have relatives in the Southeast, make sure you check on them!


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.