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Memphis area seeing an increase in days with the possibility of tornadoes, study finds

A new study finds the number of days that tornadoes are possible each year has increased more in the Mid-South than anywhere else in the country.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new report from Climate Central finds that the number of days where tornadoes are possible is increasing in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas faster than anywhere else in the country.

Compared to 40 years ago, the Mid-South is seeing an average of three more days a year where the atmosphere is primed to produce tornadoes. North Mississippi in particular is seeing these "tornado days" increase more than anywhere else in the country.

On the other hand, the area typically known as Tornado Alley (Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas) has seen days where tornadoes are possible decrease over those same 40 years.

The study cites the "significant tornado parameter", a special forecasting tool that combines several variables to determine how likely tornado development is based on atmospheric conditions. Scientists tracked this parameter over the last 43 years.

This increase in the potential for tornadoes affects an area that is less prepared for severe weather than those in the traditional "Tornado Alley". Many homes in the Mid-South don't have basements, there's a higher population living in mobile homes, and there are fewer public tornado shelters for those who need a better place to take cover.

Scientists note that as temperatures continue to warm, the number of strong thunderstorms will steadily increase since warm, rising air is essential to thunderstorm development.

A separate study from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society suggests that supercells - strong storms which can produce tornadoes - will continue to become more frequent and more powerful through the year 2100 as the planet warms.

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