Unusually warm, humid weather helped spark Arkansas tornadoes
- Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency, giving the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management $100,000 to assist with response and clean-up.
Driving the news: December tornadoes are not unheard of, but an event of this scale and ferocity is potentially unprecedented for this region.
- A strong cold front and area of low pressure created "a fairly classic setup" for tornadoes, meteorologist-in-charge Jim Reynolds of Little Rock's National Weather Service told Axios.
Threat level: Another warming trend is coming next week for the eastern U.S. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), some areas of the country may see temperatures running 20°F to 40°F above average for this time of year.
The big picture: Winter is warming faster than other seasons due to climate change. This year has the potential to be the warmest December on record for many areas, writes Axios' Andrew Freedman.
- Additionally, meteorologists have observed more instances of unusually strong, stubborn areas of high pressure in recent years that have been associated with extreme weather events, including heat waves.
What they're saying: Reynolds told Axios that this week's warming trend will bring some moisture with a fairly low chance of precipitation, but that NWS isn't expecting anything like Friday night or Saturday morning.
- All residents of Arkansas should be prepared for severe weather during any month of the year.
Andrew's thought bubble: Climate scientists studying how tornadoes may be changing in a warming world are focused on trends in their main ingredients. As the world warms, there is a greater supply of atmospheric instability, with warm and humid weather occurring more frequently, even in the cold season. This could favor severe thunderstorms.
- Studies show when such ingredients overlap with abundant wind shear — i.e., winds changing direction or speed with height, along with a trigger like a cold front — then large outbreaks can occur.
- Overall, there is increasing evidence that tornadoes are becoming more common in the South Central and Southeastern states, as traditional "Tornado Alley" sees a decrease in tornado days. This has tremendous implications for peoples' exposure to risk, given population growth in the region.
Go deeper: Subscribe to the free Axios Generate newsletter for more.
Plus: How to help
Several rural towns impacted by the storms will be in the process of rebuilding for the next several weeks.
How you can help: The American Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas is working to help tornado victims. To learn how to volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer. You can donate at redcross.org, by calling 1-800-733-2767 or texting REDCROSS to 90999.
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