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Q&A: Meteorologist Troy Kimmel Talks Tornadoes and Climate Change

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By Jessica Sinn, College of Liberal Arts
Posted: August 9, 2013

Troy Kimmel is a senior lecturer of Studies in Weather and Climate in the Department of Geography and the Environment. He is a committee member/instant meteorologist for University of Texas Campus Safety and Security, as well as committee chief meteorologist, KOKE FM Radio, Austin.

A monster EF-5 tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on May 20, 2013. The twister boasted winds exceeding 200 miles per hour as it ravaged schools and neighborhoods, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds.

In its wake, many are questioning the relationship between tornados and climate change – and whether these monster storms are intensifying over time. We asked our resident weather expert, Troy Kimmel, to tell us more about the science behind these natural disasters.

In 2011, there were a record number of EF-1 and stronger tornadoes in the United States. Is this a sign of more frequent and powerful tornadoes to come?

I don’t think you can say that. Every weather pattern is unique and the atmospheric “recipe” ingredients must come together just right. Through analogue forecasting, we understand what weather patterns are most likely to produce severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Some years you see very active weather patterns and then there are years you don’t. Here in south central Texas, we haven’t seen much severe weather over the last few years. This has been strongly influenced by the presence of colder than average ocean waters in the Pacific (the La Nina phase of the Southern Oscillation) and the resultant multi-year drought we’ve experienced.

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