Are We Entering an Era of Tornadoes?

Large Tornado Touching Down Near CoastlineIn a column for the Atlantic, Paul Epstein, coauthor with Dan Ferber of Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It, investigates the connections between climate change and the intensity of this spring’s tornado season. The piece is perhaps one of the most measured, straightforward you’ll read on the science behind climate change, and its real implications for our lives.

Epstein writes that while we may see ups and downs in their frequency, “severe and lethal tornadoes are part of a global trend toward more severe storms.” He explains the reason:

“It’s all about contrasts and gradients. Warmer temperatures over land surfaces create low-pressure systems (since hot air rises, creating ‘lows’), while cold fronts from the north come with high pressures. Weather ‘flows downhill,’ as it were—from highs to lows. When temperature and pressure gradients between highs and lows increase (as they do naturally in spring), the clash can twist to form tornadoes. The greater the contrasts, the greater the force of the twisters.”

Read the full article in the Atlantic, and take a look at Changing Planet, Changing Health for some of Epstein and Ferber’s innovative solutions for shaping a healthy global economic order in the twenty-first century.