By Lizz Panchyk
The December tornado caused serious damage in Mayfield, Kentucky.
The year 2021 involved not only the continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also the increase of storms and natural disasters. As global warming continues to rear its ugly head, storms continue to brew and much more frequently, particularly tornadoes and hurricanes. This also means that hurricane season has the potential to expand out to other months as the heat sets in earlier and stays out longer.
Hurricane Ida was one of the most damaging storms of the year at a category 4 with winds as high as 150 mph. These winds are destructive and can leave permanent damage as they blow down trees into power lines and cars and houses. Rains can flood the streets and houses as well, leaving many people stranded and waiting to be rescued. That storm alone caused $60 billion worth of damage, according to NPR. But that storm was just one of the many; there were so many storms that the World Meteorological Organization ran out of names. This list includes hurricanes Elsa, Henri and Wendy.
This is a decade where we’ve seen storm activity slowly but surely increasing. The year 2021 was the third most active hurricane season as there were 21 named hurricanes. “The busy 2021 season is eclipsed only by the 27 named storms (and one unnamed storm) that were recorded in 2005, and by the record 30 named storms of 2020,” according to NPR. The “usual” standard amount of storms per year is 14.
December 2021 was a record month for tornadoes as there were 163 confirmed in the United States. That month would normally be the least active tornado season, at least on a normal scale. One tornado blew through over 122 miles in the southern states, while another that was on ground for a whopping 166 miles in Kentucky. These consistent tornadoes in the month of December caused 90 deaths throughout the affected states. This number could rise as the number of storms also increases. We’ve seen just how dangerous these storms can get, no matter how they categorize.
While not entirely unheard of to see a tornado in December, it is definitely a rare occurrence and could be linked to the likelihood of warm, damp air, which ties into climate change. Humidity and moisture tend to be the firestarters of incoming storms, so it is not surprising that the warmer temperatures in the past few years have been coinciding with the abundance of storms. But overall, there does need to be a better understanding of how and why this is occurring. Tracking storms, especially tornadoes, can be fickle and they’ve only increased exponentially in the past few years.
So what can we expect to see in 2022? We’ve already kicked January off with some winter weather advisories, icy conditions and two snowstorms. In fact, Long Island saw a record amount of accumulation of snow during the blizzard of Jan. 29, for the single highest daily snowfall total of 22.9 inches in Islip. And that’s only month number one. Seeing how these storms no longer seem to care when their designated “season” ends, we may end up with another record year.
According to “The Washington Post,” “studies have shown that the most likely time for increased tornado activity in a warming climate is during the colder months of the year. In that sense, it’s certainly possible December 2021 is a harbinger of our future winters.”
There’s no telling what’s to come, but we can certainly be prepared.