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Storm supercells will become more frequent in parts of U.S. thanks to climate change, study says

Climate change will cause more severe storms in parts of U.S., study says
Climate change will cause more severe storms in parts of U.S., study says 01:44

MINNEAPOLIS — Tornadoes in February. It just sounds wrong. But earlier this month in Wisconsin, for the first time in the state's history, two February twisters touched down.

"I would put it in the very unusual category," said Walker Ashley, a meteorology professor at Northern Illinois University.

It was one of Ashley's studies that found when and where we're seeing supercell thunderstorms, ones that can produce tornadoes, is changing.

"We have a lot more water vapor and moisture available for the storms. And when we have that we have a lot more energy. That potential sort of energy we talked about, the gasoline for these storms, is growing. Particularly during the early parts of the year," Ashley said.

RELATED: Climate change top of mind for many Minnesotans during warm winter

He says severe storms are becoming more likely in February, March and April and less likely in July and August. His projections also show a bigger bullseye in the mid-South and southern Ohio Valley, and fewer storms in the High Plains from Nebraska to Texas.

"But I caution that (despite) those decreases, there's still going to be events there. They just might see a slight decline in the numbers as we move through the 21st century," Ashley said.

Here in the Midwest, he said the trends could go either way.

"One of the fingerprints of climate change is variability, and it's going to increase. So you might have some years that are very, very active, interspersed with other years that are very quiet. And that means that we just need to be prepared all the time," he said.

One of the best ways to stay prepared is to always have multiple ways to get weather warnings, whether it's from WCCO's NEXT Weather team, a NOAA weather radio or an app on your cellphone, especially at night.

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