Landscape may influence where tornadoes strike

'Transition zones' may have a higher likelihood of severe weather.

  • April 29, 2014

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Areas where landscape shifts from urban to rural or forest to farmland may have a higher likelihood of severe weather and tornado touchdowns, a Purdue University study says.

An examination of more than 60 years of Indiana tornado climatology data from the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center showed that a majority of tornado touchdowns occurred near areas where dramatically different landscapes meet - for example, where a city fades into farmland or a forest meets a plain.

Forecasters and city planners may need to pay closer attention to these "transition zones" to better understand tornado risks, said Olivia Kellner, doctoral student in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and first author of the study.

"There are still many unanswered questions about tornado climatology, but what we're finding is that there may be a relationship between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere that contributes to where tornadoes tend to touch down," Kellner said.

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