2011 noted as year of urban tornadoes

Shift in jet stream, chance, expanding population centers responsible forecasters say

STATE COLLEGE, PA (UPI) | June 5, 2011

Chance, a shift in the jet stream and expanding population centers are the main reasons 2011 is shaping up as a year for urban tornadoes, meteorologists say.

There have been 1,425 reports of tornadoes so far this year, the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center said. With the year far from over, the total is already greater than the average of the last three years of 1,376 annually, forecasters said.

An unusually high number of towns and major cities have been hit this year, including Joplin, Mo., where the official death toll from a May tornado is 138

The movement of the jet stream farther east has not only created a higher number of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes but has also moved the core of storms and farther east than normal, Accuweather.com said.

With a substantially higher number of people per square mile from the Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic Seaboard than over the heart of Tornado Alley, in the High (and middle) Plains, the law of averages suggests tornadoes are bound to start hitting more towns and parts of major cities, meteorologists said.

As the population grows and expands into more rural and suburban areas, the increasing area of developed regions is becoming more of a factor, they said.

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