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What’s with the Weather in Pa?

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By: burgundy bug

Crying cloud doodle

Source: It Pours | Penelope Peru Photography p3

We’re only half way through the year and Pa residents have already found themselves subject to 31 tornados, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

Considering that our state averages 16 tornados annually, it’s time to hunker down and buckle up for how the climate is changing right before our very eyes.

What is Severe Weather?

Severe weather is a blanket time for a variety of catastrophic meteorological events, including tornados, thunderstorms, and flooding, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports.

What is a Tornado?

A violently rotating column of air, usually pendant to a cumulonimbus, with circulation reaching the ground. It nearly always starts as a funnel cloud and may be accompanied by a loud roaring noise.

On a local scale, it is the most destructive of all atmospheric phenomena. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

When weather that may indicate a tornado could formulate, a tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service. The tornado watch is generally effective for four to eight hours, with regular updates to allow those within the area to take proper precautions.

In the event that a tornado has been sighted, a tornado warning is issued by a local National Weather Service office. The duration of a warning is generally about 30 minutes. Anyone within the area affected should seek shelter immediately.

What Causes a Tornado?

Tornados start in thunderclouds and form when there is a change in wind speeds and direction that cause a horizontal spinning effect, according to National Geographic.

Why Pa is Being Slammed by Storms

It’s no secret that summer tends to be a rainier time for Pa, with July being the peak of our storm season, as presented in the charts from US Climate Data.

However, tornados are almost unheard of – especially in the Philadelphia area. Locals are generally unencumbered by the idea of wind funnels violently ripping through their backyard, because if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.

As easy as it is to blame climate change, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions claims it’s hard to say whether or not there is a direct connection between tornados and higher temperatures.

While there are studies that indicate warmer weather would create more favorable conditions for tornados, they say there is a possibility it would lessen wind shear.

The difficulty comes in the inconsistency and the lack of historical tornado data, as our records only date back to the 1950s.

So let’s break it down with a closer look at the National Centers for Environmental Information’s Pa summary.

  • Since the 20th century, temperatures have risen by about 2°F.
  • Pa has seen an increase in heavy rain and detrimental flooding.
  • Thunderstorms are common during the summer months, and the most severe may evolve into life-threatening tornados.
  • Large rises in temperature are possible if greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase.
  • The increase in temperature is particularly concerning for areas along the coast of the Delaware Estuary, as a rise in temperature is a precursor for a rise in sea levels.

Tornados all start with thunderstorms, which all start with warm, humid, unstable atmospheric conditions, according to NASA.

Although our winters are humid, too, nothing compares to the thick, warm air that plagues Pa throughout the summer months, as described by World Atlas.

“A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture—about 7 percent more per 1.8°F (1°C) of warming,” Climate Signals writes on their website. “Scientists have already observed a significant increase in atmospheric moisture due to the air’s ability to hold more moisture as it warms.”

Climate Signals goes on to add the increase in moisture has lead to more storms with heavy rain and snow. Furthermore, human-caused greenhouse gasses are the primary source of this additional moisture.

Indigenously humid, more moisture in the air could very well spell out more thunderstorms, and thus more tornados, for Pa.

So… Are We Screwed?


As we discussed in our article, “What’s the Deal with Climate Change?” many of the effects are irreversible.

Even if carbon dioxide emission were to completely cease, the environment would not fully recover for well over 1,000 years.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS)

That doesn’t mean we should give up hope. As Mel so eloquently highlighted in her article “Step Up on Climate Change,” the global effort to stop the hole in our ozone layer by banning the use of chlorofluorocarbons worked. 30 years after 197 nations signed the treaty, the United Nations reports indicate the ozone is healing.

In the meantime, stay dry and stay safe. Ready Pa has outlined what to do in the event of a thunderstorm, as well as how to handle tornados and tropical storms.

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burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

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