Are more severe thunderstorms, tornadoes on the horizon for the Philly region?

John McDevitt
August 09, 2019 - 5:48 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — If you think we've had more severe thunderstorm warnings and tornadoes this year than last year, you would be right. 

Just ask Dover Cub Scout Michael Ratliff, who learned a thing or two about tornadoes at the Franklin Institute's "Changing Earth" exhibit, which highlights the science behind extreme weather.

He has a theory as to why there have been so many tornadoes in our region lately: "It could be global warming because when there's warm air down near land, the cold air will sink and the warm air will rise. They'll spin forming a tornado."

Some experts say he's not too far off.

"We quite know what the linkage between climate change and tornadoes is or will be," added Rachel Valletta, an environmental scientist at the museum. "There is a small body of literature, as I understand it, that seems to show indications between tornado frequencies and La Niña conditions."

According to the National Weather Service, there have been 33 tornadoes in Pennsylvania this year. Sixteen is the average for an entire year.  

In New Jersey, the average is two for the whole year. So far, the Garden State has had six.

Thunderstorm totals in Pa. and N.J., 2018 vs 2019 (so far)
National Weather Service

National Weather Service

Tornadoes form inside the swirling clouds of a supercell thunderstorm. And there have been a lot more thunderstorms in our region, too.

NWS added that Philadelphia had 21 severe thunderstorm warnings issued so far this year, compared to seven last year. Atlantic City issued 17 so far, but there was only one in 2018.