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During the night of December 10, a devastating outbreak of tornados wreaked deadly havoc in parts of the southeastern United States. Mayfield, KY was the epicenter of some of the worst destruction.
In the aftermath, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell warned on CNN’s “State of the Union” broadcast, “This is going to be our new normal.” She added, “The effects we are seeing of climate change are the crisis of our generation.”
A paper published in February 2021 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society revealed a connection between climate change and winter tornadoes in the southeastern United States. That paper explained:
Using hourly data we demonstrate that long-term decreases in instability and stronger convective inhibition cause a decline in the frequency of thunderstorm environments over the southern United States, particularly during summer. Conversely, increasingly favorable conditions for tornadoes are observed during winter across the Southeast.
Following what may be the nation’s latest climate disaster of 2021, relief and recovery are the immediate priorities. Afterward, adaptation and mitigation—moving toward a sustained phase-out of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions—need to be medium- and longer-term priorities.