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Fewer Tornadoes This Year, Scientist Predicts

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JOPLIN, MO - MAY 23:  Jim Martin videotapes the damage as he and his wife attempt to salvage medication from her brother's home before a second storm moves in, on May 23, 2011 in Joplin, Missouri. "Twenty minutes before the storm, he left to go to church.  He would have been in that basement if he hadn't gone," Janet Martin said. A powerful tornado ripped through the densely populated town of Joplin yesterday killing at least 89 people. (Photo by Julie Denesha/Getty Images)

JOPLIN, MO – MAY 23: Jim Martin videotapes the damage as he and his wife attempt to salvage medication from her brother’s home before a second storm moves in, on May 23, 2011 in Joplin, Missouri. “Twenty minutes before the storm, he left to go to church. He would have been in that basement if he hadn’t gone,” Janet Martin said. A powerful tornado ripped through the densely populated town of Joplin yesterday killing at least 89 people. (Photo by Julie Denesha/Getty Images)

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ST. LOUIS(KMOX) – After a year in which over 500 people died nationwide from “killer tornados” — including 158 in Joplin, Missouri — this year’s tornado season is expected to be much milder.

“The odds of having one this year anything like last year are pretty slim,” said Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist with the National Center of Atmospheric Research, “especially the way this winter has gone so far.”

This year’s storm track is a lot farther north than last year, Trenberth explains. When it’s too far north, he says, it loses its connection with the Gulf of Mexico and warm, moist air.

Last year, La Nina was in an optimal position to allow the storms tracking across the U.S. in the spring to hook up with the moisture coming out of the tropical Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico ahead of warm fronts, Trenberth said.

Recent data from the National Weather Service shows just how deadly last year was:

**In 2011 there were 551 deaths, including 158 in Missouri, in 59 killer tornados.

**In 2010, there were 45 deaths, including one in Missouri, in 21 killer tornados.

**In 2009, there were 21 deaths, including three in Missouri in nine killer tornados.

**In 2008, there were 126 deaths, including 19 in Missouri, in 37 killer tornados.

Is Global Warming to Blame for Last Year’s Deadly Tornado Season?

Trenberth thinks warmer temperatures may have contributed a “five-to-ten percent” boost to last year’s killer tornado output.

“It changes the odds and it does sort of relate to having loaded dice,” Trenberth said, “It’s got a little bit of extra oomph because of the warmth and the moisture that’s in the air, that adds to the instability of the air.”

Copyright KMOX Radio

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