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STUDY: Change In Landscapes See Tornado Touchdown Rates Elevated

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Researchers at Purdue University have found areas where landscapes change from urban to rural and forest to farmland are more likely to see tornado touchdowns.

The team studied over 60 years worth of Indiana tornado climatology from the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center and the data shows these "transition zones" had a higher rate of severe weather. 

61-percent of touchdowns between 1950 and 2012 occurred within .62 miles of urban areas compared to 43-percent of touchdowns fell within that same distance from forests. 

"The percentages suggest that certain locations may enhance the likelihood of tornado touchdowns. Increased "surface roughness" - an abrupt change in the height of land surface features - can stretch or squash a column of air, increasing the air's rate of spin, which could contribute to the formation of severe storms." Stated one of the authors of the study.

The study also lends some creedence to the notion mobile home parks are "tornado magnets." Because many parks are located just outside cities and in open fields, researcher Dev Niyogi says "That essentially goes to the heart of it." He adds "How do we make settlements or landscape more resilient, and clearly there might be ways that we can make our livelihoods and lives safer."

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