BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT-TV). There’s never a “good” time to talk about tornadoes. However, on-going research may shed some light on a potential tendency of these deadly twisters. Researchers at the University of Arkansas used Google maps to track tornado paths relative to elevation. Even though they only studied a small sample, the Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes of 2011, they have made some interesting conclusions. They theorize that tornadoes may tend to create more damage going uphill compared to downhill. If an area is surrounded by hills, tornadoes may “jump” over them.
I was curious about this and looked at a map of recent tornadoes in and around Birmingham, which as you know, is surrounded by hills. Interestingly enough, the paths of notable outbreaks, like 1989, 1998 and 2011 all take the same path along the spline of Shades and Red mountains. But there haven’t been any directly in the downtown part of the city of Birmingham. A few can be traced near Oak mountain as well.
This is preliminary work was done by engineers who are looking at ways to better plan for construction. In fact, this research runs contradictory to earlier opinions that hills divert approaching storms. Of course, it is preliminary, but interesting nonetheless.
You can read more about it the research and the findings here.