The December 2021 Tornado Outbreak, Explained


The tornadoes that ripped across the central and southern U.S. late in the evening of December 10, 2021, were notable in many ways.

The thunderstorms and tornadoes they produced traveled far — sometimes far more than 100 miles — and the impacts were widespread. NOAA's National Weather Service has confirmed 61 tornadoes as of December 18. The very fact that tornadoes of this intensity struck in late autumn, rather than in the spring and summer when thunderstorms and tornadoes are more likely, is remarkable.

Eight states — Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Georgia, Ohio and Indiana — reported tornadoes that killed more than 80 people and brought devastating damage to communities.

As we gather more data about this event, NOAA scientists have answered key questions about the potential influence of climate change on tornadoes:

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Image via NOAA