Parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska have long been such rich tornado-magnets that the area was less-than-charmingly dubbed "Tornado Alley." But as NBC News reports, Tornado Alley looks to be picking itself up and moving south, with researchers noting a pattern in recent years of fewer twisters touching down in the Midwest, while the number that dropped in on the Southeast went up. The main problem with that, as noted by Northern Illinois University professor of earth, atmosphere, and environment Victor Gensini: "The No. 1 thing is that we have greater population density in the Mid-South," he says. Ergo, "there are basically more targets to hit on the dartboard."
This year is already off to an above-average start with several devastating storm systems plowing through the South, possibly due in part to the effects of La Niña and global warming. CNN notes that Alabama and Georgia typically notch a pair of tornadoes apiece in January; this month so far, they're up to 64 reports. "More tornadoes occurring outside of traditional Tornado Alley,’ clustering further east into more populated cities is another symptom of a warming climate that scientists have noted," says CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. "Tornado outbreaks in winter are expected to become more frequent as temperatures warm, and this winter has so far seen several." (More tornadoes stories.)