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Global warming to blame for Hobsonville twister?

Published: 8:57PM Friday December 07, 2012 Source: ONE News

Scientists are warning that weather events like the devastating tornado that struck Auckland yesterday may be a symptom of global warming.

Three people were killed and several others admitted to hospital by the storm that has immobilised Hobsonville over the past two days.

Last May, a similar tornado in the nearby suburb of Albany killed one man.

Weather-related tragedies like these seem to have become more common around the world in recent years with Typhoon Bopha hitting the Philippines this week and Superstorm Sandy smashing the US eastern seaboard last month - so the impact of a warming climate on New Zealand has become a topical issue.

And while experts are still inclined to believe they are freak occurrences, the evidence is stacking up.

"These events strike at random from time to time, but they are very localised and sporadic, and are not tied to trends in the large-scale climate," suggests Professor James Renwick of Wellington's Victoria University.

But Professor Jim Salinger of Stanford University isn't so sure.

"The future of tornados is unclear, but indications are they could be a bit stronger," Salinger said.

"The bottom line is that with a warmer atmosphere, there is more water vapour in the atmosphere, so as it condenses into cloud droplets, more energy will be released, providing more energy for storms.

"At the same time, any precipitation is heavier. This has been seen in recent US tornado seasons."