Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Record low tornadoes

As 2012 comes to a close, this will likely go down as a year with some of the fewest tornadoes on record. This can closely be tied to the drought that has been ongoing for a few years in Kansas and a stubborn high pressure system that was difficult to move for most of the summer.

It can be hard to pin down an exact number of tornadoes, but as a rough estimate, there have been just over 800 tornadoes through the end of September. Official tornado numbers for October, November, and December have not been released yet, but even when those numbers come out, we will likely still have a low number of tornadoes. Last year, there were 1700 tornadoes and a significant death toll too, just over 500 fatalities around the nation. The Joplin tornado alone had a significant loss of life, with over 150 people killed by the EF-5 tornado.

In Kansas, we average about 60-70 tornadoes a year, and across the nation, the average is closer to 1200. One important contribution to thunderstorms and thus tornadoes, is moisture. In a year that has had very little subsoil moisture and little rainfall, it is not a huge surprise the number is down significantly.

Mobile tornado
Mobile, AL tornado from Christmas Day
The outbreak of severe weather on Christmas Day in the southeast US will go down in history as the largest on record. It's not unheard of to have tornadoes in December, but because the air over much of the US is colder, they are not as frequent as in the spring and summer months.

Blog History