Tornado Season 2012: A Repeat of 2011?

There have been 416 tornadoes across the United States in 2012, according to Storm Prediction Center (SPC) figures through April 11.

This total is far ahead of last year’s tornado count year-to-date, which was only 92, and it’s about 100 tornadoes ahead of the 2005-2011 average.

However, the 2011 count surged to over 1,000 tornadoes by the end of April due to the once-in-a lifetime Mega-Outbreak late in the month (discussion continues below chart):

The odds of the 2011 tornado extreme repeating this year are very low because:

1) The upper air pattern has changed: La Nina has fizzled

2) The probability of two such extreme weather events happening in back-to-back years is statistically remote given the pattern change

3) ALSO, and this is important, last year’s tornadoes were a prime example of bad luck. Had those same storms remained in sparsely populated areas it would have still made the news, but not to the level we saw in April and May 2011. I speak of the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham and Joplin outbreaks.

There's no way to know whether sizable twisters like we saw in Tushka last year and in Lone Grove in 2009 will show up over Texoma skies in 2012. However, the national tornado total for 2012 is almost sure to be lower than 2011's.

Take Care,

Steve LaNore

Chief Meteorologist


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