Tornado Count Down.... (9-26-12)

<B>(5:30 pm Wednesday September 26th)</B> After a record breaking year in 2011, the number of tornadoes this year is way down. However, this doesn't necessarily mean less severe weather in 2012.
With the weather quieting down I was checking a web site from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC), the arm of the National Weather Service (NWS) that focuses on severe weather.  Not only do they monitor the country for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes on a day to day basis but they keep track of all kinds of severe weather stats.  Being a numbers guy, I love this site and you might too.  They usually post some pretty neat graphs and charts.  Here is the link.

A couple of graphs caught my attention this morning.  The first was the trend in tornadoes this year:

Other than a couple highly publicized outbreaks in March and April, the tornado count really leveled off at the end of the Spring and Summer. This in stark contrast to last year.  I don’t have specific numbers through the end of September 2011 but I do know the yearly count came in at over 1600 and certainly it looks like we will come in well below that this year. The good news is along with this drop in tornadoes there is also a big drop in tornado deaths.  We are at ‘only’ 68 deaths this year compared to 553 for all of last year.

In spite of those tornado numbers, you can’t draw the same conclusion when it comes to severe weather like wind damage and hail.  Here is a graph showing the wind damage reports for the year so far:

My theory is that while conditions were not favorable for thunderstorms causing tornadoes, thunderstorms with other severe weather were seasonably common.  Typically you will find a zone of thunderstorms on the northern edge of heat waves.  In meteorology we call it the ‘ring of fire’  While the atmosphere right in the center of any heat wave is unfavorable for thunderstorm growth, the farther north you go the heat and humidity eventually come in contact with cooler air and stronger winds aloft, an area more favorable for stronger thunderstorms. So in reality there really may not be a disconnect between the below normal tornado reports and above normal wind damage reports.  What would be neat is if SPC produced a composite map showing the location of all wind damage reports for the year.  I’ll bet there is a cluster of reports just north of where the hottest air was this summer.

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