IIf I asked you right now whether it has been an active tornado and wildfire season odds are you would likely say ‘yes’ and odds are also good you wouldn’t even have to think about. What if I told you that you were wrong. It all comes down to a matter of perception thanks to blanket coverage on TV.
In the case of tornadoes, there was a week long period at the end of May where tornadoes in Oklahoma made headlines. The Moore and El Reno tornadoes, which were both EF-5 tornadoes, caused massive destruction along with loss of life. For those few days it was hard to turn on a newscast without seeing either storm chaser video of the storms themselves or video of the tragic aftermath. Watch enough coverage and you start thinking it is an active, even extreme tornado season.
However, for as bad and tragic as those individual storms were, the actual number of tornadoes is down this year and we are on pace to be one of the least active years in history: Here is a graph that shows roughly the last 10 years plus the average over that time.
Keep in mind, the 2013 total is just preliminary and could change but at least through Thursday’s date, not nearly enough to bring it up to normal.
In late June we all heard about the Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona that took the lives of 19 firefighters. Many stories around that time mentioned the ongoing drought out west and how that would lead to an active fire season. In spite of these favorable conditions, however, the number of fires and acreage burned so far this season out West is far from extreme. The following data comes from the National Interagency Fire Center web and includes data through August 1st
10 year average
Just watching the national coverage myself I would have guessed it was an active year but the numbers don’t back that up. The numbers are well below the long term averages but the coverage of the high profile fires (like the one in Yarnell Hills and another one near Palm Springs California) have skewed our perception as to what the season has been like.
So just remember to keep things in perspective. Your perception based on what you see reported may be far from reality.