Will This Be a Bad Severe Weather Season?

Will it be a “busy” storm season? It’s all relative! If there’s only one single tornado this year, that’d be a dud, right? Unless it hits your house or town, then 2020 is a “bad” year…for you. Mark Bogner looks at the climate hints that point to what this spring may look like.

With the turn of the calendars to March, a young man’s (and woman’s) fantasy turns to severe weather. Every year, I get asked the question in the title of this blog, “Will this be a bad severe weather season?”

I always found this to be an interesting question and one that is hard to answer because “bad” means so many different things to different people. Are you talking about the number of tornadoes? The number of hailstorms? The intensity of the tornadoes?

To put it another way, lets say there is but one single tornado in the entire year of 2020 within 400 miles. A slow year, no? Well, lets say that one tornado is a mile wide and goes right over your house. All of a sudden, it has become a very “bad” year even though statistically it is a dud.

The other thing that makes this question especially hard to answer is that there are SO many factors and variables that go into severe weather that we may have a great number of setups that just never produce or we may have an abundance of weak to moderate setups, but a vast majority of them produce.

With all of those qualifiers, the spring looks to this meteorologist like a fairly climatologically normal season overall. The Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) forecast officially calls for a normal temperatures with above normal precipitation in Kansas with above normal temperatures and normal precipitation in Oklahoma. (Source: https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/seasonal.php?lead=1 )

Not that the CPC has a lock on long-term forecasting, but they tend to have more tools at their disposal than other meteorologists, including yours truly, so they influence my thought more than other seasonal outlooks generally do.

So, what does a normal season look like?

For Kansas, in the period 1950-2019, the state averaged 62 tornadoes per year. Looking at only the last 30 years, we have averaged 89 per year. In the last 10 years, we have averaged 94 per year. (Source) Given those numbers, I would expect to see somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 tornadoes in Kansas between now and the end of October with most of those occurring in May.

For Oklahoma, in the period 1950-2019, the state averaged 56 tornadoes. The most recorded in a year was 149 just last year (2019). The least was 16 just five years earlier, in 2014. (Source) Given these numbers, I would expect to see somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 tornadoes in Oklahoma between now and the end of October with most of those also occurring in May.

It may surprise a lot of people (it did me!) that Kansas actually averages more tornadoes per year than Oklahoma over the long term.

So, are you and your family prepared for 180 tornadoes within 500 miles of your home over the next 7 months? Are you prepared should at least one of those be zero miles from your home?

No matter what the season brings, we will do the best job we can giving you and your family the heads-up to know when those days are coming that you should pay closer attention to. We are proud to bring you this service.

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