More Hints that 2013 Season will be Normal, but Late

Researchers have yet to confirm a link between El Nino/La Nina and an active tornado season in the Alley. This year is neutral, a year between the two Pacific water temperature regimes. It turns out many of the biggest tornadoes in Kansas history occurred in neutral years. Most recently: Greensburg.

An article in today’s Wichita Eagle posits a fairly normal season in terms of tornado strength. I see a number of signs that it will be later than normal.

“It looks like a normal Kansas spring for us,” Suzanne Fortin, meteorologist in charge of the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service, told a gathering of fire chiefs and emergency managers last week.

Weather official: Expect active tornado season ahead | Wichita Eagle.

….”several of the strongest tornadoes to hit Kansas in the past quarter-century
occurred during “neutral” phases.


While this article goes on to list Greensburg, Andover, Hoisington and Hesston as tornadoes that occurred in neutral years, I don’t think our season will see the same timing this year as any of those years. If I had to put a comparison to timing of the general activity, I’d compare this year to 2008 more than to, for example, 2007.

My chase dates in Kansas in ’08 didn’t start until May. As I said when the three-month outlook came out several days ago, I feel this does have the potential to be fairly active season, but that the peak will be a few weeks later than usual.

I’ll also freely admit, this is more a matter of gut feeling on my part than it is of spending any significant time looking at patterns or forecasts. Last year, in what was definitely a down year for plains tornadoes especially, we had the second-most prolific tornado day recorded in Kansas — April 14th. What one day beat it? May 23, 2008, when 70 tornadoes raked the state. With the rain it looks like we’ll get in the next week:

Significant moisture forecast from southern Kansas to the Gulf.
Significant moisture forecast from southern Kansas to the Gulf. Think of it as priming the pump.

AND: The mid-term forecast (8 days+) has above-normal rain falling in almost exactly the right place starting about April 7th.

Look how much of Tornado Alley may get above-normal rainfall!
Look how much of Tornado Alley may get above-normal rainfall!

To use Wichita as an example: the first map projects rainfall of about 1 1/2 inches in the next week, and a better than 50% chance that we’ll receive above normal (4/10 inch) moisture the week after that. That’d be 2″ at least in the first two weeks of April, and our average rainfall for the whole month is less than 3″. In fact, Mike Smith says, “I would not be surprised if isolated spots in the central and/or southern Plains received as much as five inches of rain.”

Not only would it bust the drought in a goodly portion of Kansas and Oklahoma, but that moisture will be a couple of weeks (maybe longer) evaporating … providing high humidity for a good part of the last half of April. Priming the moisture pump, so to speak. It’ll be interesting to see if things work out as the long-range stuff shows….and whether, as we look back at the 2013 season, we’ll credit the moisture charge in the first half of April with providing the boost that keeps the year from repeating the low tornado count of 2012.

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