Severe Weather Preview For Oklahoma

Thursday, February 12th 2015, 9:17 pm
By: News 9, David Payne

The U.S. has been in a drought. But in this case it's a good thing. News 9's David Payne is talking about a tornado drought.

For the past three years, the U.S. has experienced fewer tornadoes since accurate records began in the early 1950s. On average, about 1,260 tornadoes hit the U.S. every year. 

But for the last three years, we have been well below that number. In 2012, the U.S. experienced 938 tornadoes. In 2013 the tornado count dropped to 907 tornadoes. In 2014, we had one of the quietest years on record for the U.S. with only 881 tornadoes.

So what's behind this decline of tornadoes the past three years? 

It's hard to tie it to one thing or another but here's what we know. In 2012, the heat dome built in early and strong, shutting down the tornado season early. In 2013 and 2014, it was just the opposite for the U.S. A majority of the tornado prone areas remained cool well into the tornado season giving us even lower tornado numbers.

Looking at tornadoes in Oklahoma the past three years we notice a few things. On average we see about 55 tornadoes a year.

In 2012, 63 tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma. In 2013, we had 82 tornadoes and arguably it was our most violent spring ever. 2014 almost didn't happen, with only 16 tornadoes in the entire state, making last year the lowest number of tornadoes ever reported. 

Last year's lack of tornadoes can be attributed to a couple of things. Our drought made a big comeback along with a cool spring.

Now let's look at this spring. We are currently in a weak El Nino like pattern. This is when warmer than normal water pools over the central Pacific Ocean. This in turn keeps the southern jet stream and storm track across the southern states. But at the same time, the northern jet stream is diving down into the U.S. bringing in colder air. 

Today, it looks as though this pattern will try to hold from now through March, April and possibly May. This is a pattern we've seen in years past. It's similar to what we saw in the mid-50s, mid 60s, mid 70s, early 2000s and as recent as 2012 and 2013. 

Weather patterns like to repeat. And for most of those years when we saw below normal tornado reports, like last spring, the following spring tornado numbers increased to near normal and some years above normal.

We will know more as we look at new data leading into storm season, but a cooler spring might lead to a later tornado season here in Oklahoma that would then ramp up into May. 

Whether we have a slow or active tornado season, one thing's for sure, the News 9 weather team will be there. With our two choppers, the largest team of meteorologists and largest team of storm trackers in the country, we are committed to keep you and your family safe.