Welcome to the extreme tornado season of 2012—a tornado season on steriods.
Have you seen the storm that tossed 18-wheelers around in Dallas? How about the eight (8!) tornadoes that roamed Michigan on March 15? Did you hear about the one that hit Hawaii and dropped a hailstone the size of a grapefruit?
Spring started early this year and so did the tornado season.
The nation’s first cyclone swirled around the Texas Big Bend country on January 9. By March 23, the tornado season was officially the busiest on record.
Scientists are pointing to the extremely warm weather we have had this year. The winter did not freeze the ground and the combination of warmer ground and warmer weather has a tendency to create the type of low-lying thunderstorms that are favorable for tornado development.
In late March, the tornado season of 2012 was the busiest on record! SOURCE: NOAA
Other scientists are blaming this year’s La Niña for the busy season. Scientists have found some correlations between that cold pool of water in the Pacific and busier tornado seasons. The Pacific weather patterns shift global storm tracks and there is a tendency for tornado outbreaks to form further north and further east than normal. We have certainly seen this pattern this year—just ask Michigan!
With the fading of the La Niña, expect the storms to return to their normal haunt, Tornado Alley. This is the region in the Great Plains where cool air from Canada usually crashes into the wet air from the Gulf and thunderstorms blossom. We are already seeing this in the Southern Plains, with rain and storms returning to drought-stricken Texas.
So stay smart. Enjoy the blessed rains and stay away from those not-so-blessed tornadoes.
And if you see an interesting or crazy storm—share it here.
Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, is a longtime writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac. She is also editor of The Browning World Climate Bulletin and has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.