A Tornado Season on Steroids

October 13, 2016
A Tornado Season on Steriods

The warm spring has created perfect conditions for tornado development.


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.

Click here for a large view of tornado trends.

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.

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.