March literally roared in like a lion, bringing the number of tornadoes so far this year to around 210. That's three times the average number of tornadoes for this time period.
According to records kept by severe weather expert Dr. Greg Forbes, the average would be 72 tornadoes. When it comes to these severe weather events, Forbes says you can't predict the future based on past events because there are many ingredients that come together to create severe outbreaks. Still the rising numbers 2012 really grab your attention.
"January was one of the most active we've had, February was above average because of the tornadoes at the end of the month, and March started off with a bang, " said Forbes.
Tornadoes can occur at any time of year, however the months with the greatest number of tornadoes overall are normally April, May and June. The peak month for tornadoes is May with an average of more than 300 tornadoes. While we're not seeing that high number yet this month or even so far this year, why are we seeing the increased number of tornadoes so early in the year?
Forbes says there are a number of ingredients coming into play.
"La Nina in the January to April time frame tends to often make it more active but not always. Combine that with the fact that we've had very few major Arctic outbreaks where bitter cold air has come out of Canada and blasted all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. Without this Arctic air, conditions over most of the country were well above average this winter. When temperatures are warm it's easier to get tornadoes and this trend may continue," Forbes adds.
Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and along the southeast coast of the Atlantic are above average for this time of year, creating more moisture which helps produce fuel for thunderstorms. Forbes says a major change to the upper air pattern can overwhelm these factors.
March may be due for a record-breaking month of tornadoes based on the odds. The existing March record was set back in 1976 with 180 tornadoes. When you look the chart below, all the other months' records were set in the last decade or two.
With so many tornadoes adding up in the beginning of the month and many days left in March, it's very possible that this month's old record could be shattered in 2012.
"It wouldn't surprise me if the March record fell. It's been so long, the record is so low, and we're in a warm pattern with strong jet stream winds. If you wanted to make a wild guess, March 2012 might break the old record," Forbes said. "The record is 180 and we already have over 80 tornadoes."
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