National tornado count running well above average in 2020

Mostly thanks to an active January and February, the nationwide year-to-date tornado and tornado death count is running well above average so far this year, based on preliminary data from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).

According to the (SPC) preliminary count, 180 tornadoes have touched down across the United States. That’s based on data through Friday, March 20th.

Typically through March 20th, only 116 tornadoes have touched down across the country. That means that, based on the preliminary SPC data, the national tornado count is running about 155 percent above average through mid-March.

As is typically the case with winter and early spring tornadoes, the majority of the preliminary tornado reports have come from the southern and southeastern parts of the U.S. Mississippi and Tennessee have each reported more than 20 tornadoes so far in 2020.

That high year-to-date tornado total is mostly thanks to an exceptionally active January, which produced a preliminary count of 90 tornadoes. That was almost triple the amount of tornadoes nationwide in the month of January, which is typically around 35, according to the SPC.

February also featured an above-average tornado month, with 51 preliminary tornado reports that month alone. Typically, February only features about 29 tornadoes nationally.

Unfortunately, the national tornado-related fatality count is also running considerably above average so far in 2020. So far this year, 33 Americans have lost their lives due to a tornado, according to the SPC. Most of those deaths took place during the devastating overnight middle Tennessee tornadoes earlier this March. In an average full calendar year, approximately 70 Americans die in a tornado. Since we’re not even a quarter of the way through the current year, that means 2020 is unfortunately running well above average on the tornado fatality count so far this year as well.

That year-to-date discrepancy – both in terms of tornadoes and tornado deaths – can largely be tied to an especially active subtropical jet stream. That has provided repeated rounds of higher-than-average mid- and upper-level energy, fueling consistent and robust rounds of severe weather. That also contributed to the widespread flooding across the southeastern U.S. earlier this year.

While direct ties between an active late winter and early spring and what may be in store for the peak severe weather months is unclear, the Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) 90-day outlook product puts much of the central and eastern United States as having greater-than-average chances of experiencing warmer and wetter conditions than usual. In short, that could be at least a slight indicator that the wet and mild start to 2020 could continue into the spring.

The peak months for tornado activity in the U.S. are April, May and June – meaning the peak of tornado season is just around the corner. Make sure that you’re prepared for tornado season with these important tips.

Stay with WeatherNation for the latest through the rest of severe weather season.