If it’s felt like 2017 has been a particularly busy start for tornadoes in the United States, you’d be right.
According to the Storm Prediction Center’s (SPC) official tornado tally, 510 tornadoes have touched down so far in 2017, making it the fastest start to a tornado season since 2008. Through Saturday, those 510 tornadoes included the 78 so far this April, an unusually active start even for a typically busy tornado month.
Perhaps the striking component of this year’s active tornado start lies within the numbers. Breaking it down month-by-month, it’s the consistency so far this season that’s stood out, with over 100 preliminary tornadoes confirmed to have touched down each month so far in 2017, with April well on track to surpass that number as well. January and February both typically see less than 50 tornadoes per month nationwide, while March’s average number is usually below 100.
While, as always, it’s hard to pin down the exact causes for a busy three-plus month pattern, but two general trends may be leading to the increase in severe weather so far in 2017. The first is unusually warm Gulf of Mexico sea-surface temperatures, adding an extra bit of heat and humidity (and therefore energy) for thunderstorm formation, particularly in the typically quieter winter months. The second is the positioning of the jet stream, which has repeatedly dipped south into the Gulf Coast states. The jet stream’s roaring winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere, particularly in the winter months, often help fuel severe weather, and that’s been a big part of the general pattern leading to the unusually stormy weather.
Keep in mind these are generalities and don’t necessarily account for the driving factors behind each severe weather episode.
For those that may be a bit storm-weary already so far this year, there’s a bit of good news: this week appears to be calmer in terms of severe weather after a very busy pattern over the last few weeks.
Stay with WeatherNation as we move into the peak tornado months and the heart of severe weather season.
For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Chris Bianchi
(Featured Image: File Photo)