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Tornadoes In Unusual Spots: A Look At Today’s Threat In Montana & Canada

28 May 2014, 10:48 am

A common misconception is that tornadoes can’t or don’t occur in Canada.  With today’s severe weather threat, it’s encroaching on northern/northeastern Montana (which only averages 10 tornadoes per year) and also lower sections of Canada.


Today's tornado threat (as of 10:30am CT)
Today’s tornado threat (as of 10:30am CT)


Digging a little bit deeper, it’s easy to find that tornadoes actually occur everywhere!

Here’s a snippet from NOAA’s NCDC (National Climatic Data Center):


“Because a tornado is part of a severe convective storm, and these storms occur all over the Earth, tornadoes are not limited to any specific geographic location. In fact, tornadoes have been documented in every state of the United States, and on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica (even there, a tornado occurrence is not impossible). In fact, wherever the atmospheric conditions are exactly right, the occurrence of a tornadic storm is possible.”


So now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s take a look at what’s happening in Montana and lower Saskatchewan.

I took the tornado threat you see in the image above, and input it into our weather computers… with winds at the surface and a mile or so up in the atmosphere shown:





The orange arrows you can see are surface winds, and the white ones are winds high in the atmosphere.  Notice how from near Wolf Point and northward you have a big gap?  Also look into southern Saskatchewan – you can see similar wind set-ups there as well, all the way up to Moose Jaw.

Here is an image of the vertical temperatures & winds with height.  I’ll point out the important portions… but this is from southern Saskatchewan!


Thanks to for this image.
Thanks to for this image.


Wind-wise, the area you should look at is the arrows on the bottom right of that image.  That is where you’re seeing SE surface winds, and an abrupt switch about a mile up to be more southerly/southwesterly.  That is a very “Plains-esque” wind profile.  Seeing that, and knowing there are likely to be strong storms around the area, gives you a pretty good idea that a tornado or two in southern Canada today wouldn’t be a big surprise at all!

Stay tuned today, and keep an eye on Canada!

WeatherNation Meteorologist Aaron Shaffer @ashafferWNTV

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