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Fewer tornadoes and more hurricanes so far in 2012

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Storm Warning sign under a stormy sky

As you probably know already, 2011 was a devastating year for tornadoes in the U.S. Over 1,000 tornadoes ripped across the country in April and May last year. The April 25th-28th outbreak down south was one of the worst outbreaks ever in terms of the number of tornadoes, injuries, and fatalities. Less than one month later an EF-5 tornado leveled parts of Joplin, MO.

Fast forward to 2012 and the biggest tornado news has generally been “How is everyone doing one year later” as opposed to headlines from any new tragedies. While the preliminary numbers for April were above average (around 230) the number of confirmed tornadoes so far puts that number closer to 150, which is right around normal. By comparison April 2011 had over 700 tornadoes. Since the start of May things have been very quiet, especially around here. For the entire country, NOAA’s preliminary number for May tornadoes stands at 139 while June 1st -22nd is 96. I keep using the word “preliminary” since it can take weeks or longer to confirm all the tornado reports. In most cases the number goes down since duplicate reports from the same tornado are filtered out. On average The U.S. sees around 510-520 tornadoes during peak season in May and June. But even the inflated preliminary total for this year of 235 is less than half.

Average number of U.S. tornadoes by month

In Wisconsin we’re near the typical peak of our tornado season and so far a solo EF-0 near Rib Mountain is the only twister on record. On average, the state is hit with 24 each year.

When we go from dry land to the warm ocean it’s a different story. Earlier today (June 23rd) a low pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico became Tropical Storm Debby. No we didn’t skip to the “D” names. We’ve already had Alberto, Beryl, and Chris spin up and dissipate. The Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1st but really doesn’t get going until August. In fact the first month of hurricane season averages about one named storm (Tropical storm or hurricane) every OTHER year. So far the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast have been spared. Only Beryl made landfall with minor damage in northern Florida. Debby’s future will play out this week or next.

NOAA’s preseason prediction for the Atlantic hurricane season called for close to normal numbers with 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes, and 1-3 major hurricanes. With 4 named storms and 1 hurricane (Chris) already on record, we may need another peak season slump for those numbers to stay on track.