During last month’s historic winter storms, you may have heard the reference to a cold outbreak back in 2011 that set record cold temperatures and brought snow and ice to the Lone Star State. Ironically 2021 is shaping up to be very similar to 2011 in that both years involved a moderate La Niña and both have had historic winter storms. If this trend continues, we could be in for a historic tornado season.
The spring of 2011 was the costliest tornado season on record. The month of April alone saw 875 confirmed tornadoes. Two major tornado events brought catastrophic damage to the cities of Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama (an EF-5 and EF-4 respectively). The super outbreak on April 27th had 226 tornadoes, setting the all time record number of tornadoes for a single day.
Keep in mind, every year has the potential for severe weather outbreaks that can lead to large tornado outbreaks. But the sheer volume of tornadoes, strong tornadoes (EF3+), and tornadoes that hit large cities in the spring of 2011 after a La Niña winter is worth noting.
So, how is 2021 shaping up as far as severe weather forecasts go?
Sam Lillo, an atmospheric researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder tells CNN in an interview that, “in general, the forecasts are showing ridging with above-normal temperatures in the South, cooler to the north, and that temperature gradient enhancing the jet stream across the center of the US”.
Lillo happens to run the same model that predicted the historic winter storms in February a month in advance.
Large temperature differences between hot, humid air in the south and cooler, drier air to the north can create a setup that enhances the jet stream to favor severe weather outbreaks with faster upper level winds.
So far, severe weather reports have been down compared to seasonal averages. So far this year, only 27 tornadoes have been confirmed. Hail and damaging wind reports have also been lower. But again, in 2011, severe weather reports were down through March, then accelerated heading into April and May.
There is never a time like the present to prepare. Take this time to go over your severe weather action plans, know where to go when severe weather strikes, and have a battery operated NOAA Weather Radios. Prepare for severe weather season now by clinking this link with information on how to stay alert in Central Texas.