What a wild day yesterday! Wind gusts between 55-70 mph, countless wildfires, blowing dust and even snow was reported across Kansas. And if that weren’t enough, you might have heard tornado sirens too. Thankfully, the latter was just a test, but soon we’ll have to contend with severe hail, high winds and tornadoes. One of the more common questions meteorologists get this time of year is: “how active will the weather be this Spring?” It’s impossible to say with 100% certainty but there are several factors that go into such a forecast.
Last week, KSN’s Chief Meteorologist Lisa Teachman outlined her Spring outlook, calling for above normal severe weather from northeast Texas through the Mississippi River valley. Her outlook looked similar to data from a study by Allen, Tippett, and Sobel, 2015 which examined the influence of El Niño/La Niña on springtime hailstorms and tornadoes across the contiguous United States. After you click the link in this paragraph, look for the “Spring Storm Impacts” tab near the top of the page.
In case you’re wondering, the equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean are still cool, thus La Niña conditions persist at this time.
As you can see from Allen et al., 2015 (map below) hail and tornado frequency is slightly higher in Kansas during La Niña spring months as compared to El Niño. As the authors admit, their maps are not a forecast of expected conditions but that “they use historical data to highlight locations where El Niño/La Niña can *potentially* impact spring severe weather.”
Meanwhile, the folks at U.S. Tornadoes have put in their 2 cents worth. They discuss El Niño/La Niña as well but incorporate some other weather factors into their Spring outlook. It’s a great read.
We know from past history that Kansas typically sees most of its tornadoes from April to June, with May being the most active month of the year. Last year, 29 of the 60 tornadoes that touched down in Kansas occurred in May. That said, tornadoes have been recorded in Kansas in every month of the year. As we get into the Spring months, keep up to date with the forecast! Have multiple ways of receiving watch and warning information (Radio, TV, weather radio, apps, etc.) so that you and your family can respond appropriately should severe weather threaten.