Tornadoes and Their Unpredictability

The month of March is still seven days away but the tornado chasers are already watching the Southeast as a nasty storm is beginning to brew and may spew out funnel clouds this coming Thursday and Friday.  But these would not be the first tornadoes of 2012 because in January, two people in Alabama were killed by two different twisters.  According to a preliminary report, there were ninety-five tornadoes in January compared to sixteen during the same month in 2011 so does this mean that 2012 is going to have an active tornado season.  That remains to be seen.

Normally the tornado season begins in March and speeds up for the next couple of months but being able to forecast these storm season is even more imprecise than predicting the seasons for hurricanes.  The reason is that with tornadoes, they are too short-lived and too small for scientists to be able to make seasonal predictions.  They pop in and pop out unlike hurricanes and blizzards, which develop and are easier to predict.

Tornadoes and Their UnpredictabilityWith tornadoes, the weather service, if they are lucky, can give people twenty minutes notice that a tornado is approaching but usually it is less warning unlike blizzards and hurricanes that spend days moving across the satellite maps giving the weather service plenty of time to warn people.  For example, the tornado in Joplin, Missouri last May that killed one hundred fifty-eight people did not get violent until it almost reached the hospital, which did not give hospital personnel time to evacuate or move everyone to safety.

Although tornadoes are smaller than hurricanes, their winds are usually stronger.  Since 1950 there have been fifty-eight tornadoes with winds that were over two hundred miles per hour in the United States with 2011 having six of those types of tornados.  There have only been three hurricanes that have hit the United States with winds more than one hundred fifty-five miles per hour as they hit landfall.