Record early tornado season set to add more to its tally today

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:17 PM GMT on March 03, 2008

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March will roar in like a lion today over the Southern U.S., with another volley of strong EF2 and EF3 tornadoes possible over portions of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. The Storm Prediction Center has placed this region under its "Moderate Risk" target today--one level below the maximum "High Risk" threat level. The powerful low pressure system responsible for today's severe weather developed over Texas and Oklahoma on Sunday, spawning at least two tornadoes and hail up to 4.25" in diameter. The huge hail was reported in Buffalo, near the Kansas border.

The intensifying low pressure system will move through Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi today, dragging a cold front through those states. This front has already spawned severe thunderstorms across eastern Texas and southern Arkansas this morning, with many reports of damaging thunderstorm winds. The tornado page is a good place to track the tornadoes as they occur today, along with our severe weather page.

2008 sets early tornado season records
The year 2008 smashed the record for most January and February tornadoes, with 368. The previous record was set in 1999, with 235 January/February tornadoes. Reliable tornado records extend back to 1950. The 232 tornadoes reported in February of 2008 was a record for the month of February. Second place goes to 1971, with a relatively paltry 83 tornadoes. Each of the past three years has seen an unusually early start to tornado season (Figure 1). One would expect to see a shift in tornado activity earlier in the year in a warming climate, along with an earlier than usual drop off in activity in late spring. We can see that in both 2005 and 2006 that tornado activity dropped off much earlier than usual, and it will be interesting to see if 2008 follows a similar pattern. Note that there is a very high natural variability in tornado numbers, and the record for fewest ever January and February tornadoes was set just six years ago in 2002, when only four twisters occurred. It will be at least ten more years before we can say with any confidence that a warming climate is leading to an earlier peak in tornado season. There does seem to be a tendency for more early season tornadoes during La Niña years--four of the five years that had January/February tornado counts 75 or above were all La Niña years (1971, 1975, 1999, and 2008). The only exception was 1998, which was an El Niño year, and had 118 January/February tornadoes.


Figure 1. Tornado reports so far this year have totaled 368 for the months of January and February, by far the greatest number of tornadoes observed so early in the year. Image credit: NOAA Storm Prediction Center.

Potential South Atlantic subtropical storm fizzles
Last Friday, I mentioned the possibility of a rare subtropical storm forming the South Atlantic off the coast of Brazil. It turned out that the candidate low pressure system wrapped a lot of dry air into its center, killing any chance it had to become a subtropical storm. There is still some vigorous tropical-looking thunderstorms firing up off the coast of Brazil this morning, and it is worth continuing to watch this region for formation of a subtropical storm. A separate low pressure system in southern Brazil has brought a wide variety of severe weather to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay over the past few days, as documented in the metsul.com weather blog (for those of you who read Portugese). For those of you who don't, try the web page translator at http://babelfish.altavista.com/babelfish/tr.

Jeff Masters

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146. Cavin Rawlins
4:53 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
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Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
145. weathermanwannabe
4:21 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
It's still moving fast, but, the convection is thinning out right now........However, while it is just about done "passing" in the Big Bend, it's leaving some "gusty" spurts behind so expect some windy conditions on the West Coast...................Not a good time to swim or fish.....
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144. Cavin Rawlins
4:19 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
good afternoon to all:
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
143. TampaSpin
3:36 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
It seems the front is not slowing much...Tampa might get some rain in about 3 hours.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
142. cchsweatherman
2:46 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
BREAKING NEWS: Fox Sports' Jay Glazer and the Biloxi Sun Herald are reporting the Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre has decided to retire from the NFL! Even though I'm a Dolphins fan, he was my all-time favorite QB. He will be missed in the NFL.

Thoughts?
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
141. surfmom
2:44 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
shld be out the door, but spied Nash!!! glad to see you back!! Morning StormW, thanks for the forcast.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
140. cchsweatherman
2:44 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Just completed updating my Local Forecast page on my site. I've informed people about possible severe weather for Saturday as two frontal boundaries may collide over us. All Floridians need to monitor this current system and the next one coming out from the Rockies. It may not look impressive now, but once it hits the Gulf moisture and interacts with the subtropical jet stream, all bets are off as anything could happen.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
139. cchsweatherman
2:41 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Long time, no see Nash. What have you been up to? Your thoughts on how things may play out here in Central and Southern Florida with these latest developments.

Good morning to you Storm. I would also like to hear your thoughts as well.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
138. weathermanwannabe
2:40 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Looks like the system cleared out pretty quickly over Gulf/Coastal LA/MS/AL/.......Is the Sun shining yet over there? (looks like it from the Sat Loops)........
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136. nash28
2:29 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Great point Cchsweatherman! That could change the severe wx outlook for this area if that energy hangs around.
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135. surfmom
2:26 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Trying to figure out when the rain will get to SRQ. heading out to the barn to take care of an injured horse, and work the rest of the herd out now instead of this afternoon --which looks to be dicey.

Good thought to mention rip tides/currents CCHSWeatherman -- Have a feeling some of this is going to be a bit too big and rough for me to surf, between lame horses/barnwork --I may have to wait till thursday. take care all I am off!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
134. cchsweatherman
2:25 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Just a side note. Someone had pointed out a particular disturbance in the Indian Ocean that they thought could become an invest. Well, we now have Invest 97S near the northern tip of Madagascar. The current numbers are 11.4S - 55.4W with wind speeds at 30 kts. (around 35 mph) and a minimum pressure 1000mb. Looks quite impressive on satellite imagery.


img src="Photobucket" alt="" />
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133. TampaSpin
2:24 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
132. biff4ugo
2:23 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Only in Florida.

could someone send me a message explaining why 4 counties with flood watches are surrounded by counties with fire weather warnings?
We keep getting fire warnings during heavy downpours. Even with lightning that seems dumb. The antisedant moisture conditions have been fairly wet too, but someone must know something I don't. The fire weather warnings seem to end at the state line. Is there a difference between states?
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 114 Comments: 1578
131. cchsweatherman
2:19 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Tampa, this is what I've been referring to. Lower level convergence has been increasing and expanding towards your area. This energy was supposed to have gone NE by now. It has yet to do so.
img src="Photobucket" alt="" />
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130. TampaSpin
2:18 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
This is the energy needed. Check this pic out.
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129. surfmom
2:17 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
General surf alert for WFL surfers! Swell is on it's way from Texas. A southie swell should be up by this afternoon. Wednesday daybreak --6ft @ 8 sec. from the west with mild on shore winds. Winds should shut down by Wednesday PM. I don't understand why yet...but a 2nd swell is expected to push through Wednesday afternoon,giving 4-5 ft waves early afternoon. Thursday is clean-up day, at 1-2ft @9 sec. A good day to take your grom out of school and play hookie. IMAGINE 6ft in the gomex w/NO hurricane --a first for me.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
128. weathermanwannabe
2:17 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
If the front does not stall (and it is moving pretty quickly right now), it's looking like one quick day long rain event for most of Florida.......I'm happy for the plants and trees right now........
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9220
127. cchsweatherman
2:15 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Exactly what I discussed earlier. I love how we can relate weather with baseball. Two favorite things coming together. A thing of beauty.
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126. TampaSpin
2:13 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Great pic of the Subtropical Jet if i am seeing this correctly.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
125. cchsweatherman
2:13 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Just updated my South Florida forecast on my site. Very worried about Saturday, but have also increased rain chances for today and tomorrow especially. Included mention of strong storms for tomorrow since I don't think the storms will get there until then. Be careful along the Florida Gulf Coast. Could be some nasty rip currents right now as well as some severe weather later today. I'll be interested to see if this convection holds throughout the day. If it does, then may need to mention severe weather for South Florida tomorrow.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
124. TampaSpin
2:10 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Squeeze play occurring. Could get very windy.
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123. surfmom
2:08 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Wow - what a picture Tampa Spin! #121
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122. surfmom
2:06 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Ok morning dudes, here SRQ/WFL/GOMEX the weather is definitely changing. Wind is picking up, checked the ocean for surf @6:00am,Nothing ridable yet, but plenty of wind chop. Barometer at 29.99, getting gust of wind up to 13 mph, kinda swinging SE to SW. Woke up w/my "weather headache" I can feel something in the air.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
121. TampaSpin
1:59 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
The Subtropical Jet stream is cutting the GOM in the middle. This is why the bomb has went off in the GOM. I think the energy suggested missing might be there. Check out Water Vapor...wow.

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
119. cchsweatherman
1:57 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
116. TampaSpin 8:51 AM EST on March 04, 2008
Cchs i agree with everything except it is already 72Deg. and the humidty is at 78% and the sun is shining in Tampa now at 8:45am. If we continue with the sun shining you will get lift and energy needed to create some problems IMO.


Just finished taking a look at the latest CIMSS maps. One very startling observation came to my attention. There is a high amount of energy still present in the GOM. This energy was supposed to have been shot off towards the NE by now, but it has remained there and has begun to shift over Western Florida. You may be right, Tampa. There could be some problems, especially around your area. Keep alert.

Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
118. NEwxguy
1:53 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
I think we're in for a rough first half of March,the stormy pattern in February doesn't look like its going to let up.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 881 Comments: 15828
117. cchsweatherman
1:52 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
115. weathermanwannabe 8:47 AM EST on March 04, 2008
104. cchsweatherman 8:19 AM EST on March 04, 2008
Major concern here in Florida is the front stalling over South Florida. With abundant tropical moisture beginning to lift northbound and the slight lift with the frontal boundary, I'm concerned for possible flooding rains anywhere from Lake Okeechobee southward into the Keys

Best thing for South Florida (unless you are driving in it) is for the system to stall/slow down and "fill up" Lake O so water restrictions will not be as severe later on down the road.........


Too much rain at one time can do just as much harm as no rain at all. We can't take all the rain at once as it will create a flooding problem, which could lead to a major nuisance: mosquitos. It is warm enough that mosquitos could use the ponding as breeding ground. That is something many people are remise about when it comes to flooding. It can create health concerns.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
116. TampaSpin
1:51 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Cchs i agree with everything except it is already 72Deg. and the humidty is at 78% and the sun is shining in Tampa now at 8:45am. If we continue with the sun shining you will get lift and energy needed to create some problems IMO.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
115. weathermanwannabe
1:47 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
104. cchsweatherman 8:19 AM EST on March 04, 2008
Major concern here in Florida is the front stalling over South Florida. With abundant tropical moisture beginning to lift northbound and the slight lift with the frontal boundary, I'm concerned for possible flooding rains anywhere from Lake Okeechobee southward into the Keys


Best thing for South Florida (unless you are driving in it) is for the system to stall/slow down and "fill up" Lake O so water restrictions will not be as severe later on down the road.........
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9220
114. Patrap
1:36 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
I reside here:

Current Conditions

Uptown, New Orleans, Louisiana (PWS)
Updated: 5 sec ago
Mostly Cloudy
48.2 °F / 9.0 °C
Mostly Cloudy
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
113. cchsweatherman
1:35 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
If you don't mind me asking, where do you live Patrap? Based upon what you post here, I know you have to live somewhere along the Gulf Coast.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
112. Patrap
1:33 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
NEXRAD Radar
Tallahassee Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity 1.45 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI

Link

No warnings since 0609 cst

Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
111. cchsweatherman
1:33 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Looking at the IR loop Pat provided, it appears that a strong squall line is attempting to form across the entire GOM. Like Pat stated, we need to keep alert to see if this convective hyperactivity continues and maintains itself as it approaches land.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
110. Patrap
1:31 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
NEXRAD Radar
Tallahassee Base Reflectivity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI

Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
109. cchsweatherman
1:31 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
This is a prime example for when we need radar to cover the entire GOM so that we can see the whole picture and not an incomplete view of the approaching storms.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
108. Patrap
1:30 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Keep alert...watch the system as it moves east. Not much analyzing needed.

GOM IR Loop... Link

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
107. cchsweatherman
1:29 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Ivansrvivr, how do see everything for Friday and Saturday? I still do not think the computer models have sorted things out with the current system making a total mess. We need this system to depart to get a better sense of the environment and where the features will be located in order to get a much better forecast on Friday and Saturday.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
106. cchsweatherman
1:26 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
We need Storm and 456 here to help us with analyzing the present situation. Things may get complex later today.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
105. cchsweatherman
1:22 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Taking a look at the satellite imagery, if this huge convective burst holds, South Florida may need to be on their toes since the frontal boundary is moving south and easterward which would place the convective burst over the West Central Gulf Coast by late today. Be careful driving if you live in Central Florida as I've noticed huge jumps in widn speed over the past hour.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
104. cchsweatherman
1:19 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Good morning all! Tampa, I have to agree. Convection in the GOM has been rapidly building as the frontal system encounters the warm airmass over Florida. Watch for there to be a solid line with convection developing in the GOM along the front late this morning and this afternoon as it progresses towards Central Florida by late day. Just be on your toes Tampa since there could be some quick street flooding with these storms. There is not enough energy to cause tornadoes over Florida, but I would not be surprised to see an isolated one develop.

Weatherbro, you are correct that this could create a wind event for South Florida as the pressure gradient will increase throughout the day with the low over the SE and high pressure over the Atlantic just east of the Bahamas will cause a squeeze play. You should already notice it in northern and central Florida.

Major concern here in Florida is the front stalling over South Florida. With abundant tropical moisture beginning to lift northbound and the slight lift with the frontal boundary, I'm concerned for possible flooding rains anywhere from Lake Okeechobee southward into the Keys as any showers and storms will likely not be quick movers. I don't anticipate much severe weather until late Friday into Saturday when the much-mentioned cold front starts to interact with this boundary.

But, as always with weather, we just have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, even though I don't see any deadly storms, except with the lightning that could be produced. Only time will tell what will happen.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
101. weathermanwannabe
1:08 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Good Morning Folks........Looks the the front line, around Northern Florida/Panhandle weakened overnight, but, yeah...That blob of convection heading towards the West Coast of Florida looks pretty ominous this morning........Hold on to your hats Tampa Bay Area and Central Florida...
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9220
100. lilmax
1:06 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Huge storm west of tampa south of pensacola.
99. biff4ugo
1:05 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
Yipee, more Rain!
Sorry about the tornadoes but as for the rain... bring it!
Some of the lakes here are just rising above minimum desirable level. Finally some water is moving in north Florida.

This is a great list.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 114 Comments: 1578
98. TampaSpin
12:47 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
These 2 Bouys are 500 miles apart North and South in the GOM.

Conditions at 42003 as of
(5:49 am CST)
1149 GMT on 03/04/2008: Unit of Measure:
Wind Direction (WDIR): S ( 180 deg true )
Wind Speed (WSPD): 25.3 kts
Wind Gust (GST): 31.1 kts

Conditions at 42039 as of
(5:50 am CST)

Wind Direction (WDIR): SSE ( 160 deg true )
Wind Speed (WSPD): 23.3 kts
Wind Gust (GST): 29.1 kts

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
97. TampaSpin
12:40 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
45 knot winds in the GOM.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
96. TampaSpin
12:33 PM GMT on March 04, 2008
70deg. hum. at 83% sun shining and very windy in Tampa...at 7:30am
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.