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Twisters left out in the cold

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Posted: Mar 27, 2014 9:45 AM by Meteorologist Josh Eachus
Updated: Mar 27, 2014 9:45 AM
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Topics: weather, tornado, March, severe, Louisiana

A chilly, snowy winter in the east hasn't been all bad news. On the weather front, a pattern of biting cold and flying flakes has kept the opposite end of the spectrum quiet.

Fortunately, severe weather reports have been down this month, and the tornado tally reflects that. With just four twisters reported thus far in the month of March, the count is more than 20 times below the seasonal average. According to The Weather Channel's Dr. Greg Forbes, should March conclude with two or fewer tornadoes, 2014 will go down as the least active March on record. In fact, thus far in 2014 there have been just 49 tornado reports, as opposed to the 159 on average by this time.

That would mark two straight years of low tornado activity. With just 18 tornadoes, March 2013 places in the top five least active. The current title-holder for lowest March tornado count since 1950 is 1951 with six.


One reason for the low tornado count is attributable to the same reason Louisiana has experienced an abnormally cold winter.

The stream of air aloft, known as the jet stream, has taken a track much farther south than usual. It can be related to two key atmospheric processes. First, the jet stream is Mother Nature's highway-it acts as the path most frequently travelled by significant storm systems. Second, the polar jet stream acts as a boundary between cold, dry arctic air and warm, moist tropical air. So far in 2014, the polar jet stream has held cold air as deep as the Gulf Coast through March. Whereas it is the interaction of arctic and tropical air masses that serves as a key ingredient for severe storm development.


All of this does not mean a quiet season will rule the rest of the way. Eventually, there will be an interaction between cold air from the north and cool air to the south-just a little later than usual. Inevitably, the jet stream will retreat north, "opening the highway" first for the Gulf South (Dixie Alley) and next for the Great Plains (Tornado Alley).

Forbes reminds that a low tornado count and a slow start to the season, doesn't mean the year will go free of destructive events. Just last year, also a late-bloomer, featured the infamous Moore, OK. and El Reno, OK. tornadoes.

You can get forecasts from Meteorologist Josh Eachus weekdays on 2une-In from 5-7am and News 2 at Noon from 12-1pm. Additionally, you can get the fastest and latest forecasts and weather news by checking in with wbrz.com/weather, liking Josh on Facebook and following him on Twitter.

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