Tornado numbers trend downward in Texas

Texas as a state still sees the most tornadoes on average in May than any other state

Tornado numbers trend downward in Texas


Severe thunderstorms cause an average of 5.4 billion dollars of damage in one year in the United States. There were over 600 deaths in 2011.

A new study published in the Nature Partner Journals looks at where the Tornadoes are happening. Tornado frequency in certain locations appears to be shifting since 1979.

Tornado Trends for Texas

The study by Vittorio A. Gensini and Harold E. Brooks shows there has been a decrease in tornadoes across the Central United States and an increase in frequency across the Midwest and Southeast.

The main decrease across Texas comes during the months of March, April, and May across North Texas and the Texas Panhandle. There was an increase in tornado frequency across eastern Oklahoma. The rest of the Oklahoma remains about the same.

However, it is important to note that on average Texas sees the most tornadoes out of any state during the month of May. This is the peak tornado month for Tornado Alley. An average May means 43 Tornadoes.

Texas does cover a lot of ground. The next closest state is Kansas with 36 and Oklahoma with 27 tornadoes between the years of 1989 and 2013. Even though this area may be seeing a downward trend, it doesn’t mean these states are seeing the least amount of tornadoes.

“None of us should think that this means we are less at risk for tornadoes here in Oklahoma and North Texas,” Warning Coordination Meteorologist Rick Smith said.

Smith works for the National Weather Service in Norman Oklahoma.

“It only takes one, and that even years considered to be quiet for tornadoes (like 2013) can be very impactful,” Smith said.

Overall there was an increase in Tornado reports between 1980 and the early 2000s. Tornado reporting was organized in 1950, however computers capable of producing the Significant Tornado Parameter (STP) didn’t exist until 1979.

STP is a computer model used to analyze an environment and predict the likelihood of a Tornado. The environment and actual storm reports since 1979 were analyzed for this study.

“Of greatest interest here is the potential for shifts in the spatial location of tornado frequency.”
Gensini and Brooks

STP increases across the Southeast, Midwest, and Northeast. There is a downward trend in the Southern Plains. This leads to a potential shift in the location for tornado frequency.

This is the first time these trends have really been researched at this level.

The environment and tornado reports show a decreasing trend in tornadoes across parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and northeast Colorado.

In contrast signs show an increase in tornadoes across parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

It is not clear if the shift in tornado frequency is because of climate change.

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