How the cold affects the U.S. tornado forecast

John Roach
Dallas Home Depot destroyed tornado
Aerial image shot by a drone shows a Home Depot store in Dallas, Texas, that was obliterated after a destructive nocturnal tornado ripped through the area on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. (SevereStudios / John Humphress)

cold snap brought jarring temperature swings to as many as 200 million Americans accustomed to higher temperatures at this time of year. AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures plunged as many as 60 degrees in just 24 hours in some cities.

The Arctic outbreak is not expected to be long-lived, according to AccuWeather meteorologists, with a storm in the Gulf of Mexico expected to help usher in milder air across the Southeast late in the week.

Aside from the temperature swings, the cold weather also has thrown a blanket on tornado activity so far in November.

"The cold front stabilized things in the first half of November," said AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok. "That has kept the tornado count down. You don't have the energy level of typical autumn storm systems, accompanied by warm and humid conditions, to produce tornado activity.

"You could still get some isolated severe weather in the lower Appalachians from any one of these fronts that are coming up in the next week or two," Pastelok said. "But it's balancing out, because October came up a little bit on the severity of tornadoes, but November is going to be down a little bit because of this colder push."

AccuWeather's 2019 forecast released in February accurately pinpointed the areas to be hit hardest this year, with a higher frequency of severe weather risks in the traditional Tornado Alley -- notably Oklahoma, Kansas and parts of Texas -- than they had experienced on average the previous three years.

So far this year, Texas, with 188 tornadoes, has experienced the most of any state in the U.S., according to preliminary, unconfirmed data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Kansas is second with 127, while Oklahoma is third with 98.

NOAA's preliminary reports show there have been 1,587 tornadoes in 2019, but that total is not a confirmed final number. The inflation-adjusted annual tornado running total - which attempts to remove overcount by multiplying the preliminary total by 0.85 - is 1,349, according to NOAA.

There were 1,124 tornadoes in 2018, and the 25-year average is 1,199 tornadoes a year, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. AccuWeather's forecast for 2019 estimated an increase of roughly 20 percent over the 25-year average.

"Tornado activity could linger into early December," Pastelok said. "You don't really get much in December, it's typically very isolated activity. Maybe isolated tornadoes can eye Florida, but it's not really considered a busy month."

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