2014 tornado season so far - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

2014 tornado season so far

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Fig. 1  Polar Vortex during the early Spring of 2014 Fig. 1 Polar Vortex during the early Spring of 2014
Fig.2  Preliminary Tornado Count as of 4/28/14 Fig.2 Preliminary Tornado Count as of 4/28/14
Tornado Reports (Red) on 4/28/14 Tornado Reports (Red) on 4/28/14
Weather pattern on 4/28/14 Weather pattern on 4/28/14
The Polar Vortex kept Tornado and Dixie Alleys much cooler this early Spring compared to normal (Fig. 1).  As a result, with the lower instability and a Winter-like weather pattern, tornadoes were kept at bay.  In fact, the tornado count through late last week was down to only a fourth of the 2005-2013 January through April average (Fig. 2).  In other words, as of the 27th, there had only been about 152 tornadoes compared to the normal of nearly 500.

Turn the calendar page one day to April 28th and all of a sudden we have a tornado outbreak!  An additional 90 tornadoes (Fig. 3) were added to the April 27th total.  This brought us up to 250 which is about half the norm (Fig. 2...gray boxed number of 509).  The latest outbreak doesn't quite get Tornado and Dixie Alleys caught up, but there's plenty of damage, loss of life and injuries to contend with!

A major weather pattern change can be to blame the latest tornado outbreak (Fig. 4).  The Polar Vortex stayed up in Canada this past week and a very amplified west to east jet stream pattern evolved.  A powerful, negatively tilted storm system (tilted toward the west) developed out of this and slowly moved into the plains by last Saturday.  As a result, strong jet dynamics (providing atmospheric lift), instability (cold upper atmosphere over warm lower), wind shear (increasing wind speed and changing direction as you ascend in the atmosphere...separates the up and down drafts of storms...makes storms stronger), heat and moisture (from the Gulf of Mexico) plus a dry line (boundary between dry and moist air...brown line in Fig. 4) to get the storms going made for the largest tornado outbreak in the last few years.

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