It is now Meteorological Spring! As warmer temperatures park in place, we look ahead to what kind of spring and severe weather season we can expect.
Our weather pattern is critical as it determines feast or famine from moisture to severe weather and high fire danger. Over the winter, drought deepened across the Plains. The weather feature dominating the globe is La Nina. It is expected to continue through part of spring.
La Nina played a role for a second winter. Cooler ocean water off South America in the Pacific Ocean influenced temperatures worldwide, and the persistent weather pattern ultimately starved us for moisture in Kansas and kept our snowfall totals down throughout the state.
As we look into spring, La Nina is not budging just yet. Last year, we saw several weaker tornadoes on the lower end of the Enhanced Fujita Scale in a La Nina spring. It included the Selden Tornado in May. October was also an active month for about two weeks, including a tornado captured by Erika Paige in Storm Tracker 3 near Cimarron and another tornado that tore through Turon.
La Nina was ramping up at that time, heading into winter. However, it is not expected to turn neutral this year until late May or early June. If you look at February of this year, we already saw an uptick in severe weather from Oklahoma through Arkansas and southern Missouri through the Deep South with previous storm systems.
We are in a strong position for a more active than normal severe weather season, especially to the south/southeast in a typical La Nina pattern. Several ingredients go into the creation of severe weather, including an ample supply of moisture, wind shear, along with the system’s track, to name a few. We may not lack in these departments as we advance into summer.
There is a considerable difference in tornado and hail frequency during an El Nino year versus a La Nina year.
We will take the increased frequency of systems going forward given our current drought situation. But note that we also need to be mindful of wildfires whenever the temperature goes up, along with wind speeds. Until we can step outside these dry conditions, that threat will continue to plague the Plains.
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