It’s that time of year to start worrying about the spring storm season. And one private weather forecaster, AccuWeather, is predicting a higher frequency of severe storm risks in Tornado Alley, which will include parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area is often considered to be on the southern end of Tornado Alley, though one study has suggested it may be shifting eastward.
“We believe that the more traditional severe weather region of the central and southern Plains will have a higher potential for tornadoes and severe weather more frequently than they have experienced on average the past three years,” Paul Pastelok, AccuWeather’s Lead Long-Range Meteorologist, said in a news release.
What’s the driving factor in this more active storm season?
“We believe warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures over the Gulf of Mexico will lead to increased moisture transport from the Gulf over the region and ultimately a higher frequency of severe weather in these areas,” Pastelok said.
But the National Weather Service says it’s almost impossible to make long-range predictions on tornadoes. The Climate Prediction Center’s seasonal outlook for March, April and May predicts above normal precipitation but that has no bearing on how many tornadoes will occur, said National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Martello.
“There’s no way you’re going to know from event to event,” Martello said. “If you’re missing one ingredient it’s a non-event.”
The 46 counties in North and Central Texas covered by the weather service’s Fort Worth office average 25 tornadoes annually but it can vary widely from year to year.
Last year, there were only 12 tornadoes and the two previous years were also below normal.
But 2015 saw a whopping 76 twisters with 42 in the month of May alone.
“There’s really no specific way you can say tornado occurrence is going to be higher than the average,” Martello said. “It’s so contingent on moisture and instability. You just got to let each season play out.”
From 1950 to 2019, Tarrant County has recorded 94 tornadoes. Johnson County, just to the south, has seen the most in North Central Texas with 102.