Tornadoes — Thus Far a Light Season, But That Does Not Forecast the Future

Other than blizzards and hurricanes (also known as cyclones and typhoons), the other primary wind event damaging real estate and harming people is tornadoes. While hurricanes often are observable and somewhat predictable sometimes even more than a week out, tornadoes can popup in minutes. Their devastation rivals many hurricanes, but the speed at which they appear is a scary event given the often minimal time people have to seek cover and protection.

In the March 31st, 2014 issue of RBC Capital Markets’ Insurance Observations, authors Mark A. Dwelle, CFA, and Scott Heleniak, take a look at current tornado activity versus historical occurrences.

So when do most tornadoes occur? The authors referenced a study by The Weather Channel that averaged the number of tornadoes per month from 1984 to 2013. The U.S. has averaged 1,353 tornadoes per year since 1984. One-out-of-five tornadoes happen in May, the highest month of frequency. Slightly more than one-half strike in April, May and June (52 percent, combined). The numbers are listed in the following table.

3-31-14 graph

The authors’ findings? For the second consecutive year, March is featuring record low tornado activity levels. Last year, March saw just 18 total tornadoes – the fifth lowest rate ever recorded for that month. Thus far in March 2014, just six have been counted.

So why have we seen so few tornadoes this year? In true analyst prose, the authors state, “….It has been too dang cold.” The reason it has been so cold has been the jet stream that brought the cold weather to the Southeast and Midwest. This cold jet stream has in turn prevented waves of Gulf moisture heading northward. Hence few tornadoes.

While it is good news that there has been limited tornadoes thus far in 2014 (and a corresponding impact on humans and real estate), the authors point out there is no correlation to activity in these early months with the remainder of the year.

May everyone stay safe from tornadoes and hurricanes in 2014.


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