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April 12, 2010

Cold slows start of twister season











By Wally Kennedy

wkennedy@joplinglobe.com

The coldest winter in 30 years has cooled the prospect for tornadic weather this spring.

So far, this year’s frequency of severe storms capable of producing tornadoes has been way off the mark in terms of the national average.

“It’s been slow on the tornado front since the beginning of the year,” said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist with the national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

“By this time of the year, we should be at 180 tornadoes nationwide,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re a hundred shy of normal. Of course, we’re entering the phase where we can expect to see an uptick at any time in severe weather activity.”

Carbin said variability in the amount of severe weather in January through March is not unusual.

“It’s a relatively quiet time, but some years can be really bad,” he said. “It’s tough to make any calls that relate the current facts with any kind of trend into the future. You can bet that things will pick up in April, May and June.”

The slow spell for tornadoes was preceded by a tornado drought in November that lasted for 23 days. During that month, the Storm Prediction Center issued no tornado or severe-thunderstorm watches. It was the only November since 1970 when no watches were issued during the month.

El Nino

Carbin said there is some indication that the colder-than-normal winter and the El Nino effect, the warming of waters in the tropical region of the Pacific Ocean, could be affecting the weather.

“El Nino appears to be suppressing the number of severe storm events, so far,” he said. “Right now, we should be seeing more tornadic activity down on the Gulf Coast of Florida than we have been.”

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