Saturday, March 3, 2012

March Tornado Outbreak on Record Early Pace

Although preliminary reports are subject to later verification, yesterday's massive tornado outbreak in the Ohio Valley and Southeast was on a record pace for so early in the season. Filtered to remove duplicates, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) preliminary data includes 81 tornado reports in the 24 hours ending at 7 am EST today (March 3). Including high wind and hail, there were 558 total severe storm reports.

According to historical data from the SPC shown in the chart, there have been only 3 years since official records began in 1950 in which the total number of March tornadoes (EF-1 or higher) exceeded 80:
1991  94 
1976 147
1961 105
In all of these cases, however, the large totals were accumulated much later in the month. For example, National Climatic Data Center historical data show only 17 tornado reports in the first 11 days of March 1976.

The maximum numbers of tornadoes for earlier months in the year were 109 in January 1999 and 89 in February 2008.

Images (click to enlarge): Preliminary severe storm reports for March 2, 2012, cumulative tornado counts to date, and March tornado counts 1950-2010, from NOAA/NWS/SPC

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