By: The Agrible Weather Team
On average, about 1,500 tornadoes are reported in the U.S. each year. The unique geography and location of the U.S. puts our nation at risk for these violent storms far more than any other country in the world.
However, much of the past decade has seen lower risk for tornadoes in the United States. In each of the last five years, the U.S. tornado counts were well below the historical average. Ten of the past 12 years were at or below average. Only 2011 and 2008 were above the long-term average.
Agrible’s weather staff and their state-of-the-art statistical model are forecasting a higher risk of tornadoes in the U.S. during 2017 when compared to recent years.
Agrible uses a large number of atmospheric and oceanic variables to sift through historic records and identify relationships that demonstrate predictive skill months in advance of our severe weather season. These predictors are fine-tuned by our expert weather staff to determine a forecast for the upcoming tornado season.
El Nino conditions for example have been shown to suppress tornado formation in the United States. For 2014-2016 the tropical Pacific was in its El Nino phase and is now neutral or even slightly in the La Nina phase, where it will likely be throughout the severe weather season. In addition, a strong subtropical jet-stream has dominated the Pacific weather pattern over the past few months. This pattern, which has brought much needed precipitation to California, is likely to persist into the next several months. This strong Pacific jet stream pattern tends to keep the weather in tornado-prone portions of the U.S. active. Storm systems will traverse the country every few days, with a general shortage of blocking weather patterns - those patterns that tend to lock our weather into specific regime for 6-10 days. These and many other predictors have the Agrible team anticipating a more active severe weather season across the U.S this year.
This year is already off to an active start across the southern United States. A severe weather outbreak on January 21-23 of this year saw 41 tornadoes touch down in Georgia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado_outbreak_of_January_21–23,_2017). We expect more frequent outbreaks this year than in recent years. The threat will move into the Great Plains and Midwest as the severe threat migrates seasonally northward into the spring and early-summer months.
The relatively mild severe weather pattern over the past decade has left rural populations somewhat complacent about tornado safety. It is a good time to remind ourselves of the hazards of severe weather and the specific mindset and actions we need to sufficiently protect ourselves from this risk.
Large expanses of real estate and slow-moving transportation mean that ag-industry workers, in particular, need sufficient time to disengage equipment and seek shelter in the case of severe weather. Agrible’s weekly ag forecast videos can give advanced notice for severe weather events each week. Growers can then use Morning Farm Report to fine-tune those plans daily with Agrible's Field Forecast, Tractor Time Daily and Tractor Time Hourly field operation forecasts.
On days with severe weather forecasted, growers should monitor local radio stations for possible severe weather watches and warnings. Remember that a “Tornado Watch” means conditions are favorable for the development of a tornado in the region. Keep an eye on the sky and your local radar and factor in the time it takes to reach shelter as the evolution of storms continue throughout the day.
A “Tornado Warning” means there is an immediate threat of a tornado for the warned area. Pay attention to warnings in your area and the reported direction the storms are moving. Farm operations are complex and travel time is significant and advanced notice is key to survival. If a tornado warning is issued for a county or two to your south and west, and the storm is reported moving northeast, do not wait for the warning to be extended into your county. Cease operations and seek a safe shelter. The most dangerous storms have long tracks that can span multiple states and go through many cycles of producing tornadoes. Use your weather knowledge to your advantage and provide yourself the extra few minutes you need to protect yourself in case of a tornado or damaging hail.
In a broader perspective, now is a good opportunity to review options for multi-peril hail and wind insurance. An active tornado season goes hand-in-hand with enhanced hail and straight-line wind damage threats. It is an unfortunate concurrence of nature that hail and wind events occur most frequently during the late spring and early summer seasons, just as young plants are at their most vulnerable. Now is an excellent time to review the specifics of your crop insurance and make any adjustments to your policy to be sure your operations are sufficiently protected from wind and hail this season.
In the case where your field(s) may have been impacted by hail, Agrible provides up-to-the-minute notifications to alert you to which of your fields have been affected. The growth stage of your crop is used to determine to what extent your crops have been damaged.
As always, we at Agrible aim to provide you with the most timely and accurate weather information, so that you can efficiently plan your operations.