Alabama: No Tornadoes in April 2012! Why?

CNN Meteorologist Sarah Dillingham


NWS Huntsville: Mountain View Baptist Church in Dekalb County, Alabama, April 2011

After setting the record for the most tornadoes in a single month in April 2011, the state of Alabama did not have a single tornado confirmed during the month of April 2012, according to the National Weather Service. Alabama has not been able to claim this statistic since April 2004, and the recent upper-level storm pattern has been responsible for this calm April. Spring 2012 has been abnormally dry and warm as a large ridge over the North Atlantic has forced the jetstream much further north, keeping much of the forcing needed to generate rain and storms into the Ohio Valley and Northeast.

This current jetstream pattern is much different than that of spring 2011 as last year’s pattern brought numerous storm systems directly across the eastern half of the country, resulting in several tornado outbreaks that included the record setting April 27, 2011 outbreak. That day, a record 200+ tornadoes occurred and pushed the monthly tornado total of April 2011 to a staggering 758 tornadoes, the most for a single month on record!

According to the Climate Prediction Center, this pattern is not likely to change over the next 3 months as their latest forecast shows above normal temperatures and near normal rainfall to persist across the Southeast.  The latest drought monitor shows that the Southeast is already seeing a strengthening drought, particularly into southeastern Alabama, south and central Georgia, southeastern South Carolina and northern Florida.  If these warmer conditions persist and rainfall amounts remain at or below normal levels, these areas could see drought strengthen or develop in areas that are currently near normal. 

The Climate Prediction Centeri s also hinting at the possibility of a late summer/early fall El Nino to develop, which is caused by warmer than normal sea-surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean.  If an El Nino does develop, that typically produces near normal rainfall for the Southeast during the summer months and wetter than normal conditions during the winter months.  In any case, Alabamans are experiencing a sigh of relief with this calmer April, and they’ll hope that if the rains do come, they will do so sans tornadoes!

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