The Washington Post

Despite reports, no legitimate April tornado record ...yet

The Weather Channel has reported 2011 has set a new record for the most April tornadoes. There’s just one problem: that’s not really the case yet if we use the best available data.

Here’s what the article, picked up by MSNBC and the WJLA Storm Team, said: “Weather Channel Severe Weather Expert Dr. Greg Forbes now says April has set a tentative record, with 292 confirmed April tornadoes in the U.S., breaking the old mark of 267 tornadoes in 1974.”

But 1974 almost certainly didn’t tally only 267 tornadoes because the tornado reporting network was far less extensive than it is today. For that reason, NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center’s historical tornado record, dating back to1954, makes a mathematical adjustment. The adjusted tornado count for 1974 is 404. And for April 1957, another active tornado year, the adjusted total is even higher, at 407.

Although we haven’t reached 1957 or 1974’s adjusted total yet, we’re well on our way. Harold Brooks, head of the modeling, observation, and analysis team at SPC says the current tornado count is currently at around 350 through yesterday and rising.

“With 50 more tornadoes today and tomorrow, we’d be well within noise [of matching 1957 and 1974]... so we’re close,” he said. “If we look at the raw numbers [used by], then we’ve already set a record, but that’s not a very interesting record.”

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.
Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing