(National Weather Service)

The National Weather Service forecast office  serving the Washington and Baltimore region this year has issued 18 tornado warnings. Amazingly, it has hoisted more warnings than most of the forecast offices in Texas and Oklahoma, in so-called tornado alley.

The above map shows the number of tornado warnings issued by forecast office across the U.S.  The various offices covering Oklahoma and Texas have put out between 8 and 20 warnings compared to the 18 from  the D.C.-Baltimore forecast office, based in Sterling, Va.  Amazingly, the Sterling office has issued more than twice the number of warnings compared to the Norman, Oklahoma office (7 warnings issued), which serves typical tornado hotbed Oklahoma City and its surroundings.

The number of warnings, however, isn’t necessarily indicative of the actual number of tornadoes.  Of the 18 tornado warnings issued by the Sterling office, there have only been 4 confirmed tornadoes (2 in Berkeley County, W. Va., 1 in St. Mary’s County, Md. and 1 in Loudoun County, Va.).  In the Norman forecast area, there have also been 4 confirmed tornadoes, despite the fewer number of warnings.  (The higher tornado false alarm rate in the D.C.-Baltimore area versus Norman-Oklahoma City is likely due to the fact tornado signatures in the Mid-Atlantic tend to be less distinctive than in the Plains).

As Ian Livingston noted Wednesday, Oklahoma is in the midst of a tornado-drought, with just 14 tornadoes having touched down across the state this year – near the fewest on record.

Tornado reports across the United States this year. (Storm Prediction Center)
Tornado reports across the United States this year. (Storm Prediction Center)

The U.S. overall is experiencing a quiet year for tornado activity, with about 30 percent less activity than average.

Tornado activity in 2014 compared to average. (National Weather Service)