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Silent spring: No severe thunderstorm or tornado watches issued so far in March

Lightning in the eastern sky behind Washington, July 11, 2011.

For the first time in 45 years, the National Weather Service has yet to issue a single severe thunderstorm or tornado watch this deep into March.

“We are in uncharted territory with respect to lack of severe weather”, said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS Storm Prediction Center (SPC). “This has never happened in the record of SPC watches dating back to 1970.”

Not surprisingly in light of the lack of tornado watches, there have also been no actual tornadoes this month, as CWG’s Angela Fritz reported earlier this week:

According to the Weather Channel’s severe expert Greg Forbes, the only other year since 1950 that there have been zero tornado reports in the first half of March was 1969.

[Weather weirdness? Often-deadly March has seen zero tornado reports so far]

“We’re in a persistent pattern that suppresses severe weather, and the right ingredients — moisture, instability, and lift — have not been brought together in any consistent way so far this year,” said SPC’s Carbin.

For the calendar year, SPC reports about 28 tornadoes have touched down in the U.S. compared to an average of about 177 year-to-date. Hail and damaging (non-tornadic) wind reports are also way down (just 7 hail reports compared to an average of 372)

A hostile pattern for tornadoes has persisted since 2014, one of the least active years for twisters since records began in 1950. 2012 and 2013 also had below normal tornado activity, after 2011, a devastating year for severe weather.

[U.S. tornado numbers among lowest in recorded history in 2014]

Historically the heart of severe weather season, April and May, is still to come. The quiet activity so far this year does not necessarily suggest anything about what’s in the pipeline, cautions SPC:

Analysis of the ten lowest and ten highest watch count years through the middle of March reveals little correlation to the subsequent number of tornadoes through the end of June. For example, early 2012 was particularly active with 77 watches issued through mid-March. The subsequent period through the end of June was unusually quiet for tornadoes with about 130 fewer EF1 and stronger tornadoes occurring than what would normally be expected. On the other hand, 1984, with a relatively low watch count of 28 through mid-March, became more active and by late June had about 100 EF1 and stronger tornadoes above the long-term mean of 285.

In the near term, however, it’s business as usual. SPC indicates there’s no more than a marginal risk for severe thunderstorms at any point in the next 8 days.