Tornado scarcity sets welcome record. It's related to our reluctant spring

Spring has been taking its grand old time in ripening around here, and while that hasn’t been an altogether pleasant experience, it evidently is related to quite a remarkably benign development in Tornado Alley.

Not a single tornado has been reported this year in Oklahoma – one of the world’s twister capitals – and that is a record.

At 8:30 p.m. EDT Thursday, it became Oklahoma’s longest wait for the first twister of the year, said Patrick Marsh, warning coordinating meteorologist at the national Storm Prediction Center, in Norman, Okla.

Nor has a single tornado yet been spotted in Kansas, where the record for the latest first sighting is May 28.

Why the good fortune? It has something to with our bad fortune.

You’ve probably noticed it’s been on the cool side around here. “The large-scale pattern across the United States has continued to favor cold-air intrusions across most areas east of the Rocky Mountains,” Marsh said.

That air originates in central Canada, and in the central United States it has tended to arrive on the dry side (not that it’s been exactly dry around here).

That would kill two tornado-makers – warmth and moisture — with one air mass.

In Tornado Alley, in the south-central states, conditions have been more favorable for wildfires than severe thunderstorms.

Could this continue?

“To paraphrase a Danish proverb, it’s dangerous to make seasonal tornado predictions, especially about the future,” said Marsh. Tornado counts, he said, “can change very rapidly in a matter of a week or two.”

Attempts to forecast how active or inactive a given season would be – a la those seasonal hurricane outlooks — remain nascent, he added.

“There is some preliminary research that’s being done,” he said. “It’s a little bit harder than the hurricane problem. Smaller-scale features play a much bigger part in tornadoes.”

For his part, Marsh is hoping for continued meteorological tranquillity in his home state. He has a newborn son and a 2-year-old daughter.

Said Marsh: “I could use the quiet weather right now.”