Cool Gulf may be suppressing tornado season
The three-month stretch from January through March this year was the coldest such period on record for Florida, the second-coldest for Louisiana and the third-coldest for Mississippi and Alabama. The fact is, the Gulf of Mexico itself is colder (yellow shows temperatures on top map; blue on the lower map shows departures below the average, while yellow shows departures above the average in the Atlantic) than normal this spring, and that may be why the spring tornado season - which is fueled in part by heat and humidity off the Gulf - has been so slow.
NOAA's National Climatic Data Center and the Storm Prediction Center said this week that the preliminary U.S. tornado count for March was just 36. That was a tie for the fourth-quietest March for tornado activity since they started keeping records in 1950. The three-year average for March tornados is 138.
On average, however, the contiguous 48 states were warmer and drier than average, NOAA says. Thirteen states had average March temperatures that ranked among their 10 warmest. Rhode Island had its warmest March ever. Maine had its second-warmest and New Hampshire had its third-warmest.
Dry weather was the rule in Michigan, which saw its driest January-to-March period ever. Wisconsin saw its fourth-driest while Montana and Wyoming had their sixth driest.
Big coastal storms brought parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England states wet weather and flooding in March. It was the wettest January-to-March on record for Massachusetts, Rhode Island (photo, right) and New Jersey. Delaware and Vermont saw their second- and fifth-wettest Marches on record.
And just so you know, mid-March ice cover on the Great Lakes (yes, they record such things) was at a record low, just 3.5 percent of the lakes' surface. The average ice extent for that period is 31 percent, according to records dating back to 1973.
(AP PHOTO/Joe Giblin)