After the terrible and active 2011 tornado season, President Barack Obama asked why there wasn't a seasonal outlook for tornadoes, similar to our hurricane season forecast. That year there were1,691 tornadoes — the second most for any season going back to the 1950s. That season spawned a horrible EF-4 tornado which demolished the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham area,
Well since then, forecasters have been working on such an outlook, and today it was made public.
The experimental outlook for the
2015 spring tornado season released by Columbia University researchers.
They give a 60 percent chance that the tornado season will see normal
levels of activity, a 30 percent chance that it will be below normal
(as it has been so far, thanks to pervasive cold weather in the central
and eastern U.S.), and a 10 percent chance it will be above normal.
Credit: John Allen
They are focusing more or less on El Niño. They suggest their is some correlation that may give us an idea of how active tornado season can be. There are many other factors to tornado formation but this is a starting point. I'm sure there is still plenty of learning to be done and many refinements to this outlook, but at least it gives folks in tornado alley an idea of what to expect. But just like hurricanes, just how many will strike an area is still unknown.
It is extremely difficult to forecast such small scale events. Even
though they are ferocious, it is still almost impossible to forecast
where a tornado may develop or even touch down, but the folks at
Columbia University took up the challenge and released their outlook.