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Ask Todd: Severe weather in spring

11:29 PM, Jul 31, 2012   |    comments
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Matt Courson asks: "Todd, why do we have most of our severe weather, such as tornadoes, in the spring?"

Let's start with one of the most notable spring severe weather outbreaks in recent memory. Over a four-day span in April 2011, more than 200 tornadoes were spotted across the southeast, causing more than 300 deaths.

That storm made its biggest impact in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. People in Greene and Bradley counties also fell victim to that outbreak.

Typically, severe thunderstorms, which can produce tornadoes, require warm, moist air at the Earth's surface as well as favorable atmospheric conditions to increase instability and shear in storms as they develop.

The required ingredients tend to come together at different times of the year for different geographic regions.

Here in the southeast, severe thunderstorm activity does tend to spike in the early spring. Storm season typically peaks in late spring for the southern plains, and in summer in the northern plains, but it's important to note these severe storms are possible year-round as long as the required ingredients all come together.

An example of that was this year's March 2nd tornadoes. One of those tornadoes, an EF-2, tore through Tellico Plains, impacting hundreds of homes. There were more than 70 tornadoes reported nationwide that day.

To put that in perspective, on average there are 80 tornadoes in the U.S. each March.

National Weather Service experts say our warmer winter is what caused that early tornado outbreak.

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