OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As Oklahoma gears up for the start of severe weather season, one question is on the minds of many: how bad is it going to be?
KFOR Meteorologist Emily Sutton explains how the climatology could affect our chances in Oklahoma, while other parts of the country may see more extreme storms.
In a March report from AccuWeather, the outlet predicted that 2022 may have a greater number of tornadoes than in years past, but that was for the entire country, not just the Sooner State.
“Not surprising that they said there would be more nationwide tornadoes because we just had a couple of huge outbreaks in not typical areas,” said Sutton. “They had the devastating Kentucky tornadoes in December. We just recently had the severe weather outbreak and over 40 tornadoes in Iowa, which usually doesn’t happen till June. So, yes, it is a more active weather pattern, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect on what will happen here in Oklahoma.”
Those storms in the eastern part of the U.S. led to talk that Tornado Alley had shifted, which Sutton addressed.
“I know there’s been a lot of buzz about Tornado Alley possibly shifting to the east. Truth be told, I think there are two Tornado Alleys, traditional Tornado Alley, which Oklahoma is in, and Dixie Alley in the southeastern United States. Both have been around for a long time.”
Sutton stated that the increase in tornadoes in the eastern part of the country is due to a number of factors, including the population increasing in the southeastern part of the U.S., thus more people being able to see the storms, as well as the improvements in technology, with sensors being able to spot more tornadoes in that area.
Sutton next addressed the common misconception that a milder winter means a gnarly spring/summer, which she said is technically not true.
“No, you can’t correlate that because it depends more on the climatological pattern that you’re facing,” said Sutton. “So for this spring, we will have the same climatological pattern that we were in for the winter, which is La Nina. So La Nina happens when there are stronger winds to push the warmer farther west. This causes cold ocean water from the sea floor to rise to the surface, lowering sea surface temperatures, and that is part of a greater oscillation that impacts the placement of the jet stream, which ultimately determines who has the better chance of severe weather. The jet stream controls weather patterns and temperature patterns. So for us, that means more than likely above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation.”
The current drought that Oklahoma is in could lower the state’s chances of severe weather, although Sutton said to not bank on that.
“So the more we have drought, the drier it is and the harder it is for our dew points to go up to have the moisture for storms to even develop,” said Sutton. “I would still tell people, don’t let your guard down. This doesn’t mean we’re going to have a below normal because we’ve had La Nina and we still had a busy severe weather season. It’s Oklahoma, ultimately. We’re going to have severe weather.”
The peak time for Oklahoma’s storm season is late April through May, however Sutton said it’s best to prepare for severe weather now.
“Use the time now to prepare for severe weather,” said Sutton. “As we’ve seen to other neighboring states, they’ve had severe weather at a non-typical time, atypical time of year. So we need to always be prepared here in Oklahoma. So clean out your storm shelter and be ready to take action.”