It has been an absolutely furious start to the year for the national tornado count.

But as we always say: that doesn’t mean anything for the entire calendar year. The pattern for the Plains is very different than a pattern favorable for tornadoes in the Southeast and Midwest.

In fact, there have been only a handful of days for storm chasing on the Plains so far and outside of a brief chance this next week, those may be the only days for awhile.

The national tornado count has soared to a well above average start, reaching levels we typically see by early May.
However, almost all of those tornadoes have been well east of the Plains.

The Reset

I joked with some friends on messenger a few days ago that if I were to dream up a pattern that would lead to no tornadoes for 3-4 weeks on the Great Plains in the Spring season, this would be it.

There are two very pronounced jet stream features impacting the pattern negatively. The large ridge over the middle of the country is bad enough and weakens return flow. But the cut-off low over the Gulf of Mexico with northerly flow for days on end is an absolute pattern killer.

The combo of the ridge plus the low just blocked off and meandering through the Gulf means no severe weather through much of this week. But there is a chance the pattern turns briefly on Friday-Saturday this upcoming week.

A dryline will set up by Friday over the region, but very warm temps aloft will likely preclude any storm development if that verifies. Either way, the chances of severe weather are likely very low.
There is intense disagreement on the surface pattern evolution after Friday. The GFS throws out an actual potential chase day on Saturday, with just enough wind shear that you could eek out a transient supercell. The Euro however slams a front through all day Saturday and keeps severe weather chances at bay.

The bottom line: Storm chasing will be pretty much nonexistent this week unless Saturday can pull through, but current signals are for a low-end day even if storms happen.

Beyond This Week

Since there are no setups to discuss the next seven days or so, will there be any to discuss the next seven?

Right now, ensembles are handling the overall pattern evolution through at least next Tuesday with a large amount of consistency depicting a western ridge and eastern trough. Everything about this pattern so far has screamed coming out of La Niña and this is no exception. This isn’t a pattern you want if you want to storm chase.

La Niña springs on the Plains are often pretty late starters, and they can end up in any part of the tornado count spectrum. In this case, it certainly appears our next robust tornado chances will be happening sometime in the April 20s at best.

*Pattern speculation warning*

Ensembles want to start flattening the ridge towards the end of the month, with a warm/wet signal across the board. So outside of our very low storm chances towards the end of the week, I suspect our robust Spring season chances will begin sometime after 4/22 and possibly a decent bit after that.

It’s going to be a late starting year for the Plains and I would not be surprised if the national tornado count is nearing average as we move towards May given the mountain of data suggesting as such right now.

In my annual tornado season outlook for the Plains, I called for a near average season. Right now, if I were to update that, I’d say we’re leaning ever so slightly towards below average now. However, I can recall a lot of busy years having a major pattern turn into late April to May that resulted in great storm chasing. And if you believe climate data, that could be where we are heading. My best guess that is probably wrong is we have a furious two or three week window somewhere late April into May like a lot of La Niña years. With the transition to El Niño underway, the High Plains season of June – August should be busier than it has been in quite some time.

In the meantime, don’t mind us Plains storm chasers who will be waiting patiently for all of that to occur.