Two hundred-mile-per-hour winds devastated Joplin, Mo. on May 22, 2011. The EF5 twister killed 158 people. This was just one in a string of deadly tornadoes to rip through the U.S. last year.
This year's storm season got to a quick start with 79 tornadoes in January, 53 in February, and 41 deaths by twister in March.
So is there a connection between our warm winter and this severe weather? No. Studies have found that warm winters have no apparent impact on severe weather in the spring and summer.
But can meteorologists predict severe storms weeks or months ahead of time? The short answer is no. When it comes to predicting severe weather, it's a problem of scale.
We use big weather patterns the size of the continental United States to track future temperatures and precipitation trends. Severe weather, tornadoes and high winds occur on a relatively small scale, say the size of a football field. Current technology lets us predict severe storms just days ahead of time, not months.
However there are two ingredients that could point to a more active severe weather season. Warmer than normal water is present in the Gulf of Mexico and warmer than normal ground temperatures are present for much of the U.S. Both moisture and heat can add energy to storms.
While we don't know how many twisters will hit Wisconsin this year, we do know the best way to prepare for severe weather is to own a weather radio.
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