Although most people associate the spring months with severe weather, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Little Rock says Arkansas typically experiences a secondary severe weather season in the fall or early winter about two years out of every three.
NWS Forecaster John Robinson explains it this way:
"We've had a very slow tornado year so far, with only 13 documented tornadoes. However, we've seen a change in the weather pattern lately with rain occurring on a more regular basis. Through the end of the year, a weak to moderate El Nino pattern is forecast. This warming of the ocean waters in the equatorial Pacific often brings wet weather to the southern United States, and I think we are seeing hints of this already. Also, in El Nino, we often see some big temperature swings in the fall, much as we will be having this week. Such abrupt changes in temperatures would certainly suggest that we will get some bouts of severe weather this fall."
The NWS says that iIn the years 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005, the greatest tornado outbreaks in the state occurred in the fall. In 2009, the number of tornadoes in the fall almost equaled the number seen in the spring. In 2010, four people were killed by a tornado in Washington county on December 31st.
Pople who have lived in Arkansas for decades likely remember December of 1982, when tornado outbreaks occurred on December 2nd and again on Christmas Eve.
The spring severe weather season sometimes does not wait until spring officially begins. In 2008, the Super Tuesday tornado outbreak occurred on February 5th. In 1999, the big tornado outbreak occurred on January 21st. In 2012, the biggest tornado outbreak of the year so far occurred on January 22nd.
The NWS says even in the fall and winter, when unusually warm and humid air invades Arkansas, severe weather can occur when a strong cold front or upper level low pressure collides with the warmth and moisture.
Arkansans are reminded that it's very important to keep up with the weather when unseasonably warm, humid weather comes along. Listen to see if severe weather watches and warnings are issued. Typically, many people are caught
by surprise when severe weather occurs during the cooler months because all too many people think of severe weather as occurring only in the spring.
Be prepared now, click here to sign up for KARK 4 severe weather alerts.
Other weather awareness dates:
- Winter Weather Awareness Week - Monday, November 12 through Friday, November 16
- Severe Weather Awareness Week (2013) - Monday, February 18 through Friday, Feb. 22