Only 63 Tornado Watches Have Been Issued So Far in 2018, the Fewest in More Than 12 Years

Linda Lam
Published: July 10, 2018

The number of tornado watches that have been issued so far this year in the U.S. is the fewest to date in at least the past 13 years.

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, which posts tornado and severe thunderstorm watches in the U.S., has issued only 63 tornado watches through July 9, according to Sam Lillo, a meteorologist at the University of Oklahoma. Tornado watches are put in place when atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in a particular area.

(MORE: Tornado Central)

Lillo also noted that since 2007, the latest date that the 63rd tornado watch was issued was May 16 in 2016. This year, however, the 63rd tornado watch was not posted until July 1.

In the past decade, this point has been reached in April in most years.

Given the below-average number of tornadoes so far this year, the reduced number of tornado watches is no surprise. However, it is interesting the degree tornado activity has been limited in 2018.

Through June 27, just 571 tornadoes have been reported in the U.S., almost half of the average of 1,004 tornado reports based on data from 2005 to 2015.

Preliminary tornadoes for 2005-15 and 2018 through June 27. Note the actual tornado count for each year is lower.
(NOAA/Storm Prediction Center)

Before this year, 2013 hadthe fewest tornado reports through June 27 with 626, based on data back to 2005. That year finished with 943 total tornado reports, making it the least busy year during this time period.   

These numbers are preliminary reports and the final number is lowered after final analysis since tornado reports can be combined.

The jet stream so far this year has not frequently been in a position conducive for tornado outbreaks, which has limited the number of watches and reports. While this does not mean that this trend will continue through the end of the year, the most active months for tornadoes – April, May and June – have passed.

Average number of tornadoes per month based on data from 1997-2016.

In most years, close to two-thirds of the annual tornadoes have occurred through June, based on data over the last 20 years.

Only three deaths due to tornadoes have been reported this year, and for only the second time on record May and June passed without any deaths. The other year that this occurred was 2005, which also saw well-below average tornado reports through June.

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