Continued Drought, More Tornados Forecasted

By Don Jergler | December 17, 2012

Extreme weather events in 2013 may look much the same as this year — but different.

The weather is difficult to predict, but if the weak El Niño forecast for next year holds, it brings with it the promise of continued drought in the Great Plains and nasty winter weather on the East Coast.

“The El Niño is very weak,” said Jack Boston, a long-term forecaster for AccuWeather. “We really don’t expect a strong one this winter so far.”

Boston said he expects the polar jet stream to flow into the Northwest and across the northern United States, and the southern jet stream to flow south of Southern California and across to Baja, Calif.; Texas; and the Southeast.

Translation: “It’s bad news for the drought conditions,” Boston said. “Nationally, right now we think the drought conditions are probably not going to be relived much in the Plains, which is the worst area of drought right now.”

The Plains region has been plagued by drought since last spring, and the Corn Belt, the central Plains, eastern Colorado and the central Rockies can expect no relief from those conditions.

While 2012′s tornado season was relatively quiet in terms of total tornado counts, with the exception of Isaac and Sandy, don’t expect the same quiet season in 2013, according to Boston.

“We expect more tornados than last year, and I would think it will end up a little bit above average for tornados,” he said. “With all the rain that we’re expecting to experience in the southern United States in the winter and this spring, that’s completely different than last year.”

That means those areas will likely have moister soil conditions come the severe weather season, which could amplify the impact of tornados, he added.

“It’s going to be quite a bit more active severe weather season from the Southern Plains to the Southeast,” Boston said, adding that he expects severe weather to spread to the Ohio Valley and the Central Plains in late spring.

Additionally, Boston said, “Next tropical season if the El Niño is coming back stronger next year as we think it will, that will mean it will be a less active season for hurricanes and tropical storms [to] occur.” But it’s “kind of a crapshoot” to figure out how many will actually reach U.S. coastlines next year, he added.

It’s such a crapshoot that the official voice on hurricanes — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center won’t comment on next year’s outlook — at least not until next year.

“NOAA doesn’t issue any season outlook until the middle of May,” noted Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center. “Most of the clues to the Hurricane season really don’t show themselves until we get to spring.”

Perhaps not, but historical climatologist Evelyn Browning-Garriss told a crowd of several hundred in the insurance industry that the weather phenomenon that generated the nearly 1,000-mile wide Superstorm Sandy that slammed into the East Coast is here to stay for a while.

In October, Browning-Garriss spoke at the Property Casualty Insurance Association of American meeting in Dana Point, Calif.,

According to Browning-Garriss, this year not only was the water in the Atlantic warmer than normal, but the warm water arrived about six weeks early, yielding coastal temperatures in May that were more like the temperatures seen around July.

Sandy drew its energy from that warm water, and the East Coast can expect more severe weather this winter and the next several seasons over the next 20 years, as a long weather cycle plays itself out, Browning-Garriss said.

“We have never seen the waters off the East Coast as hot as they’ve been this year,” she said.

Browning-Garriss noted that warm waters will magnify the size of any storm that reaches the East Coast. And when a storm comes, it will be slower to leave the East Coast because of wind being brought in by a change in the historical climate cycle, she said.

“We’re going to see slow, wet storms, and a lot of them,” she added.

From This Issue

Insurance Journal West December 17, 2012
December 17, 2012
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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Latest Comments

  • January 23, 2013 at 5:31 am
    Juliane Orth Adams says:
    In regard to the weather forecast about th warm water temperatures of th East coast: I think that the oil-spill in the gulf of Mexico is also to be blamed. I personally believ... read more
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