Kansas’ 124 confirmed tornadoes in 2015 were 83 more than the previous year, tying for the fourth highest number since 1990, according to the National Weather Service’s preliminary data.
Eric Metzger, a meteorologist for the weather service’s office in Wichita, says moisture from a strong El Nino was a possible factor in 2015’s higher number of tornadoes because it influences climate systems to produce more tornadoes, The Hutchinson News reported.
Kansas typically has between 70 and 110 tornadoes every year.
More moisture makes severe storms and tornadoes more likely, and upper air is needed to produce tornadic activity, Metzger said.
Kansas received 42.02 inches of rain in 2015, compared to the normal 32.61 inches — making for the sixth wettest year on record, according to Metzger.
While it was a rather wet year, “just because there’s a lot of moisture doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a lot of tornadic activity,” he said.
Florida and the “Tornado Alley,” which stretches across the south-central United States, have a “disproportionately high” frequency of tornadoes, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, formerly called the National Climatic Data Center.
Kansas’s average of 96 tornadoes a year is one of the highest average numbers of tornadoes in the region. Oklahoma averages 62, Nebraska 57 and Texas 155, according to NCEI. In Kansas, the number of tornadoes was below average from 1994 to 2000, when the state saw anywhere between 42 and 72 tornadoes.
As for 2016, the Storm Prediction Center will issue its predictions for tornado activity in February or March.
The 2015 preliminary data is subject to revision, and the NCEI will release official statistics in six to eight months.