You Think it’s Quiet, but it’s Actually Unprecedented

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How many times have meteorologists heard the old joke that goes something like this: “I wish I had a job where I could be wrong 50% of the time and still get paid.” That one’s like fingernails on a chalkboard, but I try not to let it bother me. Now though, I worry about the potential for a new weatherman joke that will go something like this: “I wish I could have a job where I don’t have to do anything and still get paid.”

Do nothing? You and I both know that even a “sunny” forecast takes effort, but what you might not know is that, from coast to coast, there have been no weather warnings issued by the National Weather Service for the month of March. None, zero, bupkis. In a period known for being fraught with severe weather and tornadoes, that’s not only remarkable but unprecedented.

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According to the NOAA’s Public Affairs Office, in an article written yesterday (link), “unprecedented” is the word they used to describe the void. More detail was provided by Greg Carbin, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the Severe Prediction Center, “We are in uncharted territory with respect to lack of severe weather. This has never happened in the record of SPC watches dating back to 1970.”

Not only have there been no severe weather watches issued for the month of March, but there have only been four for the entire year. While the month is still underway, consider the count during the January-February time period last year (26), in 2013 (46) and in 2008 (82). These numbers consider daily watches issued for the past 45 years.

More numbers to consider: By mid-March there are typically 52 tornado watches issued, though only four have been issued to date this year. Additionally, 130 tornadoes are typically reported from January 1 through mid-March, yet only 20 are in the books thus far.

Good news, but why? Meteorologist Carbin continued: “We’re in a persistent pattern that suppresses severe weather, and the right ingredients—moisture, instability, and lift—have not been brought together in any consistent way so far this year.”

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Incidentally, these ingredients (or culprits, depending on your point of view), are the same ones that have been hampering thunderstorm development over the Tropics over the last few years, leading to lower-than-expected seasonal hurricane forecasts, as well as actual hurricanes.

While we’re counting days and records, here’s something else: It’s been well beyond the typical number of days since the last major category hurricane to strike the U.S. Coastline. Category 3 or higher hurricanes typically strike the U.S. coast every 1.5-to-2 years, yet the last such storm, Hurricane Wilma (link) in October, 2005 was 9.4 years ago. As of today, that’s 3,442 days ago.

Though I like to joke myself that having broad shoulders and learning how to take a joke were lessons we meteorologists learned on Day 1 of weather school, the real severe weather season—April and May—are right around the corner. Our unprecedented quiet period will come to a dramatic end and it will be time to go back to work.

Be informed about severe weather. Severe Weather Awareness information can be found here, while your state and local National Weather Services offices (link) sponsor Severe Weather Awareness activities at this time of year. Twitter is also great source for local severe weather information when you follow your local National Weather Service office, county OEM and media outlets. Now is also a great time to update your smart phone with the latest severe weather apps that can put forecasts, watches, warnings, radar animations and more in the palm of your hand.

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