Minnesota Tornadoes 2010: We’re #1!

Tornado Alley moved to Minnesota in 2010.

Maybe we should update the state slogan to say; “Welcome to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and 100 tornadoes.”

We all know it’s been an insanely busy severe weather year in Minnesota, but I about leaped out of my weather lab chair when I counted up the preliminary number of SPC tornado reports by state for 2010.

Minnesota leads the nation in the number of tornado touchdowns this year…by FAR.

Preliminary numbers show Minnesota has 122 tornado reports so far in 2010. The #2 state isn’t even close. Texas has reported 87 tornadoes so far in 2010.

That’s right folks; the frozen tundra of Minnesota has had 35 more tornado reports this year than Tornado Alley Texas.

1 1 1 1 mn tor 2010.PNG

Here are the top 5 “tornado states” for 2010.

(Keep in mind these are preliminary numbers through August 15th)

1) Minnesota 122 tornado reports

2) Texas 87 tornado reports

3) Kansas 80 tornado reports

4) Oklahoma 70 tornado reports

5) Colorado 62 tornado reports

Wisconsin comes in 6th with 59 tornado reports so far this year.

1 a a a 2010 tornadoes.jpg

The numbers are stunning and remarkable for many reasons.

-This would be the first year in recorded history that Minnesota leads the nation in tornado touchdowns. (I’m still working on confirming this.)

Since 2000 Texas has lead the nation in tornadoes 7 years. Kansas has lead twice, and Illinois once. Here are the numbers.

2009 Texas 125 tornadoes

2008 Kansas 185 tornadoes

2007 Texas 198 tornadoes

2006 Illinois 123 tornadoes

2005 Kansas 136 tornadoes

2004 Texas 178 tornadoes

2003 Texas 155 tornadoes

2002 Texas 172 tornadoes

2001 Texas 137 tornadoes

2000 Texas 146 tornadoes

-Texas would need to record roughly another 36 tornadoes to surpass Minnesota this year. This is certainly possible, but it seems just as likely Minnesota may hold onto the number one spot at this late point in the season.

-This year may possibly break the all time state record for confirmed tornadoes in Minnesota, which is 74 set in 2001.

I’ve talked with several local weather and climate experts over the years who have noticed a trend toward increasing tornado numbers in Minnesota. The long term annual average for tornadoes in Minnesota since 1950 is about 26. In the past decade, that number has risen to around 40 tornadoes per year. 2010 blows that number off the charts so far.

The bottom line is tornado alley is shifting north, and it set up shop right over Minnesota this year. There are several possible explanations including random variability and…wait for it…. climate change. As heat and moisture shifts north it is perfectly logical and within the realm of possibility that tornado alley is shifting north into Minnesota.

The NWS and Storm Prediction Center will sift through all the preliminary tornado reports this year. If Minnesota ends up #1 in tornado reports in the nation in 2010 when all the numbers are counted, it will be one of the most unprecedented weather events in decades if not a century.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in tornado alley, now you know. Stay tuned as the final numbers are tallied for 2010 in the coming months. We’re living some incredible weather history, right here in Minnesota this year.

PH

  • I thought we had a lot of tornadoes in Nebraska, which I moved to MN from. Little did I know tornado alley migrated north. 😉

  • John

    I think that the data here don’t really show conclusively that Tornado Alley is moving north. Are other states in the Upper Midwest seeing the same thing? (It’s not that I don’t believe the trend is possible, it’s just that the data presented here are a bit sparse to be conclusive. A plot of number of tornadoes by year for as long as we have accurate records would help. Actually, a plot showing multiple states would help more.)

    Actually, the data shouldn’t really be by total per state, but by # of tornadoes per land area. That would be a lot more informative. (Texas coming out on top isn’t very surprising given its size. In fact, it tells us little given the size differential.)

  • Paul Huttner

    Hi John:

    There are several critical points for me in the data.

    1) Minnesota has NEVER led the nation in tornadoes.

    2) Of course size matters and stats are kept for tornadoes per sq mile. The fact that Texas is BIGGER in land area makes the numbers even more amazing this year.

    3) The mere fact that Minnesota’s average annual tornado numbers over the past decade have nearly doubled (from 26 to over 40) is significant, if not alarming.

    I stand by my conclusions, but agree with your wish for broader data. I’m looking at the numbers…more to come.

    PH

  • John

    1) Right, but one new datum doesn’t go very far to demonstrate much. It could just be one bad year in Minnesota from that alone. Just like one cold winter doesn’t disprove global warming.

    3) That’s a solid, important point, but I’d feel a lot better with either more than 10 years of data and/or more states. With counts like these you expect around 10%+ variation from year to year just due to chance.

    To be clear, I fully believe that this is a real trend and I strongly suspect you have data in front of you that I don’t. I’m just too much of a science professor (and this is MPR) to not point the relative strength of the data. 🙂

    I look forward to see more on this, I’m sure it’ll be interesting and probably alarming!

  • cbbob

    Note that it says “reported” tornadoes.

    I know from first hand experience that the weather media in this state dramatizes everything from temps to storms. They had been using the wrong wind chill factor for years to make it sound colder.

    They even use “potential tornado death icons” on the forecasts. (swirly icons where there is no tornado.

    Most of these Tornadoes have been F -0 s…..stiff winds with a curve in them. or reports at night with no visual confirmation.

  • Paul Meyer

    Paul, what’s the breakdown via intensity? It seems as if we’re also seeing a larger number of F3+ tornados.

  • Robin Tanamachi

    I’m a Minnesota native, a grad student at the U. of Oklahoma School of Meteorology, and was a participant in the 2009-2010 VORTEX2 field program to study tornadoes. We spent considerably less time in Texas this year than we expected to! Texas is usually #1 in terms of raw tornado count, just by virtue of its enormous land area. Had the VORTEX2 project run into late June and July, we would certainly have operated in southwest Minnesota.

    For these statistics to be meaningful, one really needs to normalize by the area of the states. When you do that for these five states, the order changes, but Minnesota still currently leads by a substantial margin!

    1) MN: 122 tornado reports / 79,610 sq. mi = 1.5 tornadoes per 1,000 sq. mi.

    2) OK: 70 tornado reports / 68,667 sq. mi = 1.0 tornadoes per 1,000 sq. mi.

    3) KS: 80 tornado reports / 81,814 sq. mi = 1.0 tornadoes per 1,000 sq. mi.

    4) CO: 62 tornado reports / 103,717 sq. mi = 0.6 tornadoes per 1,000 sq. mi.

    5) TX: 87 tornado reports / 261,797 sq. mi = 0.3 tornadoes per 1,000 sq. mi.

    (State areas are from census.gov.)

    This has certainly been an usually active year for Minnesota. But, don’t forget that the southern tier of tornado alley states (TX, OK, KS) have a secondary tornado maximum that occurs in October and November, as the polar jet stream shifts back for the winter. That could rearrange the list considerably before the close of 2010!

  • Paul Huttner

    Hi Paul:

    Check this out from Twin Cities NWS report on June 17th tornadoes.

    The three EF-4s in Minnesota were the first EF-4 or stronger tornado since the Granite Falls tornado of July 25, 2000.

    • It was the most number of EF-4s or greater in any one event in Minnesota since Black Sunday (April 30th, 1967).

    • This was the first EF-4 tornado in Freeborn County since Black Sunday.

    • The last EF-4 tornado in the nation was June 5th, 2010 Wood and Ottawa County, OH tornado.

    • The four total EF-4 tornadoes (3 in MN, 1 in ND) were the most in any one event across the country since the “Super Tuesday” Outbreak on Feb 5-6, 2008.

    • The number of fatalities due to tornadoes in Minnesota was the highest since July 5, 1978 (4).

  • Paul Huttner

    cbob:

    Yes, all tornado numbers (including Texas) are preliminary numbers, and some are multiple reports of the same tornado. SPC and local NWS offices will sift through, survey, confirm and come up with final numbers.

    Even though the numbers of tornado “reports” are preliminary, there is little reason to think the ratio of confirmed reports between Texas and Minnesota will change dramatically when final numbers are in.

    PH

  • Paul Huttner

    I’m a Minnesota native, a grad student at the U. of Oklahoma School of Meteorology, and was a participant in the 2009-2010 VORTEX2 field program to study tornadoes. We spent considerably less time in Texas this year than we expected to! Texas is usually #1 in terms of raw tornado count, just by virtue of its enormous land area. Had the VORTEX2 project run into late June and July, we would certainly have operated in southwest Minnesota.

    For these statistics to be meaningful, one really needs to normalize by the area of the states. When you do that for these five states, the order changes, but Minnesota still currently leads by a substantial margin!

    1) MN: 122 tornado reports / 79,610 sq. mi = 1.5 tornadoes per 1,000 sq. mi.

    2) OK: 70 tornado reports / 68,667 sq. mi = 1.0 tornadoes per 1,000 sq. mi.

    3) KS: 80 tornado reports / 81,814 sq. mi = 1.0 tornadoes per 1,000 sq. mi.

    4) CO: 62 tornado reports / 103,717 sq. mi = 0.6 tornadoes per 1,000 sq. mi.

    5) TX: 87 tornado reports / 261,797 sq. mi = 0.3 tornadoes per 1,000 sq. mi.

    (State areas are from census.gov.)

    This has certainly been an usually active year for Minnesota. But, don’t forget that the southern tier of tornado alley states (TX, OK, KS) have a secondary tornado maximum that occurs in October and November, as the polar jet stream shifts back for the winter. That could rearrange the list considerably before the close of 2010!

    Posted by Robin Tanamachi | August 17, 2010 1:56 PM

    Hi Robin:

    Excellent analysis. Thanks for doing the math on this.

    This actually accentuates the difference in tornado frequency in Minnesota vs. Texas.

    Yes, I am aware of the “fall” tornado season in the deep south. It will be interesting to watch and see how much Texas and other states will “catch up” in the coming months.

    One huge outbreak could change things.

    PH

  • aj

    i live in west central mn, in grant county. i have a question. what exactly is considered a tornado? does a “tornado” touch the ground? or is a “tornado” a formed cloud/funel cloud that hasn’t touched but has been confirmed as sighted? or both? i ask this because about a month ago i watched tornados form and disipate 15 times.

  • David Y

    “….it will be one of the most unprecedented weather events in decades if not a century..”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t “unprecedented” rather like the words “dead”, “pregnant”, or “unique”? My point is that there is no “most unprecedented” anything. Something is either unprecedented or it isn’t. One is either dead or alive, pregnant or not, unique or not. There are no degrees for these words.

    Perhaps you could substitute “remarkable”, “notable”, or “interesting”?

  • JOsh

    WOW! A front page link on FARK.com. That’s getting pretty close to home!

  • xdf

    “has LED”

  • Chad

    Storm chasers in previous times were slackers.