ASK TOM: Tornadoes in January?

Dear Tom,

Tornadoes in January? Recent reports of tornadoes in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia during the last two weeks of January seem hard to believe. What is the explanation?

-Jim Garrison

 

Dear Jim,

 

It is incorrect to exclude the possibility of tornadoes based solely on the month or season, because there is no absolutely tornado-free time of the year. Although the peak of the tornado season occurs in the spring and early summer here in the Midwest, that is not true of the Southeast and Gulf states. There, the tornado season gets under way in the late winter. Tornado researchers stress that warm air is important — at least nearby — in the production of a tornadic thunderstorm, and mild, moist air originating over the Gulf of Mexico is available all year — even in the Midwest during the winter on rare occasions, but especially in the Southeast.