Authors: Chip Redmond, Mary Knapp

Tornado season in Kansas is generally considered to be predominately a spring event. However, October 2016 has brought a sharp increase in tornadic activity.

Figure 1. Tornado in Clay County on October 12, 2016. Photo by Chip Redmond, K-State Research and Extension.

The preliminary totals, through October 12th, are 19 tornadoes. Figure 2 shows how this October compares to previous years:

Figure 2. October tornadoes by year.

It is important to note that since the start of the millennium, detection methods have improved. These improved techniques, including Doppler radar and increased numbers of storm chasers, tend to capture more of the weak events, and skew observations towards higher numbers. Of the 19 tornadoes in the current preliminary report for October 2016, the strongest has been classified as an EF3 while most have been rated as EF0 or EF1.

Tornado numbers can vary significantly from year to year. Based on current counts, October 2016 ties as the October with the second most tornadoes since 1950. The final total count for the month could either increase or decrease. Increased numbers are possible if additional severe weather outbreaks occur; decreased numbers are possible if duplicate reports are eliminated from the current total. Below is a chart showing which years had the highest October totals overall:

Figure 3: Top October tornado totals.

Even in a very active year, October’s contribution to total annual tornado number tends to be small.

Chip Redmond, Weather Data Library/Mesonet

Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library/Mesonet