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Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 11:48am

No Predicting Tornado Season

A suspected tornado that roared through the Rome area Wednesday night is just the latest in what has been a busy winter for severe storms.

More potentially tornado-spawning storms are forecast across north Georgia through Friday, and the peak season in Georgia is just beginning.

Preliminary numbers from the National Weather Service show 95 tornadoes nationwide in January alone. Compare that to 16 last year, including twisters spawned by storms walloping north Georgia, and a three-year January average of just 12 storms.

But meteorologists say lots of activity early in the year doesn’t mean much.

“January and February so far have been above normal in temperature and so we’ve had a more active early season than we usually do,” said Pam Knox, a climatologist at the University of Georgia. “Now if you look statistics between what happens early in the year and what happens later, there’s really no predictability. So this is not necessarily a harbinger of a terrible season.”

Knox said we remain in a La Nina weather pattern, which can mean more storms in spring. But she said there are so many variables and conditions have to be just right for tornadoes that forecasters cannot say what is in store.

“That’s why you tend to get tornadoes in clusters rather than just random events,” Knox said. “They come because a front is moving into the area and causing a lot of instability and things like prediction of how many frontal passages you’ll have in a season are almost impossible to do.”

Knox said while tornado activity generally peaks in Georgia from March to May, the risk is year-round.

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