Though tornadoes form year-round and all over the world, the U.S. is the most active area in the world for tornadoes. The onset of spring in the U.S. brings an uptick in tornado activity, especially in the Southeast and South Central states. Many states, including Florida this past week, have been under numerous tornado warnings this spring. This image plots all of the recorded tornadoes from January 1, 1950 – December 31, 2010, compiled and archived by the National Climatic Data Center – a total of 58,398 events. Every state has experienced tornadic activity in this time period, though the highest concentration of tornado events occur the “Tornado Alley” stretching from Texas to North Dakota, and Florida. (Because the latitude and longitude in values NCDC’s database are rounded to degrees and minutes, some artifacts in the location of the tornadoes appear in this image, as can be seen by some of the grid lines in the most active regions. Also, not shown are the three tornadoes in Alaska and 28 in Hawaii.)
Improvements to NOAA’s radar and satellite observations have greatly increased the warning lead times issued by the National Weather Service, and have saved countless lives. Future improvements such as the GOES-R Geostationary Lightning Mapper will allow meteorologists to identify areas of intense thunderstorm activity - a good indicator of tornadogenesis.