January saw many tornadoes. What could February bring?

The first month of 2022 was certainly less severe than the last month of 2021, but this January has not exactly been a calm one. Dozens of tornadoes swept through the Southeast, damaging homes and businesses as they ripped through communities across the region. Here’s a recap of what we’ve seen this month and a preview of what’s in store for us in the coming weeks.

It seems contradictory that severe weather is common in January, but the same winter storms that bring heavy snow and ice to the northern states often sweep severe thunderstorms across parts of the south. Despite this, this January in the United States was marked by below-average severe weather.

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The Storm Prediction Center received just 213 reports of severe weather — tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds — for the month ended January 30th. There’s a small chance the number will spike a bit as severe storms are possible in a small portion of south Texas Monday. Regardless, the monthly count is sure to fall short of the average 382 severe weather reports we’ve seen in January since 2012.

2022 began with a spate of tornadoes across Kentucky, which had been ravaged by multiple deadly long-track tornadoes just weeks before. Ten tornadoes made landfall in central Kentucky in the New Year’s Day outbreak, most of which were weak and caused no injuries or deaths. A series of severe thunderstorms generated multiple tornadoes in the greater Houston area and northwestern Louisiana on January 8.

Several other severe weather episodes contributed to the provisional total of 48 tornadoes for the month. This comes close to the 52 tornadoes an average January has experienced over the past decade.

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What can we expect in February? Even if we are still stuck in the middle of winter, the first warm spring fever penetrates the southern states in February. More frequent infiltration of warm, humid air from the Gulf will give winter storms more opportunities to create severe thunderstorms.

The Storm Prediction Center’s severe weather climatology shows strong thunderstorms becoming more common in the Deep South toward the end of February, with a bullish trend developing over parts of Mississippi and Alabama. This sets the stage for intense spring outbreaks that typically hit this region in March and April.

Active patterning over the eastern two-thirds of the United States in the first week of February could present multiple opportunities for strong to severe thunderstorms sweeping parts of the southeastern states. This active pattern could continue into the middle of the month.

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