Oklahomans should brace for a storm season was an above-average number of tornadoes, according to meteorologist Gary England.
England told KGOU that a weak La Niña phenomena typically leads to an active tornado season.
“There’s been a bunch of years with a weak La Niña, we had a lot of tornadoes,” England said.
A weak La Niña occurs when temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are slightly below normal.
“Usually we have big outbreaks of tornadoes, and with large tornadoes. They may not be in Oklahoma. But they may be in Arkansas, wherever. But you’re going to have them,” England said. “And usually Oklahoma does.”
In contrast, an El Niño occurs when temperature in the Pacific are warmer than normal. England El Niño typically pushes heightened tornado frequency into the southeast of the United States.
“May 3, 1999, we had a big tornado. I think we had close to 70 tornadoes in the state. That was La Niña. It was terrifying,” England said.
England says strong tornadoes should be expected this spring, but it is impossible to tell where they will occur at this point.
“Some of those La Niña years have had some of our largest tornadoes,” England said. “It might happen in Dallas. It might in Kansas City. But I think in Oklahoma will have some.”
Gary England is the University of Oklahoma’s consulting meteorologist-in-residence. A well-known figure in Oklahoma, he served a meteorologist at KWTV Channel 9 for 41 years.
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