This has been one of the quietest starts to the year with regard to severe weather. According to records from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, this year they have only issued four tornado warnings and no severe thunderstorm warnings at all. Typically by mid-March they have issued 52 watches. The number of tornadoes observed so far this year is also well below normal.
A recent article published in Nature Geoscience by Allen, Tippett and Sobel (summary here) suggests that this may be due in part to the El Nino. In their research article, the authors show that in El Nino years, severe weather is less than average for large parts of the country. The maps below from the article show that hail (left map) decreases, especially in the southern Plains, and tornadoes (right map) also decrease in the traditional “Tornado Alley” in Oklahoma and Texas.
In the Southeast, severe weather decreases in the northern parts of the region but there is a moderate increase in Florida and southern Alabama and Georgia. The opposite pattern happens in La Nina years.
Even if this season has started slowly, other seasons with similar slow starts have seen much more activity later in the year, so don’t let your guard down. Severe weather can happen in any month in the Southeast!