Upside of Drought: Fewer Tornadoes

Tornadoes at nearly 60-year low
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2012 9:51 AM CDT
A dead fish lays several feet from the water in Lake Corpus Christi near Mathis, Texas, as the lake continues to shrink Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 due to this year's drought.   (AP Photo/Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Todd Yates)

(Newser) – Cheer up, drought-ravaged America: At least you're not being ravaged by twisters. There have been only about 300 tornadoes reported since mid-April, the lowest number reported in almost 60 years, the Wall Street Journal reports. In an average year, three times that many tornadoes would hit. "The simple reason is: You aren't going to get a tornado if you don't have thunderstorms," explains one meteorologist, and thunderstorms don't form without moisture.

A high-pressure system over the middle of the US is causing this historic drought, and pushing the jet stream, another crucial tornado ingredient, up north into Canada. The situation is essentially the reverse of last year, when 1,691 tornadoes tore across the country, killing 551 people and producing record flooding. But because plenty of tornadoes touched down before mid-April, 2012 is unlikely to break the all-time record for fewest tornadoes, which was set in 1987. (Read more tornado stories.)

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