April 2011 Likely to Set Record for Most Tornadoes

May 2, 2011; 6:07 AM ET
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This image, courtesy of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in San Diego, Calif., shows tornado reports April 1-27, 2011 in the central and eastern part of the U.S.

April 2011 has been a horrific month for severe weather so far with more than 1,000 reports of tornadoes, hundreds of tornado-related deaths and unthinkable destruction.

There is a good chance that April 2011 will end up being the most active April on record for tornadoes.

With May and June typically being the most active months of the year for severe weather, people are wondering if the trend will continue and make 2011 a record-setting year.

Stats for April

The total number of tornado reports this month was up to 1,032 as of Sunday morning.

It's important to note that these are the number of reports (or sightings), not confirmed tornadoes. Oftentimes multiple sightings of the same tornado are reported, and it will take quite some time until all the data is sorted through and the number of confirmed tornadoes is determined.

According to the SPC, the highest number of confirmed tornadoes recorded in the month of April (since 1950) was 267 in 1974.

If all of the tornado reports so far this month were confirmed, April 2011 would by far be the most active April for tornadoes. Even though the number of confirmed tornadoes will probably end up being quite a bit smaller, this month is still likely to beat the record.

Stats for 2011

The preliminary estimate for number of tornadoes so far in 2011 was 1,197, as of Sunday morning, with about two dozen states affected. More than 100 tornadoes have been reported in both Alabama and North Carolina.

The year that holds the record for the highest number of tornadoes is 2004 with a whopping 1,817 twisters. For people wondering if 2011 could set a new record, this year has a long way to go.

Since May and June are typically the most active months of the year for severe weather, it may seem that 2011 could have a shot at setting a record following such an extreme April. However, AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Ken Reeves pointed out a trend that may suggest otherwise.

"When you see... an April that is very busy, you don't typically see May and June also to be very active, because the pattern that really supports the very active tornadic activity in April doesn't necessarily continue it, as the threat moves farther to the north and to the east," said Reeves.

Tornadoes are a rare phenomena and require the right ingredients to come together in order to form. Reeves explained that the weather pattern that has been allowing these ingredients to come together in April typically isn't conducive to well-above-normal tornado activity in May and June.

As spring progresses, the threat for severe weather and tornadoes tends to shift northward and eastward across the Plains and East, as the jet stream, an area of maximum winds high up in the atmosphere, shifts northward.

Reeves stated that in most years that had an active April for tornadoes, May and June were not particularly active. The only main exception, he said, would be 2008.

As spring progresses and transitions into summer, the threat for severe weather generally shifts northward across the Plains and East with the jet stream.

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