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2018 sees record low death toll & no violent (EF4 or EF5) tornadoes for first time since records began in 1950

In the whirlwind that is 2018, there has been a notable lack of high-end twisters.

We’re now days away from this becoming the first year in the modern record with no violent tornadoes touching down in the United States. Violent tornadoes are the strongest on a 0 to 5 scale, or those ranked EF4 or EF5.

It was a quiet year for tornadoes overall, with below normal numbers most months. Unless you’re a storm chaser, this is not bad news. The low tornado count is undoubtedly a big part of the reason the 10 tornado deaths in 2018 are also vying to be a record low.

Tornado reports across the year. (Storm Prediction Center)

As you can see in the graphic above from the Storm Prediction Center, the day with the most reports of tornadoes came on Halloween. In most years that would come in spring.

While we still have several days to go in 2018, and some severe weather is likely across the South to close it out, odds favor the country making it the rest of the way without a violent tornado.

If and when that happens, it will be the first time since the modern record began in 1950.

2005 came close to reaching this mark. That year, the first violent tornado didn’t occur until Nov. 15, much later than typical for the first of the year, which tends to come in early spring.

Annual violent tornado numbers in modern history. The purple dashed line is a linear trend. The blue line is a 15-year average. Data from the Storm Prediction Center. (Ian Livingston/The Washington Post)

This year’s goose-egg may seem to fit a recent pattern.

In simple terms, there have been downtrends in violent tornado numbers both across the entire modern period, and when looking at just the period since Doppler radar was fully implemented across the country in the mid-1990s. A 15-year average as high as 13.7 in the mid-1970s will drop to 5.9 next year.

Expanding to include all “intense” tornadoes, or those F/EF3+, this year’s 12 is also poised to set a record for the fewest. I wrote about this back in May, and 2018 has kept pace for record lows since then.

Right now, the mark there is held by 1987, when there were 15 F3+ tornadoes. As with violent tornadoes, this grouping is also exhibiting both a short- and long-term decrease in annual numbers, probably for similar reasons.




With five days left in the year, The Weather Channel reported that the United States will finish with the fewest tornado deaths on record, should no tornadoes touch down and create fatalities before January 1.

And should no EF4/5 tornadoes hit the U.S. in the next five days, it would mark the first time that none have hit in a calendar year since that record began in 1950, according to the Washington Post.

Greg Diamond@gdimeweather

Saturday’s EF3 tornado in Christian County, IL was just the 10th EF3 of the year, and the fist since July 28

The U.S. averages around 30 EF3 twisters a year

There have been ZERO EF4s and 5s in 2018

See Greg Diamond’s other Tweets

A tornado in Aurora, Montana on Dec. 1. killed one person, bringing the national fatality toll to 10 for 2018. The fewest tornado deaths in one calendar year was 12 in 1912. The second-fewest was 15 in 1986, according to the NOAA National Severe Storm Laboratory.

In the time frame of 1986-2016, there was an average of 69 people killed by tornadoes every year, but that number has decreased over the years. The last time there were 69 or more deaths by tornado was 2012, when there were 69. There were 18 Americans killed by tornadoes in 2016 and 35 in 2017.

There have been 1,154 confirmed tornadoes in 2018, all of them classified below an EF4. The most for a single day in 2018 was Halloween, which saw 61 twisters. Iowa and Louisiana top the list with 84 each this year, followed by Mississippi (67), Illinois (64) and Alabama (52), according to NOAA.

Many of the deaths this year occurred in the Sun Belt, from Missouri to Louisiana and eastward to the Atlantic.



Related Links:

2018: Number of strong tornadoes on track to be the lowest on record – “Not only is this year proving to be one of the quietist in recent years, the number of strong tornadoes is currently on track to be the lowest on record.”

After record low Tornado year, NOAA accused of inflating number of tornadoes – ‘Graph is grossly dishonest’

Meteorologist Bastardi: ‘Extreme lack of tornadoes. Will need ‘second season’ to stop it from being quietest year on record!’

NOAA: Number of major tornadoes in 2015 was ‘one of the lowest on record’ – Tornadoes below average for 4th year in a row –