severe weather

An Active Severe Weather Season Ahead, Similar to 2011

2011 was one of the deadliest severe weather seasons on record in the U.S. and this year is looking very similar.

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Severe weather season in North Texas runs from March through May. That is when we see the highest frequency of hail, wind and tornado events. This year is looking to be more active than normal here in North Texas and across the country. On March 25, a second ‘high risk’ severe weather day was put in place by the Storm Prediction Center. There hasn’t been two high-risk days in March since 1991.

The 2011 tornado season was one of the deadliest on record in the United States. Over 550 people lost their lives. The month of April had 875 confirmed tornadoes, the most in the month on record. When we look at 2011 and the spring of 2021 there are several similarities leading us to believe that this severe weather season could be a bad one. The winter, drought and La Niña conditions in 2011 almost match the conditions this year.

Winter Weather:

February 2011 featured an extreme cold outbreak in DFW. Highlights include a record low temperature of 15°F on February 10, the first record low temperature since December 2006. A High temperature of 20 degrees on February 2, the lowest high since December 1990 and five consecutive mornings in the teens, first time since December 1989. 

Much like this winter, the winter of 2011 was a La Niña winter. Generally, fewer snowfall events occur in La Niña winters but in 2011 there were four days with measurable snowfall. 

Fast forward to February 2021, again it didn’t look like a typical La Niña winter pattern. The entire state was under a winter weather advisory on Valentine's Day. 

Source: NOAA

The Dallas Ft. Worth area picked up measurable snow over the course of four days.

Source: NOAA

Temperature records were broken with the coldest morning happening on February 16, the low dropped to -2 degrees. February 15, DFW's high temperature was lower than the record low for the date.


During the spring of 2011, Texas had areas of moderate to extreme drought that got worse. 

Source: NOAA
Source: NOAA

Here is the current drought map as of March, 25 2021.

The Texas A&M Forest Service said “The 2011 Texas wildfire season was unprecedented. The Lone Star State saw some of the largest, most destructive blazes in its history” Firefighters from across the country traveled to Texas to help. Four firefighters lost their lives fighting fires and six civilians also were killed by wildfires.

Source: Texas A&M

This year Texas already has areas of severe to exceptional drought with the forecast for drought to get worse. The Texas A&M Forest service is also expecting an active fire season. 

La Niña:

In 2011 La Niña was present and that is the case this spring. The La Niña that was underway at the start of 2011 was among the strongest on record. 

The past several months have featured the strongest La Niña since 2011.

This spring there is a 60% chance of a transition from La Niña to ENSO-Neutral (La Nina fading) sometime between April-June. That pattern is similar to spring of 2011 when conditions transitioned to neutral conditions by late spring.

When you look at these three elements there are a lot of similarities between 2011 and 2021. This severe weather season has started fairly active and it looks like that trend could continue. 

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