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Has it been an active tornado season? You may be surprised by the answer

The victims of Friday's storm included three veteran storm chasers. The Storm Prediction Center said the men were involved in tornado research.
The victims of Friday's storm included three veteran storm chasers. The Storm Prediction Center said the men were involved in tornado research. VINCENT DELIGNY/AFP/Getty Images

It may seem like our neighbours to the south are seeing an above-average tornado season this year. However, that’s not exactly the case.

In fact, it seemed as though the United States would enjoy a below-average tornado season in 2013. Though there were more than double the three-year average of tornadoes in January, the numbers dropped off between February and April. There were only 18 tornadoes in March; the three-year average for the month is 87.

In April, there was a noticeable increase: a preliminary count of 83 tornadoes were recorded. However, that was still much fewer than the 1991-2010 average of 155.

In a blog posted by Harold Brooks of the U.S. National Severe Storms Laboratory, Brooks wrote, “The 12-month period from May 2012 to April 2013 was remarkable for the absence of tornado activity and tornado impacts in the United States.”

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Read: Historical map of tornadoes in U.S.

However, by the middle of May it was obvious that tornadoes were on the rise. As of May 31, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center recorded a preliminary count of 207 in the month of May.

So far this season, there have been a preliminary total of 441 tornadoes across the U.S. The U.S. sees an average of 1200  to 1300 tornadoes annually.

Greg Carbin of the Storm Prediction Center said, “So far…we’re still running below normal. At the current rate, it would still take a while to catch up to the year-to-date numbers. We’re still well below normal in terms of the annual count.”

Carbin said that that the U.S. isn’t seeing any trends in tornadoes.

“We’re not seeing an increase in tornadoes,” Carbin said. “But what we may be seeing is an where these tornadoes are occurring or when.”

This map shows the preliminary tornado reports (before confirmation by the U.S. National Weather Service) from April 1, 2012, to April 30, 2012.
This map shows the preliminary tornado reports (before confirmation by the U.S. National Weather Service) from April 1, 2012, to April 30, 2012. SPC
This map shows the preliminary number of tornadoes from April 1, 2013 to April 30, 2013.
This map shows the preliminary number of tornadoes from April 1, 2013 to April 30, 2013. SPC

The most active tornado season in recent years was 2011, when a total of 1691 tornadoes tore across the United States. That year there was an incredible 553 deaths reported from tornadoes. The Joplin, Missouri tornado was the most deadly, killing 157 people. That tornado ranked as the seventh deadliest tornado in U.S. history since record-keeping began in 1950.

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Watch: Large tornado tears across Kansas

January to April tornado counts from 1950-2013
January to April tornado counts from 1950-2013. SPC

On May 20, 2013, Moore, Texas, suffered a rare EF5 tornado that killed 24 people, including 10 children.

“Almost every May features tornado activity like what we’ve seen this May,” Carbin said.

To get real-time weather for your area, download the Skytracker weather app.