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Canada: more July tornadoes than US


Tornado in Wadena, SK on July 18
Tornado in Wadena, SK on July 18

Lyndsay Morrison, staff writer

July 31, 2012 — It's been an 'off the charts' tornado season in Saskatchewan, and one of the quietest summers on record in the United States. As a result, many American storm chasers are heading north.

2011 was a record year of tornadoes in the US. Summer 2012 has been quiet.
2011 was a record year of tornadoes in the US. Summer 2012 has been quiet.

To say that it has been an active tornado season in Saskatchewan this year would be an understatement. 

"2012 has really been the most incredible tornado season anyone out here on the Prairies has seen," says Greg Johnson, Tornado Hunter based out of Regina. 

Saskatchewan has had upwards of thirty tornadoes this summer, with most happening in July. In a typical year, there's an average of ten to twelve tornadoes in the province. What's more, Saskatchewan alone had the same amount of tornadoes in July as the entire United States. 

"This has been one of the lowest tornado records in the US since they began keeping them," Johnson says. "While here in the Canadian Prairies, we're off the charts the other way."

So what caused the tornado trend?

"Since May, the jet stream has been sitting much further north than in an average summer," says Brad Rousseau, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "With that, you get dynamic energy in the Prairies and the right fuel for these kinds of storms."

The positioning of the jet stream is also the reason why it has been a quiet season in the United States. As a result, many American storm chasers have been flocking to Saskatchewan to get in on the action.

Storm cloud over Melfort, SK
Storm cloud over Melfort, SK

"The first thing that we storm chasers look at when we get up in the morning is where that jet stream is," Johnson says. "We look at where we are going to have the best mid-level and upper-level flow. The reason the American chasers are coming in is they're just following that jet."

Still, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are not uncommon in Saskatchewan, even in an average season.  

"The Canadian Prairies are really an extension of 'Tornado Alley' in the US," Rousseau explains. "But this year, storm chasers, Twitter and Facebook have really brought the active weather season into the spotlight."
 
Johnson agrees. "Social media has really exploded on this topic. What's really cool is that in real-time people get to see exactly where storms are happening. And more people are out there looking for severe weather, taking pictures of it and posting it."

So, is the 'summer of Saskatchewan' expected to continue into August?

"Generally, the Saskatchewan tornado season peaks in June and July, and the jet stream pushes further north in August," says Rousseau. "This year, however, I wouldn't be surprised if we see more active weather in the coming weeks on the Prairies." 

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