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2018 tornadoes: what are the numbers saying?

The numbers are in...well partially. The number of confirmed tornado reports for 2018 are partially accounted for at 366 total tornadoes (view below) from January to June in the United States. With the US government being on lockout, it might take some time to update this list.


The preliminary reports for 2018 are 1154 tornadoes across the United States. The most violent tornado in North America for 2018 was in Alonsa, Manitoba, Canada with an EF-4 rating and killing one person in early August. As of now, the Province of Manitoba holds the record for the first and only Canadian F5 tornado (in 2007) and the first Canadian EF-4 tornado since the implementation of the enhanced Fujita scale.

May had extremely low numbers at 89 tornadoes for the USA. May is considered a peak tornado month in the United States, so this number is spectacularly low, even compared to the 10-year average. Comparing that number to the given 3-year average of 296 tornadoes, the month of May 2018 saw less than 1/3 what they saw in the last 3 years. The number of tornado-related deaths are also very low at 10, versus the 3-year average of 30.

Annual distribution of tornadoes from Jan 1st 2018 to today

The top 10 tornado days in the United States are depicted below with the top 3 described below:

1) October 31st in Texas/Kentucky/Louisiana/Mississippi with 61 tornadoes (two fatalities)

Oct 31st 2018 tornado outbreak (storm reports)

2) April 13th in Louisiana/Arkansas/Missouri/Texas with 46 tornadoes (one fatality)

April 13th 2018 tornado outbreak (storm reports)

3) December 1st 2018 in Illinois with 38 tornadoes (no fatalities but 22 injured)

Dec 1st 2018 tornado outbreak (storm reports)

While May and June are usually considered some of the busiest months for tornadoes in the United States, this year, the months of October, December and April seem to have been the busiest. We can also look at the preliminary tornado reports distribution below.

Tornado reports (preliminary) from Jan 1st 2018 to Dec 18th 2018

As we can observe, the "heart of tornado alley", as we know it, seems relatively quiet. States that are notoriously known for tornado activity such as Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have been relatively quiet in 2018. Instead, Louisiana and Iowa have been very active. The Deep South and Illinois seems to have been very active (especially during the cold season) and parts of the High Plains and Midwest active during the summer months.

While no conclusions can be drawn from a one-year sample, one can add our increasingly better storm reports to the observational record and get a better understanding of how tornadoes fluctuate in geographical distribution each year and over time (watch for later posts).

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