Can A Tornado Happen in Winter?

By Chris Martz | May 29, 2019

Question: “Can a tornado happen in winter?” – Scott Martz

The short answer is yes. 

While tornado season is generally late March through early June ¹ due to high atmospheric instability and clashing of cold, polar and maritime, warm air masses, tornadoes can occur almost anywhere in the United States at any point throughout the course of a year.¹ ² ³ ⁴

Average number of tornadoes in December – NOAA.
Average number of tornadoes in January – NOAA.
Average number of tornadoes in February – NOAA.

Areas that are statistically the most likely to see winter tornadoes (December-February) are the Gulf states; Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Southeastern Texas, not to mention Georgia and Arkansas (not directly on the Gulf).¹ ² ³ ⁴

Winter twisters typically occur when cold air retreats allowing warm, moist air from the Gulf to surge northward into the southeast meeting the jet stream.³


[1] Skilling, Tom. “Is it possible for a tornado to form during the winter?” WGN 9 News. November 27, 2018. Accessed May 29, 2019.

[2] Skilling, Tom. “Can tornadoes occur any time of year?” WGN 9 News. April 12, 2019. Accessed May 29, 2019.

[3] Belles, Jonathan. “Your Average Tornado Risk By Month.” The Weather Channel. April 18, 2017. Accessed May 29, 2019.

[4] “U.S. Tornado Climatology.” NOAA NCEI. Accessed May 29, 2019.

Categories: Weather

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