This analysis is based on preliminary data available from the Storm Prediction Center. Final tornado counts published by the Storm Prediction Center and NCEI's Storm Events Database might differ from this report. For a more detailed climatology, please visit our tornado climatology page.
According to data from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, during January, there were 90 preliminary tornado reports. This is more than double the 1991-2010 average of 35 tornadoes for the month of January. Most of the January 2020 tornadoes (82 of 90) took place during a two-day outbreak, January 10-11. This outbreak resulted from a strong, spring-like storm system that brought heavy rain, damaging winds and tornadoes to numerous states across the South and Southeast.
There were 50 tornadoes reported on January 10 that largely affected Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri. There were 32 tornadoes on January 11 that primarily impacted Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky with additional isolated tornadoes in surrounding states. The January 10-11 tornadoes and associated severe weather caused substantial property damage across many states including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. Given the widespread damage across many states, there were also 10 fatalities and numerous injuries. This was the third-largest January tornado outbreak on record.
Did You Know?
Final monthly tornado counts are typically less than the preliminary count. This can be due to some phenomena being inaccurately reported as tornadic activity or a single tornado being reported multiple times. Tornado accounts are reported to the local National Weather Service forecast offices who are responsible for going into the field and verifying each tornado reported. This process often takes several months to complete. Once all reports have been investigated, the final count is published by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).
The Tornado Monthly Climate Reports are written using the preliminary numbers because the final data is not available at the time of production. Historically, for every 100 preliminary tornado reports, at least 65 tornadoes are confirmed. An error bar is depicted on the tornado count graphic representing this uncertainty in the preliminary tornado count.
The following U.S. studies performed by SPC meteorologists offer deeper context and discussion regarding the frequency and distribution of tornado intensity climatologies:
- Edwards, R., H. E. Brooks, and H. Cohn, 2021: Changes in tornado climatology accompanying the Enhanced Fujita scale. J. Appl. Meteor. Climatol., 60, 1465-1482, DOI: 10.1175/JAMC-D-21-0058.1.
- Mccarthy, Daniel & Schaefer, Joseph. (2004). Tornado trends over the past thirty years. paper presented at 14th Conference on Applied Meteorology.