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How the Transition from El Niño to La Niña Could Impact Tornado Season in Kansas

As tornado season begins, the transition from El Niño to La Niña could create an increase in severe weather and storms in Kansas.

El Niño and La Niña are two opposite climate patterns that emerge intermittently. While La Niña typically displays cooler-than-average temperatures, El Niño presents warmer and wetter weather, which Kansas has experienced this winter.

However, the El Niño weather pattern is beginning to weaken, and Kansas is beginning to transition into a more neutral weather pattern before La Niña takes the stage this summer.

According to a research article in the Kansas Mesonet, the potential emergence of La Niña in late spring and early summer will likely result in a more active spring with severe weather and precipitation, particularly in eastern Kansas.

In an interview with the Salina Post, High Plains Regional Climate Center Climatologist Gannon Rush said that he could foresee an increase in severe weather this spring.

“I looked up some literature about scenarios like this where it’s transitioning from one to the neutral back to the other, and it did hint toward a not stronger, but more active severe season, particularly for hail and tornadoes,” Rush said.

Tori Jane, a storm-chaser and author for Only in Your State, said that El Niño suppresses spring tornados, so as this pattern fades and La Niña begins, the likelihood of tornadoes goes up.

“This year, meteorologists are fairly confident that we’ll see a return to traditional tornado alley: states like Texa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and parts of Colorado and Nebraska,” Jane said.

But just how confident can we be that Kansas will have an uptick in tornadoes? Long-term forecasts, especially during the spring months, are not always reliable, so time will tell whether or not we will experience heightened severe weather.

Since tornadoes are difficult to predict, it is important to be prepared in case you experience one. Use the following guidelines to ensure that you are familiar with the signs of tornadoes and what you can do if you encounter one.

How to Prepare for Tornadoes:

Know the signs of a tornado. 

  • A dark, greenish colored sky
  • Debris falling from above
  • Large hail
  • A roaring noise often described as the sound of a train
  • A rotating funnel cloud

Stay updated on the weather.

Check your local weather channel for information regarding severe storms and keep a close eye on the radar near you.

Have an emergency kit in case you have to shelter in place for a long period of time.

Keep an emergency kit in your basement in an accessible location with water, nonperishable food items like granola bars and trail mix, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, and a NOAA weather radio.


What to Do in a Tornado:

  • Go to the basement.
  • If you do not have a basement, go to an area with no windows on the lowest floor of the house such as a closet, bathroom, or hallway.
  • If you are driving when a tornado hits, do NOT try to outrun it. Instead, seek the nearest sturdy building or remain low and cover your head with your arms.
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