CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - For years now we have had access to long range hurricane forecasts which are typically produced early in a calendar year and predict how active the upcoming hurricane season will be, even citing specific ranges or exact numbers in their predictions. They attempt to answer the big three questions: How many tropical storms will develop? How many hurricanes? How many major hurricanes (category 3 or stronger)? That's pretty impressive when you consider these forecasts are made months in advance. You can also hop over to the Climate Prediction Center if you're wondering how warm or cold, wet or dry the next three months might be.
So what about doing the same for tornadoes? That has been a tough nut to crack since tornadoes are a much smaller scale phenomenon both spatially and temporally. In other words they occur on such a local level and are quick to strike and die. For that reason, we still make almost no attempt to give you an exact time or location of thunderstorms the next day. We can determine the atmosphere will support thunderstorms tomorrow, but I'm not going to tell you a storm will hit Hickory at 3:45pm the next day.
Despite these limitations, that's not stopping scientists at NOAA from working hard at developing a long range outlook for tornado outbreaks in specific regions. And it appears that day might be closer than you think.