Alabama can see all types of weather from rain to snow to tornadoes. Tornadoes can occur any time of the year across the state but they’re more common in the spring, late fall and early winter, if conditions are favorable.

Alabama Tornadoes by month

In general, Alabama is prone to tornadoes due to its geographic location. It’s close to the Gulf of Mexico so a southerly flow will bring in moisture from the Gulf. Warm air is pumped in as well and if combined with the right amount of wind shear, tornadoes can form.

Tornadoes in Alabama, per county

A climate pattern called ENSO can have an impact on the frequency of tornadoes in our area. ENSO, or El Niño Southern Oscillation, has two phases, El Niño and La Niña. La Niña is the cold phase. It represents cooler-than-average temperatures across the equatorial Pacific. This can lead to changes in the jet stream pattern over the U.S. Typically, with La Niña, Alabama and Southern Middle Tennessee will favor warmer-than-average temperatures and an equal chance of seeing above or below-average precipitation. The average temperature for Huntsville during climatological winter (December, January, February) is 45 degrees. Precipitation for the city averages about 16 inches.

La Niña weather across the U.S.

During the spring months, La Niña can actually enhance the risk of severe storms, including the threat of tornadoes. This is because the upper-level jet pushes farther into the northern latitudes, leading to more hot and humid weather across the South. This can set up a north-to-south temperature gradient which enhances the threat of storms. The maps below show the frequency of tornadoes and hail during El Niño and La Niña. The right side images are the La Niña phase with the top right showing frequency of tornadoes and the bottom right showing the frequency of hail during La Niña. Images are courtesy of NOAA.

Frequency of tornadoes and hail during El Niño and La Niña

La Niña looks to continue into the upcoming 2022-2023 winter season and its effects are more pronounced during winter. La Niña was in place last fall and winter when Alabama recorded several tornadoes on New Year’s Day. The day after, inches of snow fell. The Tennessee Valley’s second severe weather season generally occurs during the late fall and early winter months but November is the peak, with 53 tornadoes, with data records from 1950-2019.

Tennessee Valley tornadoes by month

Make sure you have our Live Alert 19 weather app downloaded so that you can get alerts if any are issued during times of inclement weather. The Weather Authority will keep you updated on the forecast.