Has 2020 been an above average year for severe weather risk days in Central Virginia?

The data says (so far) this year is in line with previous years

Has 2020 been an above average year for severe weather risk days in Central Virginia?
So far in 2020 there have been 29 days with a severe weather risk outlook for the City of Richmond. (Courtesy: Iowa State University) (Source: Iowa State University)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - NBC12 Meteorologist Jim Duncan presented an interesting question on Twitter Tuesday morning when he suggested 2020 seems to be an above average year as far as severe weather risk outlook days in Central Virginia.

Jim’s tweet prompted us to dig into the data to see if this year has had more severe weather risk outlooks for Central Virginia than an average year.

For this exercise, we’re simply looking at severe weather outlooks issued before potential severe weather by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Oklahoma. We are not looking at actual reports of severe weather.

Thanks to the Iowa State University Environmental Mesonet data website, this information is readily available to anyone on the internet.

Since the SPC started using a ‘marginal’ risk category in late 2014, on average there are approximately 40 ‘marginal’ risk (or greater) severe risk outlook days each year in Central Virginia.

Central Virginia averages roughly 40 'marginal' risk days (or greater) per year.
Central Virginia averages roughly 40 'marginal' risk days (or greater) per year. (Source: WWBT)

So far in 2020 (as of July 21), the City of Richmond has had 25 marginal risk days, 3 slight risk days, and 1 enhanced risk day. That’s 29 severe outlook days total.

So far in 2020 there have been 29 days with a severe weather risk outlook for the City of Richmond.
So far in 2020 there have been 29 days with a severe weather risk outlook for the City of Richmond. (Source: Iowa State University)

In an average year we have 40 days with marginal or greater severe risk outlooks. Keeping in mind that most of our severe weather typically happens in the spring and early summer, 29 days by late July in 2020 is within range of an average year. We’re actually running a little lower than average for slight risk or higher days. Most of the severe risk days so far in 2020 have been of the low-end variety.

A look at the data for previous years through July 21 also gives us an idea of how this year compares to recent years.

2019 was a particularly busy spring and early summer for severe weather. There were already 39 days (27 marginal, 9 slight, 2 enhanced, 1 moderate) with severe weather risk outlooks through July 21.

The first half of 2019 saw more severe weather risk outlooks issued for the City of Richmond than the first half of 2020.
The first half of 2019 saw more severe weather risk outlooks issued for the City of Richmond than the first half of 2020. (Source: Iowa State University)

In 2018, there were 24 days with severe risk outlooks through July 21 (16 marginal, 7 slight, 1 enhanced).

In 2017, 33 days had severe risk outlooks through July 21 (24 marginal, 6 slight, 3 enhanced).

2016 had 32 days with severe risk outlooks through July 21 (18 marginal, 12 slight, 1 enhanced, 1 moderate).

2015 saw 34 days with severe risk outlooks through July 21 (23 marginal, 9 slight, 2 enhanced).

We’ll see what the second half of 2020 brings in terms of severe weather. Don’t forget to download the NBC12 First Alert Weather app for updates on any potential severe weather for Central Virginia.

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