The meteorological summer is June, July and August, so I took some time this afternoon to see how our severe weather "summer" stacked up compared to the past 14 years.
In June, July and August 2014 the United States had 10,430 reports of severe weather, as recorded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That ranked 14th in the past 15 years, with only last summer's total of 9,640 lower.
Every month this summer, especially August, was well below average. June had 5,537 incidents (compared to the average of 6,194); July had 3,462 (average: 4,486); August had 1,431 (average: 3,057).
There were big years, such as 2008, when we ended up with 21,311 severe weather reports during that same three month period!
Here are some of my thoughts on this:
Since so many people tweet and ask me why it "seems like we've had so many storms lately" and why "the storms seem so severe," how can this below-average calculation be true?
The key word is "seems": With more cameras and more phones, we see every hail storm, every tree down, whereas before we did not. We also have a much more advanced way of sharing this information. The National Weather Service has a better way to get this information into its system. There are improvements all around.
I think it is good to remember that "average" comes from extremes. There will be some years like this year and others like 2008.
Also, not every thunderstorm is a severe thunderstorm. A severe storm must have one inch or greater of hail, damaging winds in excess of 60 mph and/or a tornado. That is what makes it severe.
NOAA has the climate data for these storm reports here (http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/online/monthly/newm.html), broken down by month and year going back to 2000.
I think the last 14 years is a fair assessment to get an average because the way we detect and report weather has changed greatly since the 1950s. Recent history is really best to get averages when it comes to things like storm reports.
Summer Wrap-Up: Below Average Severe Storm Reports