The Weather Network – A year in reverse saw more tornadoes in Ontario than in Oklahoma

Saturday, January 1, 2022, 1:35 p.m. – Unusual weather conditions across North America have caused a loop in Canada and the United States in 2021, producing more tornadoes in Ontario than in all the Prairie provinces combined.

A wild year of extreme weather conditions was not destined to have a mundane tornado season. 2021 has been a strange year for tornadoes across North America. Ontario faced a barrage of tornadoes that largely spared the heart of the tornado alley. Rare tornadoes have hit Nova Scotia and British Columbia. The pattern also kept things weird in the United States, where we witnessed similar tornadoes in Kansas just a short drive from New York City.


Ontario registering more tornadoes than Oklahoma is a statistic that hardly seems to be true, but it is! Western University’s Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) confirmed 46 tornadoes across Ontario in 2021, which is significantly higher than the provincial average of about a dozen tornadoes in a typical year.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma recorded just 39 tornado reports between Jan.1 and Dec.31. The Southern Plains State is typically a hotbed of spring tornado activity, but Oklahoma reported only one tornado in March and April.

tornadoes in canada 2021

The pattern responsible for this upside down tornado season is the same one that brought unfathomable heat to western Canada this summer. A steep ridge of high pressure stationed on the west coast for most of the season diverted much of the storm’s activity eastward, keeping the storm tracks focused over Ontario, Quebec and eastern United States.

WATCH: 2021 in Canada: West Coast incurs Mother Nature’s wrath

Last summer’s wildfires in British Columbia also played a role in suppressing tornado activity on the Prairies. The prolific smoke from forest fires blowing east across the country during the summer months served to quell thunderstorm activity, limiting the number of possibilities for tornado formation in the Prairie provinces.

Everything is interconnected and that’s how Ontario managed to get ahead of Oklahoma in the annual tornado count.


An average year of active weather across Canada typically produces about 61 tornadoes, over two-thirds of which affect Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The Prairies are host to most of the country’s tornadoes because summer geography and weather conditions converge to regularly create explosive storms over this region.

It didn’t quite happen in 2021.

The NTP has confirmed 81 tornadoes on land across Canada in 2021. Although this is above the annual average of 61 tornadoes, more than half of these tornadoes have targeted Ontario. The active track of the storms that swept through British Columbia and bypassed the Prairies allowed a series of storms to sweep through Ontario.

None was more memorable than the July 15 outbreak that targeted the Barrie area.

July 15, 2021 Tornado outbreak

A robust midsummer system swept across southern Ontario on the morning of July 15, creating a dangerous combination of instability, lift and wind shear. Rotating thunderstorms developed over the region and spawned six EF-2 tornadoes. One of those tornadoes, which was over half a kilometer in width at one time, caused extensive damage and several injuries just south of Barrie.

Ontario experienced another tornado outbreak in early September when widespread severe thunderstorms produced nine more tornadoes. Investigation teams discovered that two of these tornadoes caused damage to the EF-2.

In total, NTP investigations found that 16 of the province’s 46 confirmed tornadoes were rated EF-2 on the Fujita Enhanced Scale, the level at which meteorologists consider a tornado to have caused “significant” damage.


Ontario was not the only province to contend with a strange wave of tornadoes. Some areas that usually only see tornadoes on TV had two.

Stewiacke NS tornado map June 30, 2021

Nova Scotia recorded its first tornado in more than two decades when an EF-1 landed in Stewiacke on the afternoon of June 30.

A storm investigation revealed that the rare tornado remained on the ground for 600m and damaged a farm. A few weeks later, another tornado touched down near Antrim, just 25 km south of Stewiacke.

Meanwhile, British Columbia ended its own year of extreme weather conditions with an “ultra-rare” tornado that struck Vancouver on November 6.


The tornado formed over the water and moved toward the University of British Columbia shore, leaving behind damage to trees. Vancouver’s stable air mass makes tornadoes exceptionally rare in this part of the country; Until that November storm, the city had not recorded a tornado for over 30 years.


The same pattern that suppressed tornado activity in the Prairies and allowed tornadoes to roam freely across Ontario is the one responsible for an equally bizarre tornado season in the United States.

A typical year in the United States would see about 1,400 reports of tornadoes, the vast majority affecting the plains and southeastern states.

The term “tornado season” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to weather in the United States. Tornadoes are a threat all year round. Tornado activity is concentrated over the southeast in early spring, moving to the southern plains in late spring. The north-rising jet stream pulls the heart of tornado activity out to the northern plains in mid-summer, eventually returning to the southeastern United States as the fall and winter settles in.

The stubborn model that developed in North America in 2021 disrupted this usual process. We have seen relatively few outbreaks during the year. Two high-risk tornado outbreaks unfolded in Mississippi and Alabama in March. We also saw two unusual outbreaks in New Jersey, of all places.

A severe weather event in late July led to classic supercells with well-defined hook echoes and debris clearly visible on radar. Another outbreak in September, associated with the remnants of Hurricane Ida, produced several powerful tornadoes across New Jersey, including a large EF-3 tornado that appeared to be in Kansas rather than a short drive from New Jersey. York.

(NOAA / SPC) Tornado reports in the United States in 2021
Tornado reports across the United States in 2021. (NOAA / SPC)

The number of tornadoes in the United States is expected to be well below normal through December.

Several rare tornado outbreaks hit the country in December. A powerful EF-4 tornado swept through western Kentucky on December 10, killing more than 70 people on the nation’s deadliest tornado day in more than a decade. The tornado, which devastated several towns in its path, remained on the ground for hundreds of kilometers. A few days later, another major severe weather event produced dozens of tornadoes across the plains and the Midwest.

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