Tornado Outbreak March 2, 2012

Tornado Outbreak Across the E’rn United States

As many of you may already know, a large tornado outbreak (the third outbreak for 2012!) occurred across the Ohio River Valley and Southeastern United States on March 2nd, 2012. As of March 3rd, 2012, there were a total of 100 tornado reports that were recorded by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). In the passing days and weeks, the National Weather Service and SPC will be doing surveys to figure out the actual number of tornadoes that touched down across the Ohio River Valley and SE’rn United States. Below is the graphical report that has been generated by the Storm Prediction Center for tornado, hail, and wind reports on March 2nd, 2012.

The Surface Analysis Setup For The Outbreak

As I look back at the data from the Outbreak, everything appeared to almost be textbook in nature for the production of tornadoes. Just to name a few things, we had a deepening low pressure system that started out around S’rn Missouri around 745AM CST and moved toward Central Illinois by the early afternoon. This movement allowed for warm and moist S’ly air from the Gulf of Mexico to extend all the way into the N’rn Ohio River Valley for virtually the entire day. Below is a comparison of the surface analysis from the early morning versus the early afternoon.

Upper Air Soundings

The 12Z sounding from Nashville, TN on March 2nd was simply incredible. It’s like a meteorologists dream to chase tornadoes when you have a sounding like this. The shear profile was nearly perfect…a veering wind from SSW at 15kts at the surface to WSW at 70kts at 500mb. CAPE values (Convective Available Potential Energy were at 1554 J/kg near daybreak! The LFC (Level of Free Convection) was at 810mb and the EL (Equilibrium Level) was all the way to 240mb. This basically meant that a parcel of air had the potential to ascend ~8549m/5.33mi/28000ft before it would stop. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to find out what some of the cloud-tops were on some of these storms, but I’d imagine they were pretty darn high. Additionally, the LI was at a -6 for the 12Z sounding. Usually anything below an LI of -2 can potentially produce severe weather with isolated tornadoes. However, a -6 is very impressive and indicates a large amount of instability in the atmosphere. Below is the sounding for Nashville that gives all this data. I’d go on about the upper levels, but I honestly don’t feel like writing a novel.


To make a long story short, the weather pattern on March 2nd, 2012 proved to be a nearly perfect scenario to produce tornadoes across the Ohio River Valley and SE’rn United States. Incredibly enough, this is the third tornado outbreak for 2012…the first being January 22-23 and the second being just a few days ago from February 28-29.

To close things off, I’ve posted one of the most popular videos on YouTube for this outbreak. It is footage of the tornado that hit Henryville, Indiana. It was a large wedge tornado that caused extensive damage to the area.