Western’s Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) recorded 117 tornadoes across Canada during the 2022 season, currently tying 2021 for Canada’s highest-ever single season on record.
As with 2021, 29 of the tornadoes reached up to EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. A total of 94 downbursts were also identified, with some also reaching EF2 intensity. The researchers noted that, fortunately, none of the investigated damage in 2022 was rated above EF2.
NTP researchers are constantly analyzing and updating severe weather data from across the country, meaning more tornadoes and downbursts may be discovered over time.
Of the 117 verified tornadoes across Canada in 2022, 80 (69 per cent) were confirmed only through NTP investigations. NTP actively works to develop new methods and tools to inform the field of severe storms research, and utilizes satellite, aircraft, drones and on-the-ground surveys to capture and analyze tornado events and their damage.
“We’re getting closer to the 150 or so tornadoes that we projected for our national annual average based on statistical analysis, so it appears the number of ‘missing tornadoes’ in Canada is gradually dropping due to the continually improving efforts of NTP,” said David Sills, NTP executive director.
Founded in 2017 with support from social impact fund ImpactWX, NTP is a team of engineers, faculty, staff and students aiming to better detect tornado occurrences throughout Canada, improve severe and extreme weather prediction, mitigate against harm to people and property and investigate future implications of climate change.
In 2022, NTP conducted 447 severe weather investigations, including 392 high-resolution satellite imagery surveys, 12 aircraft surveys, 30 drone surveys and 34 ground surveys.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic still required caution in the field during the 2022 season, it was not nearly the challenge it had been in 2020 and 2021,” said Sills. “The bigger challenge was ramping up the pilot season for the new Northern Hail Project (NHP) while keeping NTP running smoothly. We’re happy to report that both projects had very successful seasons in 2022.”
NHP launched in 2022 with financial support from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, the NSERC Alliance – Mitacs Accelerate Grants program, and Western’s Strategic Priorities fund. Its primary goal is to improve knowledge of damaging hail storms and the detection of hail occurrence across Canada.
Familiar weather pattern returns
Using the most current data and analysis, NTP has confirmed 117 Canadian tornadoes in 2022, matching the current confirmed total for 2021. In years prior, NTP confirmed 103 in 2020 and 72 in 2019. This past year, NTP’s fourth season of detecting, surveying and documenting Canadian tornadoes and other severe weather events, the country (and the researchers) experienced a return to a more familiar weather pattern.
In 2021, only two tornadoes were recorded across the Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) during the 60-day period with the highest climatological frequency, from mid-June to mid-August. The reasons for this possibly unprecedented low count is still being investigated. However, in 2022, this number jumped back to near normal, with 39 confirmed tornadoes in this region and 33 of the those occurring during the peak period.
The most significant Canadian severe weather event last year was the catastrophic spring derecho, which hit Ontario and Québec on May 21. Now considered one of the most deadly and costly thunderstorm events on record in Canada, 12 people lost their lives, at least 12 others were injured and more than $1 billion in insured losses has been recorded to date.
The derecho’s damage path extended over 1,000 km across Canada’s most densely populated region. Though NTP field teams were deployed shortly after the event occurred, it took the rest of the summer to fully investigate this devastating storm.
“The May 21 derecho was an extreme thunderstorm event that we will be studying for some time,” said Sills.