Severe thunderstorms turning into tornadoes in Saskatchewan are sparse but this past year the phenomenon became extremely rare.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) data, the province was only battered with one tornado in 2023, which is well below the average of 13-14 per year.

Terri Lang, a meteorologist with ECCC, said the circumstances for a tornado to transpire requires a combination of factors to all happen at the right time.

"We didn't have the moisture to help with the formation," she said. "When the crops grow, they give off a tremendous amount of moisture, it's called evapotranspiration. It adds quite a bit of moisture to the atmosphere which fuels the thunderstorms.

"Not every severe thunderstorm produces a tornado," she said. "When you look at the stats, they're relatively rare considering the number of thunderstorms that we do get. To have so few is exceptionally rare but does speak to the year we had. It started out hot and dry. We never got those weather patterns that produce tornadoes either."

The lone event happened at the end of May near Regina and appears to be indisputable. 

"It seemed to be seen by only one person and he had photographic evidence," she said. 

ECCC has tornado records dating back about 40 years for Saskatchewan and this year would hold the benchmark for the fewest ever.

"I can't find any other year that has such a low number," she said. "2015 had two tornadoes."

However, the final figure could still change as the Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) typically finds some that aren't always observed or reported to ECCC.

"They look through high-resolution satellite pictures looking for damage paths that have been caused by tornadoes," she said. "Sometimes we have a couple that end up showing up sometime in November or December that get added to the count."
Last year ECCC had 25 on record before the NTP added three more to their total bringing the 2022 mark to 28.

"Usually, they go through northern Saskatchewan where there's not anybody to see those tornadoes and they can find evidence of them with how the trees are damaged," she said. "We may or may not [see some added this year]."

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