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Joplin, Missouri: The Latest Tornado in A Deadly 2011

On Sunday, a fierce tornado slammed into Joplin, Missouri, killing 116 people, the highest death toll from a tornado in sixty years. Sunday's tornado brings the national death toll from tornadoes to 481 so far this year, the highest total ever recorded this early in a year. But is this just a higher incidence of strong tornadoes, or more overall?

The latter, at least according to some astonishing data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's National Climatic Data Center. Below is their chart of tornadoes in April of each year going back to 1953 (click to enlarge):

As the chart shows, the number of tornadoes in April 2011 dwarfs any previous April (including recent years, when detection equipment has improved). The previous record, according to the NOAA, in the month of April was 267, in 1974. (That total included the famous "super tornado outbreak" of April 3-4.) The record for any month was May 2003, with 542 confirmed tornadoes; the NOAA expects the final numbers for April 2011 to break that record, possibly by several hundred. Furthermore, last month produced "staggering fatality statistics," with the outbreak from April 26-28 the deadliest tornado outbreak since 1936. (And April 27 was the deadliest day for tornadoes since 1925.) Grim reading, for sure, and Sunday's tornado in Joplin suggests Mother Nature is not letting up in the near future.

You can find out how to help the residents of Joplin here.