Southeastern US Tornado Outbreak Likelihood Using Daily Climate Indices Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractThis study investigates relationships between climate-scale patterns and seasonal tornado outbreaks across the southeastern United States. Time series of several daily climate indicesincluding Arctic Oscillation (AO), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), PacificNorth American (PNA) pattern, east/west Pacific Oscillation (EPO/WPO), and both raw and detrended Gulf of Mexico SST anomalies (SSTA/SSTAD)are collected in advance of Southeast severe convective days and grouped using self-organizing maps (SOMs). Spatiotemporal distributions of storm reports within nodes are compared to seasonal climatology, and the evolution of the regional environment for nodes associated with outbreaks is analyzed to provide physical justification for such associations. This study confirms findings from several tornado-related climate studies in the literature, while also identifying a number of new patterns associated with Southeast tornado outbreaks. Both the AO and NAO are relevant across all seasons, especially on lead time scales of 12 months, while SSTA/SSTADs are relevant on smaller time scales. The physical connection between these patterns and the regional storm environment is largely related to alterations of upper-level circulation and jet stream patterns, which in turn influence deep- and low-level shear, inland transport of moisture and instability, and other regional characteristics pertinent to tornado outbreaks. These results suggest that climate-scale variability can modulate and potentially be used to predict regional storm environments and their likelihood to produce tornado outbreaks across the Southeast.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 5.95

author list (cited authors)

  • Brown, M. C., & Nowotarski, C. J.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Brown, Matthew C||Nowotarski, Christopher J

publication date

  • April 2020