The Early Evening Transition in Southeastern US Tornado Environments Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractThe response of severe local storms to environmental evolution across the early evening transition (EET) remains a forecasting challenge, particularly within the context of the Southeast US storm climatology, which includes the increased presence of low-CAPE environments and tornadic non-supercell modes. To disentangle these complex environmental interactions, Southeast severe convective reports spanning 2003-2018 are temporally binned relative to local sunset. Sounding-derived data corresponding to each report are used to characterize how the near-storm environment evolves across the EET, and whether these changes influence the mode, frequency, and tornadic likelihood of their associated storms. High-shear, high-CAPE (HSHC) environments are contrasted with high-shear, low-CAPE (HSLC) environments to highlight physical processes governing storm maintenance and tornadogenesis in the absence of large instability. Lastly, statistical analysis is performed to determine which aspects of the near-storm environment most effectively discriminate between tornadic (or significantly tornadic) and nontornadic storms towards constructing new sounding-derived forecast guidance parameters for multiple modal and environmental combinations. Results indicate that HSLC environments evolve differently than HSHC environments, particularly for non-supercell (e.g., quasi-linear convective system) modes. These low-CAPE environments sustain higher values of low-level shear and storm-relative helicity (SRH) and destabilize post-sunset potentially compensating for minimal buoyancy. Furthermore, the existence of HSLC storm environments pre-sunset increases the likelihood of non-supercellular tornadoes post-sunset. Existing forecast guidance metrics such as the significant tornado parameter (STP) remain the most skillful predictors of HSHC tornadoes. However, HSLC tornado prediction can be improved by considering variables like precipitable water, downdraft CAPE, and effective inflow base.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 8.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Brown, M. C., Nowotarski, C. J., Dean, A. R., Smith, B. T., Thompson, R. L., & Peters, J. M.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Brown, Matthew C||Nowotarski, Christopher J||Dean, Andrew R||Smith, Bryan T||Thompson, Richard L||Peters, John M

publication date

  • June 2021