Currently, forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center and local NWS forecast offices are tasked with forecasting the possibility of severe thunderstorms out to 8 days in advance. This is complicated by the frequency of strong, progressive weather systems during the cool season, and the limited ability of numerical models to accurately forecast the return of higher Gulf moisture, especially beyond 2 days.
Since accurate forecasts of low level moisture are among the most difficult challenges associated with cool season severe thunderstorm forecasts, it is hoped a thorough examination of buoy data from the western Gulf of Mexico will aid in recognizing potential moisture increases ahead of these systems. This study will investigate relationships between significant tornado events and the existence of richer moisture over the western Gulf of Mexico during the cool season from 1993-2004. Hourly data from Gulf buoy 42002 (located at 25.17 N, 94.42 W) are examined, with an emphasis on surface dew point trends in the days prior to significant tornado occurrences. Gulf buoy 42002 was chosen for this study due to its location away from the shallower shelf waters, and because it is within common return flow patterns over the western Gulf of Mexico. Forty-five significant tornadoes (30 tornado days) over eastern Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi were gathered from October 1993 through February 2004 for use in this study.