S88 Tornado Climatology for the Appalachian Mountains Region of the Eastern United States

Sunday, 10 January 2016
Hall E ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
James J. Morrow, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

Over the last twenty years, an abundance of tornado climatological studies have been conducted across the United States, most of which are centered in areas of greatest event occurrence, or around significant events that have occurred. In contrast, this study focuses on the Central Appalachian Mountains Region, an area where tornado occurrences are much less frequent than for the central and southeastern United States. As the geographic focus is a mountainous region, physiographic characteristics were used to define the study region rather than artificial boundaries. The relatively small study area permits a more detailed characterization of the spatial distribution of tornado tracks, allowing smaller-scale trends to become highlighted. To determine event frequency and identify local “hot spots,” historical tornado event tracks documented by the National Weather Service for the period of 1950 through 2014 were stratified into grid-boxes, each of which was subsequently evaluated to determine frequency of tornado formation and the frequency of tornado presence. Once frequency rates were determined, local characteristics such as elevation, land use, land cover, slope, and other environmental variables were analyzed to identify any relationships with frequency. The results are aimed at informing both forecasters and local emergency personnel operating in this under-studied region.
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