Convective storm structures and ambient conditions associated with severe weather over the northeast United States

Kelly A. Lombardo, Brian A. Colle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This study documents the convective storm structures and ambient conditions associated with severe storms (wind, hail, and tornado) over the northeastern United States for two warm seasons (May-August), including 2007 and a warm season comprising randomly selected days from 2002 to 2006. The storms were classified into three main convective organizational structures (cellular, linear, and nonlinear) as well as several subcategories. The same procedure was applied to the highly populated coastal zone of the northeastern United States, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York. The coastal analysis included six warm seasons from 2002 to 2007. Over the Northeast, severe wind events are evenly distributed among the cellular, linear, and nonlinear structures. Cellular structures are the primary hail producers, while tornadoes develop mainly from cellular and linear structures. Over the coastal zone, primarily cellular and linear systems produce severe wind and hail, while tornadoes are equally likely from all three convective structures. Composites were generated for severe weather days over the coastal region for the three main convective structures. On average, severe cellular events develop during moderate instability [most unstable CAPE (MUCAPE) ~1200 J kg -1], with low-level warm-air advection and frontogenesis at the leading edge of a thermal ridge collocated with an Appalachian lee trough. Severe linear events develop in a similar mean environment as the cellular events, except that most linear events occur with a surface trough upstream over the Ohio River valley and half of the linear events develop just ahead of progressive midlevel troughs. Nonlinear severe events develop with relatively weak mean convective instability (MUCAPE ~460 J kg -1), but they are supported by midlevel quasigeostrophic (QG) forcing for ascent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)940-956
Number of pages17
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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