Near-storm environments of outbreak and isolated tornadoes

Alexandra K. Anderson-Frey, Yvette P. Richardson, Andrew R. Dean, Richard L. Thompson, Bryan T. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Between 2003 and 2015, there were 5343 outbreak tornadoes and 9389 isolated tornadoes reported in the continental United States. Here, the near-storm environmental parameter-space distributions of these two categories are compared via kernel density estimation, and the seasonal, diurnal, and geographical features of near-storm environments of these two sets of events are compared via self-organizing maps (SOMs). Outbreak tornadoes in a given geographical region tend to be characterized by greater 0-1-km storm-relative helicity and 0-6-km vector shear magnitude than isolated tornadoes in the same geographical region and also have considerably higher tornado warning-based probability of detection (POD) than isolated tornadoes. A SOM of isolated tornadoes highlights that isolated tornadoes with higher POD also tend to feature higher values of the significant tornado parameter (STP), regardless of the specific shape of the area of STP. For a SOM of outbreak tornadoes, when two outbreak environments with similarly high magnitudes but different patterns of STP are compared, the difference is primarily geographical, with one environment dominated by Great Plains and Midwest outbreaks and another dominated by outbreaks in the southeastern United States. Two specific tornado outbreaks are featured, and the events are placed into their climatological context with more nuance than typical single proximity sounding-based approaches would allow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1397-1412
Number of pages16
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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