Variability of tornado occurrence over the continental United States since 1950

Li Guo, Kaicun Wang, Howard B. Bluestein

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32 Scopus citations


The United States experiences the most tornadoes of any country in the world. Given the catastrophic impact of tornadoes, concern has arisen regarding the variation in climatology of U.S. tornadoes under the changing climate. A recent study claimed that the temporal variability of tornado occurrence over the continental U.S. has increased since the 1970s. However, that study ignored the highly regionalized climatology of U.S. tornadoes. To address this issue, we examined the long-term trend of tornado temporal variability in each continental U.S. state. Based on the 64 year tornado records (1950-2013), we found that the trends in tornado temporal variability varied across the U.S., with only one third of the continental area or three out of 10 contiguous states (mostly from the Great Plains and Southeast, but where the frequency of occurrence of tornadoes is greater) displaying a significantly increasing trend. The other two-thirds area, where 60%of the U.S. tornadoes were reported (but the frequency of occurrence of tornadoes is less), however, showed a decreasing or a near-zero trend in tornado temporal variability. Furthermore, unlike the temporal variability alone, the combined spatial-temporal variability of U.S. tornado occurrence has remained nearly constant since 1950. Such detailed information on the climatological variability of U.S. tornadoes refines the claim of previous study and can be helpful for local mitigation efforts toward future tornado risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6943-6953
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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