A Climatology of Fatal Convective Wind Events by Storm Type
Ashley, Walker S.
Schoen, Joseph M.
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There are still hundreds of casualties produced by thunderstorm hazards each year in the United States despite the many recent advances in prediction and mitigation of the effects of convective storms. Of the four most common thunderstorm hazards (wind, hail, flooding, and lightning), convective winds (tornadic and nontornadic) remain one of the most dangerous threats to life and property. Using thunderstorm fatality and Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) data, this research illustrates a spatial and temporal analysis of the storm morphological characteristics, or convective mode, of all fatal tornadic and nontornadic convective wind events from 1998 to 2007. The investigation employs a radar-based morphology classification system that delineates storm type based on an organizational continuum, including unorganized cellular, quasi-organized cellular (either a cluster of cells or a broken line of cells), organized cellular (supercells and supercells embedded in an organized linear system), and organized linear (either squall lines or bow echoes). Results illustrate that over 90%% of the 634 recorded tornado deaths were associated with supercells, with 78%% of the deaths due to isolated tornadic supercells and 12%% linked to tornadic supercells embedded within an organized linear convective system. The morphologies responsible for the 191 nontornadic convective wind fatalities vary substantially, with bow echoes (24%%), squall lines (19%%), and clusters of cells (19%%) the most prominent convective modes producing fatalities. Unorganized and quasi-organized convection accounted for nearly half (45%%) of all nontornadic convective wind fatalities. Over half of all fatal tornadoes (53%%) occurred between 0000 and 0600 UTC, and most (59%%) fatalities from nontornadic convective winds occurred in the afternoon between 1800 and 0000 UTC. Two corridors of nontornadic convective wind fatalities were present: the lower Great Lakes region and the mid-South. Tornado fatalities were greatest in a zone extending from southeastern Missouri, through western Tennessee, northeastern Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The methods employed and results found in this study are directly applicable in the further development of storm classification schemes and provide forecasters and emergency managers with information to assist in the creation and implementation of new convective wind mitigation strategies.