Importance of the Gulf of Mexico as a climate driver for U.S. severe thunderstorm activity

M. J. Molina, R. P. Timmer, J. T. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Different features of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), such as the Loop Current and warm-core rings, are found to influence monthly-to-seasonal severe weather occurrence in different regions of the United States (U.S.). The warmer (cooler) the GOM sea surface temperatures, the more (less) hail and tornadoes occur during March–May over the southern U.S. This pattern is reflected physically in boundary layer specific humidity and mixed-layer convective available potential energy, two large-scale atmospheric conditions favorable for severe weather occurrence. This relationship is complicated by interactions between the GOM and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) but persists when analyzing ENSO neutral conditions. This suggests that the GOM can influence hail and tornado occurrence and provides another source of regional predictability for seasonal severe weather.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12,295-12,304
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 16 2016


  • Gulf of Mexico
  • climate variability
  • hail
  • seasonal predictability
  • tornado


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