Regionally-stratified tornadoes: Moisture source physical reasoning and climate trends

Maria J. Molina, John Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The moisture origins and associated physical mechanisms for tornadoes of various climatic regions of the United States were investigated. The NOAA Air Resources Laboratory HYSPLIT model and a moisture attribution algorithm were used in conjunction with statistical analyses to explore these relationships on a climate scale (1981–2017). It was found that moisture sources of United States tornadic convection exhibit distinctive regionality. For example, moisture contributions to east coast tornadoes primarily emanate from the Atlantic Ocean as opposed to the Gulf of Mexico. Moisture sources of a class of non-significant severe thunderstorms also show regionality based on the location of storm occurrence with latitudinal differences to that of tornadic storms. Moisture increases for tornadic and non-significant severe storms were shown to be closely related to the respective air parcel's temperature, with underlying sea surface temperatures playing a less important role. Long-term trends of moisture uptake and horizontal advection were also explored using the Mann-Kendall test and linear regressions. Both statistical analyses demonstrate that the magnitude of advective fluxes and the rate of moisture increases have been rising since the 1980s, which can increase the complexity of forecasting downstream convection. The potential ramifications of these trends on storm development and prediction are discussed to conclude the article.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100244
JournalWeather and Climate Extremes
StatePublished - Jan 2020


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