Long-Term Fluctuations in Hail Incidences in the United States

Stanley A. Changnon Changnon Climatologist, Mahomet, Illinois

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David Changnon Northern Illinois University, De Kalb, Illinois

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Abstract

Hail-day occurrences during a 100-yr period, 1896–1995, derived from carefully screened records of 66 first-order stations distributed across the United States, were assessed for temporal fluctuations and trends. Shorter-term (5- and 10-yr) fluctuations varied greatly and were often dissimilar between adjacent stations reflecting localized differences in hailstorm activity, making temporal interpretations difficult. But temporal fluctuations based on 20-yr and longer periods exhibited regional coherence reflecting the control of large-scale synoptic hail-producing systems on the point distributions over broader areas. Classification of station fluctuations based on 20-yr periods revealed five types of distributions existed across most of the nation. One present in the Midwest had a peak in hail activity in 1916–35 followed by a general decline to 1976–95. Another distribution had a midcentury peak and was found at stations in three areas: the central high plains, northern Rockies, and East Coast. The third distribution peaked during 1956–75 and was found at stations in the northern and south-central high plains. The fourth temporal distribution showed a steady increase during the 100-yr period, peaking in 1976–95, and was found in an area from the Pacific Northwest to the central Rockies and southern plains. The fifth distribution found at stations in the eastern Gulf Coast had a maximum at the beginning of the century and declined thereafter. The 100-yr linear trends defined four regions across the United States with significant up trends in the high plains, central Rockies, and southeast, but with decreasing trends elsewhere in the nation. These up trends have occurred in areas where hail damage is greatest, and the trends matched well with those defined by crop-hail insurance losses and those found in studies of thunderstorm trends. The national average based on all station hail values formed a bell-shaped 100-yr distribution with hail occurrences peaking in midcentury. Thunderstorm data from the 66 stations, also based on screening to ensure quality data, revealed a bell-shaped distribution similar to the hail-day distribution, and national hail insurance loss values have declined since the 1950s, also agreeing with the hail-day decrease since midcentury. The national distribution differs markedly from certain regional distributions illustrating the importance of using regional analysis to assess temporal fluctuations in severe weather conditions.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Stanley A. Changnon, Changnon Climatologist, 801 Buckthorn Circle, Mahomet, IL 61853.

Email: schangno@uiuc.edu

Abstract

Hail-day occurrences during a 100-yr period, 1896–1995, derived from carefully screened records of 66 first-order stations distributed across the United States, were assessed for temporal fluctuations and trends. Shorter-term (5- and 10-yr) fluctuations varied greatly and were often dissimilar between adjacent stations reflecting localized differences in hailstorm activity, making temporal interpretations difficult. But temporal fluctuations based on 20-yr and longer periods exhibited regional coherence reflecting the control of large-scale synoptic hail-producing systems on the point distributions over broader areas. Classification of station fluctuations based on 20-yr periods revealed five types of distributions existed across most of the nation. One present in the Midwest had a peak in hail activity in 1916–35 followed by a general decline to 1976–95. Another distribution had a midcentury peak and was found at stations in three areas: the central high plains, northern Rockies, and East Coast. The third distribution peaked during 1956–75 and was found at stations in the northern and south-central high plains. The fourth temporal distribution showed a steady increase during the 100-yr period, peaking in 1976–95, and was found in an area from the Pacific Northwest to the central Rockies and southern plains. The fifth distribution found at stations in the eastern Gulf Coast had a maximum at the beginning of the century and declined thereafter. The 100-yr linear trends defined four regions across the United States with significant up trends in the high plains, central Rockies, and southeast, but with decreasing trends elsewhere in the nation. These up trends have occurred in areas where hail damage is greatest, and the trends matched well with those defined by crop-hail insurance losses and those found in studies of thunderstorm trends. The national average based on all station hail values formed a bell-shaped 100-yr distribution with hail occurrences peaking in midcentury. Thunderstorm data from the 66 stations, also based on screening to ensure quality data, revealed a bell-shaped distribution similar to the hail-day distribution, and national hail insurance loss values have declined since the 1950s, also agreeing with the hail-day decrease since midcentury. The national distribution differs markedly from certain regional distributions illustrating the importance of using regional analysis to assess temporal fluctuations in severe weather conditions.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Stanley A. Changnon, Changnon Climatologist, 801 Buckthorn Circle, Mahomet, IL 61853.

Email: schangno@uiuc.edu

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