Interpreting the Climatology of Derechos

Michael C. Coniglio Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, andNOAA/OAR/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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David J. Stensrud NOAA/OAR/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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Abstract

Past studies have examined the climatology of derechos and suggest very different distributions of derechos within the United States. This uncertainty in the climatology of derechos is a concern for forecasters, since knowledge of the relevant climatological information is a key piece in the forecast process. A 16-yr dataset from 1986 to 2001 is used to examine the effects that changing the method of identifying derechos may have on the interpretation of the derecho climatology. In addition, an attempt is made to visualize the favored regions of particularly intense derecho events.

The results show aspects seen in earlier climatologies, including a southern axis in the southern plains that is favored in the mid-1980s and early 1990s and a northern axis centered from the upper Mississippi River valley into Ohio that is favored in more recent years. However, altering the criteria to not require three 33 m s−1 gust reports or F1-type damage (low-end events) significantly increases the number of events that are identified in the lower Appalachians, the Ohio valley, and in portions of the southern axis, particularly in the earlier period. To a lesser extent, the inclusion of low-end events also increases the frequency values in the northern axis in the later period. The overall effect of including the low-end events is to create a distribution that still suggests both a southern and northern axis, and a shift of the primary axis from the southern plains in the early period to the upper Mississippi valley in the later period. However, the frequency values of the maxima are noticeably reduced when the low-end events are excluded. Therefore, both the length of the dataset and the criteria used to define derechos can significantly influence the resulting climatology.

High-end derechos, which require three wind gust reports (or comparable damage) exceeding 38 m s−1, appear to be favored in the northern corridor during the warm season, particularly in the later period, and are favored along the lower Mississippi River valley during the colder months in both periods.

Corresponding author address: Michael C. Coniglio, National Severe Storms Laboratory, 1313 Halley Circle, Norman, OK 73069. Email: Michael.Coniglio@noaa.gov

Abstract

Past studies have examined the climatology of derechos and suggest very different distributions of derechos within the United States. This uncertainty in the climatology of derechos is a concern for forecasters, since knowledge of the relevant climatological information is a key piece in the forecast process. A 16-yr dataset from 1986 to 2001 is used to examine the effects that changing the method of identifying derechos may have on the interpretation of the derecho climatology. In addition, an attempt is made to visualize the favored regions of particularly intense derecho events.

The results show aspects seen in earlier climatologies, including a southern axis in the southern plains that is favored in the mid-1980s and early 1990s and a northern axis centered from the upper Mississippi River valley into Ohio that is favored in more recent years. However, altering the criteria to not require three 33 m s−1 gust reports or F1-type damage (low-end events) significantly increases the number of events that are identified in the lower Appalachians, the Ohio valley, and in portions of the southern axis, particularly in the earlier period. To a lesser extent, the inclusion of low-end events also increases the frequency values in the northern axis in the later period. The overall effect of including the low-end events is to create a distribution that still suggests both a southern and northern axis, and a shift of the primary axis from the southern plains in the early period to the upper Mississippi valley in the later period. However, the frequency values of the maxima are noticeably reduced when the low-end events are excluded. Therefore, both the length of the dataset and the criteria used to define derechos can significantly influence the resulting climatology.

High-end derechos, which require three wind gust reports (or comparable damage) exceeding 38 m s−1, appear to be favored in the northern corridor during the warm season, particularly in the later period, and are favored along the lower Mississippi River valley during the colder months in both periods.

Corresponding author address: Michael C. Coniglio, National Severe Storms Laboratory, 1313 Halley Circle, Norman, OK 73069. Email: Michael.Coniglio@noaa.gov

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