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Jong-Hoon Jeong, Jiwen Fan, Cameron R. Homeyer, and Zhangshuan Hou

Abstract

Hailstones are a natural hazard that pose a significant threat to property and are responsible for significant economic losses each year in the United States. Detailed understanding of their characteristics is essential to mitigate their impact. Identifying the dynamic and physical factors contributing to hail formation and hailstone sizes is of great importance to weather and climate prediction and policymakers. In this study, we have analyzed the temporal and spatial variabilities of severe hail occurrences over the U.S. southern Great Plains (SGP) states from 2004 to 2016 using two hail datasets: hail reports from the Storm Prediction Center and the newly developed radar-retrieved maximum expected size of hail (MESH). It is found that severe and significant severe hail occurrences have a considerable year-to-year temporal variability in the SGP region. The interannual variabilities have a strong correspondence with sea surface temperature anomalies over the northern Gulf of Mexico and there is no outlier. The year 2016 is identified as an outlier for the correlations with both El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and aerosol loading. The correlations with ENSO and aerosol loading are not statistically robust to inclusion of the outlier 2016. Statistical analysis without the outlier 2016 shows that 1) aerosols that may be mainly from northern Mexico have the largest correlation with hail interannual variability among the three factors and 2) meteorological covariation does not significantly contribute to the high correlation. These analyses warrant further investigations of aerosol impacts on hail occurrence.

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Jong-Hoon Jeong, Jiwen Fan, and Cameron R. Homeyer

Abstract

Following on our study of hail for the southern Great Plains (SGP), we investigated the spatial and temporal hail trends and variabilities for the northern Great Plains (NGP) and the contributing factors for summers (June–August) focusing on the period of 2004–16 using two independent hail datasets. Analysis for an extended period (1994–2016) with the hail reports was also conducted to more reliably investigate the contributing factors. Both severe hail (diameter between 1 and 2 inches) and significant severe hail (SSH; diameter > 2 inches) were examined and similar results were obtained. The occurrence of hail over the NGP demonstrated a large interannual variability, with a positive slope overall. Spatially, the increase is mainly located in the western part of Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. We find the three major dynamical factors that most likely contribute to the hail interannual variability in the NGP are El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the North Atlantic subtropical high (NASH), and the low-level jet (LLJ). With a thermodynamical variable integrated water vapor transport that is strongly controlled by LLJ, the four factors can explain 78% of the interannual variability in the number of SSH reports. Hail occurrences in the La Niña years are higher than the El Niño years since the jet stream is stronger and NASH extends farther into the southeastern United States, thereby strengthening the LLJ and in turn water vapor transport. Interestingly, the important factors impacting hail interannual variability over the NGP are quite different from those for the SGP, except for ENSO.

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