A synoptic climatology of severe convective winds in the northeastern United States

Hayes, Alison
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University of Delaware
Although much research has been conducted investigating the spatial distribution of severe convective winds in many areas of the United States, few studies have focused specifically on the Northeast. Because of the large population and general lack of hazard awareness, high wind disasters are most common in this section of the country. This study provides a baseline climatology of severe convective wind reports from 1955-2010 using data from the Storm Prediction Center. Population biases inherent in the dataset as well as synoptic and thermodynamic environments associated with “significant” event days are examined in order to better understand the meteorological characteristics specific to the region that are responsible for severe convective surface winds. After a population-bias model is applied to the data, “hot spots” for wind reports are identified along the windward and leeward sides of the Appalachian Range, with significant clusters positioned in upstate New York and west of Washington D.C. The highest number of wind reports occurs diurnally around 2100 GMT and in the months of June and July on an annual basis. Synoptically, high numbers of events occur when there is anomalous low pressure north of New York state in association with a low-amplitude trough at the 500 hPa pressure level. Thermodynamic information obtained from 00z soundings at 11 upper air stations in the Northeast show that although severe weather indices are not necessarily good indicators of hazardous weather in every region, the K-Index and Total Totals index may be helpful in forecasting the potential for severe convective winds in the Northeast.