Academic journal article Southeastern Geographer

Tennessee Tornado Climate: A Comparison of Three Cities

Academic journal article Southeastern Geographer

Tennessee Tornado Climate: A Comparison of Three Cities

Article excerpt

Tornado frequency characteristics and human vulnerability are assessed within 100 km of three major Tennessee cities (Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville) between 1950 and 2013. Focusing on cities and their surrounding areas provides insight on tornado characteristics across different longitudinal portions of the state while also diminishing bias due to underreported tornadoes in rural areas. Nashville reported the most tornadoes between 1950 and 2013 (426), followed by Memphis (390), and Knoxville (176). Knoxville and Nashville tornadoes occurred on fewer days, while Memphis's tornadoes were spread across more tornado days. Spring was the most active season for tornadoes, but Memphis still experienced approximately 25 percent of tornadoes in the winter, a season prone to nocturnal tornadoes. Memphis also averages the most tornado-related fatalities (four per year). Future work should investigate if social factors are the primary cause of increased vulnerability in Memphis, or if the higher number of tornado days, especially during the winter, plays a role in the increased fatalities seen there. The occurrence of more tornadoes across fewer days and increased winter activity may impact human preparedness and response.

Las Caracteristicas de frecuencia Tornado y la vulnerabilidad humana se evaluan radio de 100 km de las tres principales ciudades de Tennessee (Nashville, Memphis y Knoxville) entre 1950 y 2013. Centrandose en las ciudades y sus alrededores proporciona information sobre las caracteristicas de tornado en diferentes partes longitudinales del estado y al mismo tiempo disminuyendo el sesgo debido a los tornados declaradas de menos en las zonas rurales. Nashville reporto el mayor numero de tornados entre 1950 y 2013 (426), seguido de Memphis (390), y Knoxville (176). Los tornados de Knoxville y Nashville ocurrieron en menos dias, mientras que los tornados de Memphis fueron repartidos en mas dias de tornado. La primavera fue la temporada mas activa de tornados, pero Memphis todavia experimento aproximadamente el 25 por ciento de los tornados en el invierno, una estacion propensa a tornados nocturnos. Memphis tambien promedio la mayoria de las muertes relacionadas con tornados (cuatro por aho). Futuro trabajo debe investigar si los fadores sociales son la causa principal del aumento de la vulnerabilidad en Memphis, o si el mayor numero de dias de tornado, especialmente durante el invierno, desempeha unpapel en el aumento de las muertes visto alii. La aparicion de mas tornados por un menor numero de diasy el aumento de la actividad de invierno puede afectar a la preparation y la respuesta humana.

KEY WORDS: Tennessee, hazard, tornado

PALABRAS CLAVE: Tennessee, Tornado, Riesgo, Vulnerabilidad

INTRODUCTION

The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country (Grazulis 1990). The spatial risk of tornadoes across the country varies from year to year. Recent research has revealed a high-risk area for tornadoes that expands from Oklahoma to Tennessee and northwestern Georgia (Coleman and Dixon 2014), with the highest risk occurring in the southeastern United States (Coleman and Dixon 2014, Dixon et al. 2011). Although many may not associate Tennessee with high tornado frequency, in some years the state experiences more tornadoes than those states in the heart of Tornado Alley. One recent example is 2011, which was one of the most active tornado years since 1936 (National Weather Service (NWS) Storm Prediction Center (SPC)). During this year, Tennessee recorded 101 tornadoes, while Kansas recorded 68 and Oklahoma recorded 119 tornadoes. However, Tennessee's tornado frequency is highly variable across time and space. In 2010, the state of Tennessee recorded 31 tornadoes, 70 fewer than the active year of 2011.

Tennessee is also particularly vulnerable to tornadic events, as evident by tornado fatality statistics presented by the SPC. Between 1981 and 2013, Tennessee ranked second for the greatest mean-annual tornado deaths (five). …

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