Past Research

Impacts of ENSO on Tornado Frequency and Intensity across the Eastern U.S.

Research dates: 2015-2017
Investigator(s): Coryn Collins, Barry Keim

Tornadoes are a reoccurring severe weather hazard, with the highest occurrences in the world taking place in the central United States. Despite their high occurrence, this weather feature is still poorly understood, especially regarding their tendencies during the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In this study, tornado events from 1950 to 2014 in U.S. states east of the Rocky Mountains will be investigated. A predetermined list of El Niño and
La Niña years and intensities based on the Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) will be utilized to examine frequencies, distributions and statistical significance. Several models will be developed to evaluate the influences that ENSO phases and intensities have on tornadic distribution, frequency, Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale distribution, track length and duration, and injuries/fatalities in the chosen region. The Destruction Potential Index (DPI) will also be calculated to determine the relationship between ENSO and tornado strength, length and duration. In sum, this paper will focus on how ENSO intensities effect spatial and temporal tornadic variability across the eastern U.S. The goal of this research is to find patterns and correlations of statistical significance that can enhance the current understanding of the tornado-ENSO teleconnection.