The Structure and Climatology

of Boundary Layer Winds in
the Southeast United States and
its Relationship to Nocturnal
Tornado Episodes
Alicia C. Wasula and Lance F. Bosart
University at Albany/SUNY, Albany, NY

Russell Schneider, Steven J. Weiss, and Robert H. Johns
Storm Prediction Center, Norman, OK

Geoffrey S. Manikin
Research
Supported by
COMET grant
#S99-19133

NOAA/NWS/NCEP/EMC, Camp Springs, MD

Patrick Welsh
NOAA/NWSFO Jacksonville, FL

• High frequency of overnight/early morning
tornadoes in southeast US
• Particularly strong signal near Gulf Coast
• Relatively high number of fatalities at night
F2 or Greater 1950-2001
East of 94 W, South of 36.5 N

Time (UTC)

6-9
9-12
12-15
15-18
18-21
21-0
0-3
3-6
6-9

20

20
10

20

40
30

50

10

30
20
10
30

60

40
30
20

10

40
50
20

20

50

20
20

100
90
80
70
60
40

20

10

10

60
30 50
40

20
30
40
50
30
20
20

JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC JAN
Month

32 N

• High frequency of overnight/early morning
tornadoes in southeast US
• Particularly strong signal near Gulf Coast
• Relatively high number of fatalities at night
F2 or Greater 1950-2001
East of 94 W, South of 32 N

Time (UTC)

6-9
9-12
12-15
15-18
18-21
21-0
0-3
3-6
6-9

6
912
15
15

9

15

12

12
15

9
12

15
12
9

18

15
21
18

18

9

24
21
18

15

12
9

6

12 9

9
12

15 18 15

9

6
12

12

12

12
9

6
12

12
9
6

9

9

6
3

15

9

9

12

3

9 12
15 15

6

3

6

18 15

3

3

12 9

9

3

3

6
3

12
18
15
9

9

9

JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC JAN
Month

32 N

Motivation
1. What is the climatology of surface and
boundary layer winds in the southeast US?
2. How do they vary diurnally?
3. What does the boundary layer wind
structure look like during tornado
episodes?

Data Sources
• Historical pilot balloon (pibal) wind data
– 1948-1957, 4x/day, wind data for lowest ~3km

• Hourly surface data (1995-2000)
• Eta regional reanalysis (32 km)

Pibal Stations

1000 m Wind Climatology

0900-2100 UTC Meridional Wind (1000 m) vs. Latitude
09Z - 21Z V-wind difference
(m/s)

7
6

2

5

R = 0.73

4

R2 = 0.28

3

R = 0.05

2

2
1
0
-1 25

27

29

31

33

35

37

39

-2
-3

Latitude (deg)
1000 m

09Z V-wind

21Z V-wind

9-21Z diff. trendline

09Z V-wind trendline

21Z V-wind trendline

0900-2100 UTC Wind Speed (1000 m) vs. Latitude
8

Speed (m/s)

7
5

R2 = 0.03
R2 = 0.37

4
3

R2 = 0.62

6

2
1
0
-1 25

27

29

31

33

35

37

Latitude (deg)
1000 m 9-21 diff.
9-21Z diff. trendline

09Z Speed
09Z Speed trendline

21Z Speed
21Z Speed trendline

39

Surface Stations

60 m
COASTAL

INLAND
FL East Coast
FL West Coast
FL Central

AEX Windrose

Coastal Stations
35%
0
W
240

E
S

120

%

30%

25%

20%
Day=15-18Z
Dusk=00-03Z
Night=06-09Z
Dawn=12-15Z

15%
East

South

West

Inland Stations
35%

0
W
240

E
S

120

%

30%

25%

20%

Day=15-18Z
Dusk=00-03Z
Night=06-09Z
Dawn=12-15Z

15%
East

South

West

Nov-Mar 1999-2000 09–21 UTC SLP Diff. (hPa) – Eta NARR

Summary: Climatology
• Surface winds back along coast at night
• 1 km southerly low-level jet helps increase
shear at night
• Question: What happens during tornado
episodes?

Composite Hodographs
Composite Hodograph (Pibals)
14

2000

12

15

1000

10

v (m/s)

0m
500 m
1000 m
1500 m
2000 m
2500 m
3000 m

500
300

8

22

1500
17

23

2500 3000

150 6

6

11

6

4

All

10

0
224
0
-5

0

5

10

15

20

25

u (m/s)

16
14
12
10
8

v (m/s)

Criteria:
•Within 167 km Radius
•Up to 4 h prior to first
report

Composite Hodograph

15Z
03Z

6
4
2
0
-5

21Z
3-7Z n=4
15-19Z n=5
21-01Z n=12
0

5

10
u (m/s)

15

20

25

Surface Composite Methodology
• Bin surface obs in 1° x 1° boxes relative to
first tornado report
• Calculate temp/dew point anomalies
relative to monthly climo for that station
• Composite u, v, PMSL, temp/dew point
anomalies for each grid box

Surface Composite – All Events
T’
PMSL
8°C Td’
10°C Td’

X

75th
25th
Percentile

DAY

X

8°C Td’

T’

10°C Td’

PMSL

NIGHT

X

25th
75th
Percentile

Conclusions
• Pibal Climo: Evidence of southerly nocturnal LLJ
near Gulf coast at 1 km
• Surface Climo: Higher SLP over land vs. water
force nocturnal easterly component along coast
• Composite hodographs: Veering wind profile,
stronger winds in low-levels at night (small
sample size due to much missing data)
• Surface composite: First tornado occurs at highest
temp. gradient, on edge of moisture surge, in
region of most backed surface winds