Revisiting U.S. Nocturnal Tornado Vulnerability and Its Influence on Tornado Impacts
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Revisiting U.S. Nocturnal Tornado Vulnerability and Its Influence on Tornado Impacts

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  • Journal Title:
    Weather, Climate, and Society
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    This research examines tornadoes and their fatalities by light condition (i.e., daytime and nighttime) for the United States. The study has two primary objectives: 1) to catalog and reassess differences in daytime and nighttime, or nocturnal, tornadoes and their fatalities from spatial and temporal perspectives and 2) to employ a spatially explicit Monte Carlo simulation technique to calculate differences in daytime and nocturnal tornado–population impact potential by combining climatological tornado risk data with fine-scale, gridded estimates of day and night population density. Results reveal that nocturnal tornadoes remain a substantial impediment to mitigating tornado casualties despite long-term improvements in detection and warning of these events. Nocturnal tornadoes are nearly 2 times as deadly as daytime events, with fatalities stemming from overnight (i.e., from local midnight to sunrise) tornadoes increasing fourfold since the late nineteenth century. The proportion of all tornado fatalities that occurred during daytime hours has decreased 20% over the last 140 years while the nocturnal fatality proportion has increased 20%. The stall, or even slight growth, in U.S. tornado mortality rates over the last 30 years has, at least in part, been driven by increasing nocturnal tornado fatalities. Overall, nocturnal tornadoes affect 13% more people on average than daytime tornadoes, revealing the importance of time of day in mitigating tornado–population impacts and disasters. Emergency managers, forecasters, first responders, policy makers, and researchers should continue to focus efforts on understanding nocturnal tornadoes, especially with regard to how populations receive warnings and respond to these nocturnal threats.
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    Wea. Climate Soc., 14, 1147–1163
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