Urban-induced thunderstorm modification in the Southeast United States

Walker S. Ashley, Mace L. Bentley, J. Anthony Stallins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


This study provides the first climatological synthesis of how urbanization augments warm-season convection among a range of cities in the southeastern U. S. By comparing the location of convection in these cities and adjacent control regions via high-resolution, radar reflectivity and lightning data, we illustrate that demographic and land-use changes feed back to local atmospheric processes that promote thunderstorm formation and persistence. Composite radar data for a 10-year, June-August period are stratified according to specific "medium" and "high" reflectivity thresholds. As surrogates for potentially strong (medium reflectivity) and severe (high reflectivity) thunderstorms, these radar climatologies can be used to determine if cities are inducing more intense events. Results demonstrate positive urban amplification of thunderstorm frequency and intensity for major cities. Mid-sized cities investigated had more subtle urban effects, suggesting that the urban influences on thunderstorm development and strength are muted by land cover and climatological controls. By examining cities of various sizes, as well as rural counterparts, the investigation determined that the degree of urban thunderstorm augmentation corresponds to the geometry of the urban footprint. The research provides a methodological template for continued monitoring of anthropogenically forced and/or modified thunderstorms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-498
Number of pages18
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements The authors wish to thank Phil Young and Rick Schwantes of the NIU Advanced Geospatial Laboratory for their technical expertise and equipment. Portions of this research were supported by National Science Foundation Grant #0649343.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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