Temporal distribution of weather catastrophes in the USA

Stanley A. Changnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The temporal distributions of the nation's four major storm types during 1950-2005 were assessed, including those for thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and winter storms. Storms are labeled as catastrophes, defined as events causing $1 million or more in property losses, based on time-adjusted data provided by the insurance industry. Most catastrophic storms occurred in the eastern half of the nation. Analysis of the regional and national storm frequencies revealed there was little time-related relationship between storm types, reflecting how storm types were reported. That is, when tornadoes occurred with thunderstorms, the type producing the greatest losses was the one identified by the insurance industry, not both. Temporal agreement was found in the timing of relatively high incidences of thunderstorms, hurricanes, and winter storms during 2002-2005. This resulted in upward time trends in the national losses of hurricane and thunderstorm catastrophes, The temporal increase in hurricanes is in agreement with upward trends in population density, wealth, and insurance coverage in Gulf and East coastal areas. The upward trends in thunderstorm catastrophes and losses result from increases in heavy rain days, floods, high winds, and hail days, revealing that atmospheric conditions conducive to strong convective activity have been increasing since the 1960s. Tornado catastrophes and their losses peaked in 1966-1973 and had no upward time trend. Temporal variability in tornado catastrophes was large, whereas the variability in hurricane and thunderstorm catastrophes was only moderate, and that for winter storms was low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-140
Number of pages12
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2011


  • ISWS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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