Tornadoes from squall lines and bow echoes. Part I: Climatological distribution

Robert J. Trapp, Sarah A. Tessendorf, Elaine Savageau Godfrey, Harold E. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The primary objective of this study was to estimate the percentage of U.S. tornadoes that are spawned annually by squall lines and bow echoes, or quasi-linear convective systems (QLCSs). This was achieved by examining radar reflectivity images for every tornado event recorded during 1998-2000 in the contiguous United States. Based on these images, the type of storm associated with each tornado was classified as cell, QLCS, or other. Of the 3828 tornadoes in the database, 79% were produce d by cells, 18% were produced by QLCSs, and the remaining 3% were produced by other storm types, primarily rainbands of landfallen tropical cyclones. Geographically, these percentages as well as those based on tornado days exhibited wide variations. For example, 50% of the tornado days in Indiana were associated with QLCSs. In an examination of other tornado attributes, statistically more weak (F1) and fewer strong (F2-F3) tornadoes were associated with QLCSs than with cells. QLCS tornadoes were more probable during the winter months than were cells. And finally, QLCS tornadoes displayed a comparatively higher and statistically significant tendency to occur during the late night/early morning hours. Further analysis revealed a disproportional decrease in F0-F1 events during this time of day, which led the authors to propose that many (perhaps as many as 12% of the total) weak QLCSs tornadoes were not reported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-34
Number of pages12
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Tornadoes from squall lines and bow echoes. Part I: Climatological distribution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this