Changes in the U.S. Tornado Disaster Landscape

Authors: Stephen Strader*, Villanova University
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: tornado, disaster, Monte Carlo, exposure, risk, climate change
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Balcony L, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Weather disaster severity and frequency are a function of both hazard risk as well as the underlying socioeconomic settings exposed to the hazard. This research examines a single hazard—the tornado—and evaluates how this hazard's evolving risk interrelates with the important human vulnerability component of residential built-environment exposure. Specifically, we these interactions across the high tornado risk areas of the central and eastern U.S. from 1940 to 2100 using fine-scale demographic data and a Monte Carlo model that simulates tornado events and associated impacts on the underlying exposed landscape. Results illustrate that as the built environment grows and spreads outward across the landscape over time, tornado impact severity and frequency also increases. Although the Midwest contains the greatest societal exposure and the Central Plains region encompasses the highest tornado risk, the Southeast has the greatest probability of tornado disaster. This finding is attributed to the relatively elevated tornado risk and high-density developed land area that characterizes the Mid-South. Disaster potential within the U.S. is also projected to increase as much as 36 fold from 1940 to 2100 due to escalating built-environment development and its spatial footprint in at-risk regions. By integrating two of the most important disaster constituents—the hazard and its potential targets—a more thorough understanding of future tornado disaster frequency, magnitude, and uncertainty has been reached. Ultimately, this study provides a perspective of disaster potential that may be used to address policy through adapting zoning laws, refining state and local building codes, and improving infrastructure.

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