Climatic Change

, Volume 113, Issue 2, pp 481–498 | Cite as

Urban-induced thunderstorm modification in the Southeast United States

  • Walker S. AshleyEmail author
  • Mace L. Bentley
  • J. Anthony Stallins


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.


Central Business District Urban Core Radar Reflectivity Urban Effect LULC Change 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walker S. Ashley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mace L. Bentley
    • 1
  • J. Anthony Stallins
    • 2
  1. 1.Meteorology Program, Department of GeographyNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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