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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Windstorms during the last 40 years in the U.S. Northeast are identified and characterized using the spatial extent of extreme wind speeds at 100 m height from the ERA5 reanalysis. During all of the top 10 windstorms, wind speeds exceeding the local 99.9th percentile cover at least one-third of the land area in this high population density region. These 10 storms followed frequently observed cyclone tracks, but have intensities five to ten the mean values for cyclones affecting this region.
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https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2020-345
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2020-345

  11 Dec 2020

11 Dec 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Windstorms in the Northeastern United States

Frederick W. Letson1, Rebecca J. Barthelmie2, Kevin I. Hodges3, and Sara C. Pryor1 Frederick W. Letson et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA
  • 2Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA
  • 3Environmental System Science Centre, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

Abstract. Windstorms are a major natural hazard in many countries. Windstorms during the last four decades in the U.S. Northeast are identified and characterized using the spatial extent of locally extreme wind speeds at 100 m height from the ERA5 reanalysis database. During all of the top 10 windstorms, wind speeds in excess of their local 99.9th percentile extend over at least one-third of land-based ERA5 grid cells in this high population density region of the U.S. Maximum sustained wind speeds during these windstorms range from 26 to over 43 ms−1, with wind speed return periods exceeding 6.5 to 106 years (considering the top 5 % of grid cells during each storm). The property damage associated with these storms (inflation adjusted to January 2020) is $ 24 million to over $ 29 billion. Two of these windstorms are linked to decaying tropical cyclones, three are Alberta Clippers and the remaining storms are Colorado Lows. Two of the ten re-intensified off the east coast leading to development of Nor'easters. These windstorms followed frequently observed cyclone tracks, but exhibit maximum intensities as measured using 700 hPa relative vorticity and mean sea level pressure that are five to ten times mean values for cyclones that followed similar tracks over this 40-year period. The time-evolution of wind speeds and concurrent precipitation for those windstorms that occurred after the year 2000 exhibit good agreement with in situ ground-based and remote sensing observations, plus storm damage reports, indicating that the ERA5 reanalysis data have a high degree of fidelity for large, damaging windstorms such as these. A larger pool of the top 50 largest windstorms exhibits evidence of serial clustering, but to a degree that is lower than comparable statistics from Europe.

Frederick W. Letson et al.

 
Status: open (until 22 Jan 2021)
Status: open (until 22 Jan 2021)
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Frederick W. Letson et al.

Frederick W. Letson et al.

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Short summary
Windstorms during the last 40 years in the U.S. Northeast are identified and characterized using the spatial extent of extreme wind speeds at 100 m height from the ERA5 reanalysis. During all of the top 10 windstorms, wind speeds exceeding the local 99.9th percentile cover at least one-third of the land area in this high population density region. These 10 storms followed frequently observed cyclone tracks, but have intensities five to ten the mean values for cyclones affecting this region.
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