University of Oklahoma - NOAA & Department of Physics
The correlation between tornadic activity in several regions of the United States and the monthly mean sea surface temperature over four zones in the tropical Pacific Ocean is examined. Tornadic activity is gauged with two mostly independent measures - the number of tornadoes per month, and the number of tornadic days per month. Within the assumptions set forth for the analysis, it is found that there appears to exist a statistically significant but very weak correlation between sea surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean and tornadic activity in the U.S., with the strength and significance of the correlation depending on the coordinates at which the sea surface temperatures are assessed and the geographic region of the U.S. The strongest evidence found is for the correlation between the number of days with strong and violent (F2 and greater) tornadoes in an area that runs from Illinois to the Atlantic Coast, and Kentucky to Canada and a cool sea surface temperature in the central tropical Pacific. However, there is only about a 53% chance of this relationship occurring in a specific month.