Population and the Detection of Weak Tornadoes

November 1994 (VOL. 12, NO. 3)

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This paper uses National Severe Storms Forecast Center’s information on 31,969 tornado segments occurring in the continental U.S. during the 1950-1990 period, and ecological information from the U.S. Census on all counties experiencing tornadoes during this period to model the occurrence of weak tornadoes which are most likely to go unreported. The relative complexity of the demographic pattern of counties is insignificant related to the proportion of counties with weak storms. Metropolitan and other urban counties do not have higher odds of weak tornadoes than rural counties. Inferentially, these results fail to support the prevailing interpretation in the scientific literature of the existence of a noncausal relationship between the frequency of tornado occurrence and demographic complexity of places. An alternative interpretation is suggested.