The number of tornadoes reported in the United States is believed to be less than the actual incidence of tornadoes, especially prior to the 1990s, because tornadoes may be undetectable by human witnesses in sparsely populated areas and areas in which obstructions limit the line of sight. A hierarchical Bayesian model is used to simultaneously correct for population-based sampling bias and estimate tornado density using historical tornado report data. The expected result is that F2-F5 compared with F0-F1 tornado reports would vary less with population density. The results agree with this hypothesis for the following population centers: Atlanta, Georgia; Champaign, Illinois; and Des Moines, Iowa. However, the results indicated just the opposite in Oklahoma. It is hypothesized that the result is explained by the misclassification of tornadoes that were worthy of F2-F5 rating but were classified as F0-F1 tornadoes, thereby artificially decreasing the number of F2-F5 and increasing the number of F0-F1 reports in rural Oklahoma.
Additional publication details
Population influences on tornado reports in the United States