Document Type



This study investigates the human vulnerability caused by tornadoes that occurred between sunset and sunrise from 1880 to 2007. Nocturnal tornadoes are theorized to enhance vulnerability because they are difficult to spot and occur when the public tends to be asleep and in weak building structures. Results illustrate that the nocturnal tornado death rate over the past century has not shared the same pace of decline as those events transpiring during the daytime. From 1950 to 2005, a mere 27.3% of tornadoes were nocturnal, yet 39.3% of tornado fatalities and 42.1% of killer tornado events occurred at night. Tornadoes during the overnight period (local midnight to sunrise) are 2.5 times as likely to kill as those occurring during the daytime hours. It is argued that a core reason why the national tornado fatality toll has not continued to decrease in the past few decades is due to the vulnerability to these nocturnal events. This vulnerability is magnified when other factors such as escalating mobile (or “manufactured”) home stock and an increasing and spreading population are realized. Unlike other structure types that show no robust demarcation between nocturnal and daytime fatalities, nearly 61% of fatalities in mobile homes take place at night revealing this housing stock’s distinct nocturnal tornado vulnerability. Further, spatial analysis illustrates that the American South’s high nocturnal tornado risk is an important factor leading to the region’s high fatality rate. The investigation emphasizes a potential break in the tornado warning dissemination system utilized currently in the United States.



Publication Date



This is an article that was published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. The version of record can be found here:

Original Citation

Ashley, W.S., A.J. Krmenec, and R. Schwantes, 2008: "Vulnerability Due to Nocturnal Tornadoes" Weather and Forecasting, 23, 795-807.


Department of Geographic and Atmospheric Sciences

Legacy Department

Department of Geography






American Meteorological Society



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