Terms of Reference

Severe local storms are by definition localized meteorological events that have the potential to affect mankind adversely through loss of life and/or the destruction of property. All aspects of such events fall within the purview of this committee. The most common types of severe local weather are produced by strong thunderstorms. A severe thunderstorm may occur as an isolated entity, as a component of a squall line or convective cluster, or as an element within a large-scale system such as a hurricane. In addition to lightning, a severe thunderstorm may produce one or more of the following: a tornado, downbursts, very strong surface winds, extremely heavy rainfall, flash flooding, and/or large or abundant hailstones. Further, turbulence and wind shears frequently accompany a thunderstorm. Other localized meteorological phenomena that can pose a threat to life and property include heavy snowstorms and blizzards, ice storms, dust storms, and violent winds such as the Chinook. While much weaker than those associated with tornadoes, the winds occurring in waterspouts and large dust devils also have occasionally resulted in injuries and property damage.

The objective of the AMS Committee on Severe Local Storms are threefold.

  1. To encourage high quality research aimed at understanding the structure and predicting the behavior of severe local storms. The meteorology associated with severe local storms and the mechanisms by which such storms produce adverse effects are such that both observational and theoretical studies are required. Many locally severe weather events have been shown to be a response to regional and/or synoptic-scale forces. Because of the range of scales involved, data from a variety of sources must be integrated to provide a complete picture of the phenomena. Mesoscale analysis of surface observations, upper-air soundings, and the fields of temperature, moisture, and wind obtained from satellite observations are key to predicting the onset of severe weather. Observations by conventional and Doppler radars, visible and infrared imagery from satellite platforms, and data from airborne lidars and radiometers are used to follow the evolution of severe weather in real time. Numerical modeling of thunderstorms and related phenomena such as downbursts, gust fronts, and tornadoes is necessary to reveal the full range of dynamic and microphysical processes that may occur. Mesoscale models may reveal the details of the interactions between a storm and its environment and may form the basis for future operational forecast tools. Careful postevent analyses of severe weather events provide useful clues concerning the damage-producing mechanisms.
  2. To promote the exchange of information among basic researchers, operational meteorologists, and government officials with responsibilities for emergency management. A clear physical understanding of severe local weather phenomena serves to foster the development of improved forecasting and detection techniques, and so leads to better warning services. More complete climatologies of severe local weather allow quantitative risk assessments to be made and assist in the mitigation of adverse effects by providing a solid basis for flood-control programs, land-use planning, and building-code formulation.
  3. To support the development of educational programs directed toward increasing public awareness concerning the threat posed by these natural phenomena and the proper responses to their occurrence.
  4. To nominate deserving individuals for AMS Awards and Fellows. The committee shall accomplish these objectives by 
  • sponsoring scientific programs for, and participating in, meetings or symposia, including special or joint sessions at conferences of a more general nature;
  • encouraging the publication of high quality journal articles, reviews, and monographs in the scientific literature and of informative, accurate articles in the popular literature;