Spatial and Temporal Characteristics of Polarimetric Tornadic Debris Signatures

Matthew S. Van Den Broeke Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Sabrina T. Jauernic Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Abstract

Nonmeteorological scatter, including debris lofted by tornadoes, may be detected using the polarimetric radar variables. For the 17 months from January 2012 to May 2013, radar data were examined for each tornado reported in the domain of an operational polarimetric Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D). Characteristics of the tornadic debris signature (TDS) were recorded when a signature was present. Approximately 16% of all tornadoes reported in Storm Data were associated with a debris signature, and this proportion is shown to vary regionally. Signatures were more frequently seen with tornadoes that were rated higher on the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, with tornadoes causing higher reported total property damage, with tornadoes that were closer to the radar and thus intercepted by the beam at lower altitude, and associated with tornadoes with greater total pathlength. Tornadic debris signatures were most common in spring, when more strong tornadoes occur, and in autumn, when natural debris is more available. Debris-signature areal extent is shown to increase consistently with EF-scale rating and tornado longevity. Vertical extent of a TDS is shown to be greatest for strong, long-lived tornadoes with large radii of damaging wind. Land cover is also shown to exhibit some control over TDS characteristics—in particular, a large percentage of tornadoes with substantial track over urban land cover exhibited a TDS and do so very quickly after reported tornadogenesis, as compared with tornadoes over other land-cover classifications. TDS characteristics over grassland and cropland tended to be similar.

Corresponding author address: Matthew S. Van Den Broeke, 306 Bessey Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0340. E-mail: mvandenbroeke2@unl.edu

Abstract

Nonmeteorological scatter, including debris lofted by tornadoes, may be detected using the polarimetric radar variables. For the 17 months from January 2012 to May 2013, radar data were examined for each tornado reported in the domain of an operational polarimetric Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D). Characteristics of the tornadic debris signature (TDS) were recorded when a signature was present. Approximately 16% of all tornadoes reported in Storm Data were associated with a debris signature, and this proportion is shown to vary regionally. Signatures were more frequently seen with tornadoes that were rated higher on the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, with tornadoes causing higher reported total property damage, with tornadoes that were closer to the radar and thus intercepted by the beam at lower altitude, and associated with tornadoes with greater total pathlength. Tornadic debris signatures were most common in spring, when more strong tornadoes occur, and in autumn, when natural debris is more available. Debris-signature areal extent is shown to increase consistently with EF-scale rating and tornado longevity. Vertical extent of a TDS is shown to be greatest for strong, long-lived tornadoes with large radii of damaging wind. Land cover is also shown to exhibit some control over TDS characteristics—in particular, a large percentage of tornadoes with substantial track over urban land cover exhibited a TDS and do so very quickly after reported tornadogenesis, as compared with tornadoes over other land-cover classifications. TDS characteristics over grassland and cropland tended to be similar.

Corresponding author address: Matthew S. Van Den Broeke, 306 Bessey Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0340. E-mail: mvandenbroeke2@unl.edu
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