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Doppler Radar and Lightning Network Observations of a Severe Outbreak of Tropical Cyclone Tornadoes

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  • 1 Universities Space Research Association, Huntsville, Alabama
  • | 2 University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama
  • | 3 NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama
  • | 4 National Weather Service, Columbia, South Carolina
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Abstract

Data from a single Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) and the National Lightning Detection Network are used to examine the characteristics of the convective storms that produced a severe tornado outbreak, including three tornadoes that reached F3 intensity, within Tropical Storm Beryl's remnants on 16 August 1994. Comparison of the radar data with reports of tornadoes suggests that only 13 cells produced the 29 tornadoes that were documented in Georgia and the Carolinas on that date. Six of these cells spawned multiple tornadoes, and the radar data confirm the presence of miniature supercells. One of the cells was identifiable on radar for 11 h, spawning tornadoes over a time period spanning approximately 6.5 h. Several other tornadic cells also exhibited great longevity, with cell lifetimes longer than ever previously documented in a landfalling tropical cyclone (TC) tornado event. This event is easily the most intense TC tornado outbreak yet documented with WSR-88Ds.

Time–height analyses of the three strongest tornadic supercells are presented in order to document storm kinematic structure and to show how these storms appear at different ranges from a WSR-88D. In addition, cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning data are examined in Beryl's remnants. Although the tornadic cells were responsible for most of Beryl's CG lightning, their flash rates were only weak to moderate, and in all the tornadic storms the lightning flashes were almost entirely negative in polarity. A few of the single-tornado storms produced no detectable CG lightning at all. There is evidence that CG lightning rates decreased during the tornadoes, compared to 30-min periods before the tornadoes. A number of the storms spawned tornadoes just after producing their final CG lightning flashes. Contrary to the findings for flash rates, both peak currents and positive flash percentages were larger in Beryl's nontornadic storms than in the tornadic ones.

Corresponding author address: Eugene W. McCaul Jr., Universities Space Research Association, 6700 Odyssey Drive, Suite 203, Huntsville, AL 35806. Email: mccaul@space.hsv.usra.edu

Abstract

Data from a single Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) and the National Lightning Detection Network are used to examine the characteristics of the convective storms that produced a severe tornado outbreak, including three tornadoes that reached F3 intensity, within Tropical Storm Beryl's remnants on 16 August 1994. Comparison of the radar data with reports of tornadoes suggests that only 13 cells produced the 29 tornadoes that were documented in Georgia and the Carolinas on that date. Six of these cells spawned multiple tornadoes, and the radar data confirm the presence of miniature supercells. One of the cells was identifiable on radar for 11 h, spawning tornadoes over a time period spanning approximately 6.5 h. Several other tornadic cells also exhibited great longevity, with cell lifetimes longer than ever previously documented in a landfalling tropical cyclone (TC) tornado event. This event is easily the most intense TC tornado outbreak yet documented with WSR-88Ds.

Time–height analyses of the three strongest tornadic supercells are presented in order to document storm kinematic structure and to show how these storms appear at different ranges from a WSR-88D. In addition, cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning data are examined in Beryl's remnants. Although the tornadic cells were responsible for most of Beryl's CG lightning, their flash rates were only weak to moderate, and in all the tornadic storms the lightning flashes were almost entirely negative in polarity. A few of the single-tornado storms produced no detectable CG lightning at all. There is evidence that CG lightning rates decreased during the tornadoes, compared to 30-min periods before the tornadoes. A number of the storms spawned tornadoes just after producing their final CG lightning flashes. Contrary to the findings for flash rates, both peak currents and positive flash percentages were larger in Beryl's nontornadic storms than in the tornadic ones.

Corresponding author address: Eugene W. McCaul Jr., Universities Space Research Association, 6700 Odyssey Drive, Suite 203, Huntsville, AL 35806. Email: mccaul@space.hsv.usra.edu

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