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Evaluation of WRF Model Simulations of Tornadic and Nontornadic Outbreaks Occurring in the Spring and Fall

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  • 1 Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, and School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • 2 Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

Recent studies, investigating the ability to use the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to distinguish tornado outbreaks from primarily nontornadic outbreaks when initialized with synoptic-scale data, have suggested that accurate discrimination of outbreak type is possible up to three days in advance of the outbreaks. However, these studies have focused on the most meteorologically significant events without regard to the season in which the outbreaks occurred. Because tornado outbreaks usually occur during the spring and fall seasons, whereas the primarily nontornadic outbreaks develop predominantly during the summer, the results of these studies may have been influenced by climatological conditions (e.g., reduced shear, in the mean, in the summer months), in addition to synoptic-scale processes.

This study focuses on the impacts of choosing outbreaks of severe weather during the same time of year. Specifically, primarily nontornadic outbreaks that occurred during the summer have been replaced with outbreaks that do not occur in the summer. Subjective and objective analyses of the outbreak simulations indicate that the WRF’s capability of distinguishing outbreak type correctly is reduced when the seasonal constraints are included. However, accuracy scores exceeding 0.7 and skill scores exceeding 0.5 using 1-day simulation fields of individual meteorological parameters, show that precursor synoptic-scale processes play an important role in the occurrence or absence of tornadoes in severe weather outbreaks. Low-level storm-relative helicity parameters and synoptic parameters, such as geopotential heights and mean sea level pressure, appear to be most helpful in distinguishing outbreak type, whereas thermodynamic instability parameters are noticeably both less accurate and less skillful.

* Current affiliation: Northern Gulf Institute, Mississippi State, Mississippi

Corresponding author address: Chad Shafer, School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Suite 5900, Norman, OK 73072-7307. Email: cmshafer@ou.edu

Abstract

Recent studies, investigating the ability to use the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to distinguish tornado outbreaks from primarily nontornadic outbreaks when initialized with synoptic-scale data, have suggested that accurate discrimination of outbreak type is possible up to three days in advance of the outbreaks. However, these studies have focused on the most meteorologically significant events without regard to the season in which the outbreaks occurred. Because tornado outbreaks usually occur during the spring and fall seasons, whereas the primarily nontornadic outbreaks develop predominantly during the summer, the results of these studies may have been influenced by climatological conditions (e.g., reduced shear, in the mean, in the summer months), in addition to synoptic-scale processes.

This study focuses on the impacts of choosing outbreaks of severe weather during the same time of year. Specifically, primarily nontornadic outbreaks that occurred during the summer have been replaced with outbreaks that do not occur in the summer. Subjective and objective analyses of the outbreak simulations indicate that the WRF’s capability of distinguishing outbreak type correctly is reduced when the seasonal constraints are included. However, accuracy scores exceeding 0.7 and skill scores exceeding 0.5 using 1-day simulation fields of individual meteorological parameters, show that precursor synoptic-scale processes play an important role in the occurrence or absence of tornadoes in severe weather outbreaks. Low-level storm-relative helicity parameters and synoptic parameters, such as geopotential heights and mean sea level pressure, appear to be most helpful in distinguishing outbreak type, whereas thermodynamic instability parameters are noticeably both less accurate and less skillful.

* Current affiliation: Northern Gulf Institute, Mississippi State, Mississippi

Corresponding author address: Chad Shafer, School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Suite 5900, Norman, OK 73072-7307. Email: cmshafer@ou.edu

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