The LaGrange Tornado during VORTEX2. Part I: Photogrammetric Analysis of the Tornado Combined with Single-Doppler Radar Data

Roger M. Wakimoto National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Nolan T. Atkins Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Lyndon State College, Lyndonville, Vermont

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Joshua Wurman Center for Severe Weather Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

This study presents a single-Doppler radar analysis combined with cloud photography of the LaGrange, Wyoming, tornado on 5 June 2009 in an attempt to relate the radar-observed hook echo, weak-echo hole (WEH), and rotational couplet to the visual characteristics of the tornado. The tornado was rated EF2. The circulation at low levels went through two intensification periods based on azimuthal shear measurements. The first intensification was followed by the appearance of a brief funnel cloud. The second intensification was coincident with the appearance of a second funnel cloud that remained in contact with the ground until the tornado dissipated.

A deep WEH rapidly formed within the hook echo after damaging wind was identified at the ground and before the appearance of a funnel cloud. The echo pattern through the hook echo on 5 June undergoes a dramatic evolution. Initially, the minimum radar reflectivities are near the surface (<15 dBZ) and the WEH does not suggest a tapered structure near the ground. Subsequently, higher reflectivities appear at low levels when the funnel cloud makes contact with the ground. During one analysis time, the increase of the echo within the WEH at low levels results in a couplet of high/low radar reflectivity in the vertical. This increase in echo at low levels is believed to be associated with lofted debris although none was visibly apparent until the last analysis time. The WEH was nominally wider than the visible funnel cloud. The dataset provides the first detailed analysis of the double-ring structure within a hook echo that has been reported in several studies. The inner high-reflectivity region is believed to be a result of lofted debris. At higher-elevation angles, a small secondary WEH formed within the first WEH when debris was lofted and centrifuged.

A feature noted in past studies showing high-resolution vertical cross sections of single-Doppler velocity normal to the radar beam is an intense rotational couplet of negative and positive values in the lowest few hundred meters. This couplet was also evident in the analysis of the LaGrange tornado. The couplet was asymmetric with stronger negative velocities owing to the motion of the tornado toward the radar. The damaging wind observed by radar extended well beyond the condensation funnel in the lowest few hundred meters. However, another couplet indicating strong rotation was also noted aloft in a number of volume scans. The decrease in rotational velocities between the low-and upper-level couplets may be related to air being forced radially outward from the tornado center at a location above the intense inflow.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Roger M. Wakimoto, NCAR, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. E-mail: wakimoto@ucar.edu

Abstract

This study presents a single-Doppler radar analysis combined with cloud photography of the LaGrange, Wyoming, tornado on 5 June 2009 in an attempt to relate the radar-observed hook echo, weak-echo hole (WEH), and rotational couplet to the visual characteristics of the tornado. The tornado was rated EF2. The circulation at low levels went through two intensification periods based on azimuthal shear measurements. The first intensification was followed by the appearance of a brief funnel cloud. The second intensification was coincident with the appearance of a second funnel cloud that remained in contact with the ground until the tornado dissipated.

A deep WEH rapidly formed within the hook echo after damaging wind was identified at the ground and before the appearance of a funnel cloud. The echo pattern through the hook echo on 5 June undergoes a dramatic evolution. Initially, the minimum radar reflectivities are near the surface (<15 dBZ) and the WEH does not suggest a tapered structure near the ground. Subsequently, higher reflectivities appear at low levels when the funnel cloud makes contact with the ground. During one analysis time, the increase of the echo within the WEH at low levels results in a couplet of high/low radar reflectivity in the vertical. This increase in echo at low levels is believed to be associated with lofted debris although none was visibly apparent until the last analysis time. The WEH was nominally wider than the visible funnel cloud. The dataset provides the first detailed analysis of the double-ring structure within a hook echo that has been reported in several studies. The inner high-reflectivity region is believed to be a result of lofted debris. At higher-elevation angles, a small secondary WEH formed within the first WEH when debris was lofted and centrifuged.

A feature noted in past studies showing high-resolution vertical cross sections of single-Doppler velocity normal to the radar beam is an intense rotational couplet of negative and positive values in the lowest few hundred meters. This couplet was also evident in the analysis of the LaGrange tornado. The couplet was asymmetric with stronger negative velocities owing to the motion of the tornado toward the radar. The damaging wind observed by radar extended well beyond the condensation funnel in the lowest few hundred meters. However, another couplet indicating strong rotation was also noted aloft in a number of volume scans. The decrease in rotational velocities between the low-and upper-level couplets may be related to air being forced radially outward from the tornado center at a location above the intense inflow.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Roger M. Wakimoto, NCAR, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. E-mail: wakimoto@ucar.edu
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