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Rapid-Scan, Polarimetric, Doppler Radar Observations of Tornadogenesis and Tornado Dissipation in a Tornadic Supercell: The “El Reno, Oklahoma” Storm of 24 May 2011

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  • 1 Department of Geography, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
  • | 2 School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

On 24 May 2011, a mobile, rapid-scan, X-band, polarimetric, Doppler radar (RaXPol) collected data on a supercell as it produced two tornadoes near El Reno, Oklahoma. The first tornado, rated an EF-3, was documented from intensification to decay, and the genesis and intensification of a second tornado that was rated an EF-5 was subsequently also documented.

The objective of this study is to examine the spatiotemporal evolution of the rotation associated with the tornadoes (i) as the first tornado weakened to subtornadic intensity and (ii) as the second tornado formed and intensified. It is found that weakening did not occur monotonically. The transition from tornadic to subtornadic intensity over the depth of the radar volume (~4 km) occurred in less than 30 s, but this behavior is contingent upon the threshold for Doppler shear used to define the tornado. Similarly, the onset of a tornadic-strength Doppler velocity couplet occurred within a 30-s period over all elevations.

Additionally, the evolution of storm-scale features associated with tornado dissipation and tornadogenesis is detailed. These features evolved considerably over relatively short time intervals (1–4 min). It is shown that during the transition period between the two tornadoes, two mesocyclones were present, but neither the tornadoes nor the mesocyclones evolved in a manner entirely consistent with any published conceptual model of supercell cycling, although certain aspects were similar to classic conceptual models. The mesocyclone and the tornado evolved differently from each other, in a manner that resembles a hybrid between the occluding and nonoccluding cyclic mesocyclogenesis models presented by Adlerman and Droegemeier.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-14-00253.s1.

Corresponding author address: Jana Houser, Ohio University, 145 Clippinger Laboratories, Athens, OH 45701. E-mail: houserj@ohio.edu

Abstract

On 24 May 2011, a mobile, rapid-scan, X-band, polarimetric, Doppler radar (RaXPol) collected data on a supercell as it produced two tornadoes near El Reno, Oklahoma. The first tornado, rated an EF-3, was documented from intensification to decay, and the genesis and intensification of a second tornado that was rated an EF-5 was subsequently also documented.

The objective of this study is to examine the spatiotemporal evolution of the rotation associated with the tornadoes (i) as the first tornado weakened to subtornadic intensity and (ii) as the second tornado formed and intensified. It is found that weakening did not occur monotonically. The transition from tornadic to subtornadic intensity over the depth of the radar volume (~4 km) occurred in less than 30 s, but this behavior is contingent upon the threshold for Doppler shear used to define the tornado. Similarly, the onset of a tornadic-strength Doppler velocity couplet occurred within a 30-s period over all elevations.

Additionally, the evolution of storm-scale features associated with tornado dissipation and tornadogenesis is detailed. These features evolved considerably over relatively short time intervals (1–4 min). It is shown that during the transition period between the two tornadoes, two mesocyclones were present, but neither the tornadoes nor the mesocyclones evolved in a manner entirely consistent with any published conceptual model of supercell cycling, although certain aspects were similar to classic conceptual models. The mesocyclone and the tornado evolved differently from each other, in a manner that resembles a hybrid between the occluding and nonoccluding cyclic mesocyclogenesis models presented by Adlerman and Droegemeier.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-14-00253.s1.

Corresponding author address: Jana Houser, Ohio University, 145 Clippinger Laboratories, Athens, OH 45701. E-mail: houserj@ohio.edu

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