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High-Temporal Resolution Polarimetric X-Band Doppler Radar Observations of the 20 May 2013 Moore, Oklahoma, Tornado

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  • 1 School of Meteorology, and Advanced Radar Research Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 2 Advanced Study Program, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 3 Advanced Radar Research Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 4 School of Meteorology, and Advanced Radar Research Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

On 20 May 2013, the cities of Newcastle, Oklahoma City, and Moore, Oklahoma, were impacted by a long-track violent tornado that was rated as an EF5 on the enhanced Fujita scale by the National Weather Service. Despite a relatively sustained long track, damage surveys revealed a number of small-scale damage indicators that hinted at storm-scale processes that occurred over short time periods. The University of Oklahoma (OU) Advanced Radar Research Center’s PX-1000 transportable, polarimetric, X-band weather radar was operating in a single-elevation PPI scanning strategy at the OU Westheimer airport throughout the duration of the tornado, collecting high spatial and temporal resolution polarimetric data every 20 s at ranges as close as 10 km and heights below 500 m AGL. This dataset contains the only known polarimetric radar observations of the Moore tornado at such high temporal resolution, providing the opportunity to analyze and study finescale phenomena occurring on rapid time scales. Analysis is presented of a series of debris ejections and rear-flank gust front surges that both preceded and followed a loop of the tornado as it weakened over the Moore Medical Center before rapidly accelerating and restrengthening to the east. The gust front structure, debris characteristics, and differential reflectivity arc breakdown are explored as evidence for a “failed occlusion” hypothesis. Observations are supported by rigorous hand analysis of critical storm attributes, including tornado track relative to the damage survey, sudden track shifts, and a directional debris ejection analysis. A conceptual description and illustration of the suspected failed occlusion process is provided, and its implications are discussed.

Corresponding author address: James M. Kurdzo, Advanced Radar Research Center, 3190 Monitor Ave., Norman, OK 73019. E-mail: kurdzo@ou.edu

Abstract

On 20 May 2013, the cities of Newcastle, Oklahoma City, and Moore, Oklahoma, were impacted by a long-track violent tornado that was rated as an EF5 on the enhanced Fujita scale by the National Weather Service. Despite a relatively sustained long track, damage surveys revealed a number of small-scale damage indicators that hinted at storm-scale processes that occurred over short time periods. The University of Oklahoma (OU) Advanced Radar Research Center’s PX-1000 transportable, polarimetric, X-band weather radar was operating in a single-elevation PPI scanning strategy at the OU Westheimer airport throughout the duration of the tornado, collecting high spatial and temporal resolution polarimetric data every 20 s at ranges as close as 10 km and heights below 500 m AGL. This dataset contains the only known polarimetric radar observations of the Moore tornado at such high temporal resolution, providing the opportunity to analyze and study finescale phenomena occurring on rapid time scales. Analysis is presented of a series of debris ejections and rear-flank gust front surges that both preceded and followed a loop of the tornado as it weakened over the Moore Medical Center before rapidly accelerating and restrengthening to the east. The gust front structure, debris characteristics, and differential reflectivity arc breakdown are explored as evidence for a “failed occlusion” hypothesis. Observations are supported by rigorous hand analysis of critical storm attributes, including tornado track relative to the damage survey, sudden track shifts, and a directional debris ejection analysis. A conceptual description and illustration of the suspected failed occlusion process is provided, and its implications are discussed.

Corresponding author address: James M. Kurdzo, Advanced Radar Research Center, 3190 Monitor Ave., Norman, OK 73019. E-mail: kurdzo@ou.edu
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