Investigating the Relationship between Polarimetric Radar Signatures of Hydrometeor Size Sorting and Tornadic Potential in Simulated Supercells

Scott D. Loeffler aDepartment of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
cDepartment of Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland

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Matthew R. Kumjian aDepartment of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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Paul M. Markowski aDepartment of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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Brice E. Coffer bDepartment of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Matthew D. Parker bDepartment of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Abstract

The national upgrade of the operational weather radar network to include polarimetric capabilities has led to numerous studies focusing on polarimetric radar signatures commonly observed in supercells. One such signature is the horizontal separation of regions of enhanced differential reflectivity (ZDR) and specific differential phase (KDP) values due to hydrometeor size sorting. Recent observational studies have shown that the orientation of this separation tends to be more perpendicular to storm motion in supercells that produce tornadoes. Although this finding has potential operational utility, the physical relationship between this observed radar signature and tornadic potential is not known. This study uses an ensemble of supercell simulations initialized with tornadic and nontornadic environments to investigate this connection. The tendency for tornadic supercells to have a more perpendicular separation orientation was reproduced, although to a lesser degree. This difference in orientation angles was caused by stronger rearward storm-relative flow in the nontornadic supercells, leading to a rearward shift of precipitation and, therefore, the enhanced KDP region within the supercell. Further, this resulted in an unfavorable rearward shift of the negative buoyancy region, which led to an order of magnitude less baroclinic generation of circulation in the nontornadic simulations compared to tornadic simulations.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Scott D. Loeffler, loeffler@usna.edu

Abstract

The national upgrade of the operational weather radar network to include polarimetric capabilities has led to numerous studies focusing on polarimetric radar signatures commonly observed in supercells. One such signature is the horizontal separation of regions of enhanced differential reflectivity (ZDR) and specific differential phase (KDP) values due to hydrometeor size sorting. Recent observational studies have shown that the orientation of this separation tends to be more perpendicular to storm motion in supercells that produce tornadoes. Although this finding has potential operational utility, the physical relationship between this observed radar signature and tornadic potential is not known. This study uses an ensemble of supercell simulations initialized with tornadic and nontornadic environments to investigate this connection. The tendency for tornadic supercells to have a more perpendicular separation orientation was reproduced, although to a lesser degree. This difference in orientation angles was caused by stronger rearward storm-relative flow in the nontornadic supercells, leading to a rearward shift of precipitation and, therefore, the enhanced KDP region within the supercell. Further, this resulted in an unfavorable rearward shift of the negative buoyancy region, which led to an order of magnitude less baroclinic generation of circulation in the nontornadic simulations compared to tornadic simulations.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Scott D. Loeffler, loeffler@usna.edu
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