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Forecasting Tornado Pathlengths Using a Three-Dimensional Object Identification Algorithm Applied to Convection-Allowing Forecasts

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  • 1 * Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 2 NOAA/OAR/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 3 School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 4 NOAA/Storm Prediction Center, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 5 Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

A three-dimensional (in space and time) object identification algorithm is applied to high-resolution forecasts of hourly maximum updraft helicity (UH)—a diagnostic that identifies simulated rotating storms—with the goal of diagnosing the relationship between forecast UH objects and observed tornado pathlengths. UH objects are contiguous swaths of UH exceeding a specified threshold. Including time allows tracks to span multiple hours and entire life cycles of simulated rotating storms. The object algorithm is applied to 3 yr of 36-h forecasts initialized daily from a 4-km grid-spacing version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) run in real time at the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), and forecasts from the Storm Scale Ensemble Forecast (SSEF) system run by the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms for the 2010 NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed Spring Forecasting Experiment. Methods for visualizing UH object attributes are presented, and the relationship between pathlengths of UH objects and tornadoes for corresponding 18- or 24-h periods is examined. For deterministic NSSL-WRF UH forecasts, the relationship of UH pathlengths to tornadoes was much stronger during spring (March–May) than in summer (June–August). Filtering UH track segments produced by high-based and/or elevated storms improved the UH–tornado pathlength correlations. The best ensemble results were obtained after filtering high-based and/or elevated UH track segments for the 20 cases in April–May 2010, during which correlation coefficients were as high as 0.91. The results indicate that forecast UH pathlengths during spring could be a very skillful predictor for the severity of tornado outbreaks as measured by total pathlength.

Corresponding author address: Adam J. Clark, National Weather Center, NSSL/FRDD, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072. E-mail: adam.clark@noaa.gov

Abstract

A three-dimensional (in space and time) object identification algorithm is applied to high-resolution forecasts of hourly maximum updraft helicity (UH)—a diagnostic that identifies simulated rotating storms—with the goal of diagnosing the relationship between forecast UH objects and observed tornado pathlengths. UH objects are contiguous swaths of UH exceeding a specified threshold. Including time allows tracks to span multiple hours and entire life cycles of simulated rotating storms. The object algorithm is applied to 3 yr of 36-h forecasts initialized daily from a 4-km grid-spacing version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) run in real time at the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), and forecasts from the Storm Scale Ensemble Forecast (SSEF) system run by the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms for the 2010 NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed Spring Forecasting Experiment. Methods for visualizing UH object attributes are presented, and the relationship between pathlengths of UH objects and tornadoes for corresponding 18- or 24-h periods is examined. For deterministic NSSL-WRF UH forecasts, the relationship of UH pathlengths to tornadoes was much stronger during spring (March–May) than in summer (June–August). Filtering UH track segments produced by high-based and/or elevated storms improved the UH–tornado pathlength correlations. The best ensemble results were obtained after filtering high-based and/or elevated UH track segments for the 20 cases in April–May 2010, during which correlation coefficients were as high as 0.91. The results indicate that forecast UH pathlengths during spring could be a very skillful predictor for the severity of tornado outbreaks as measured by total pathlength.

Corresponding author address: Adam J. Clark, National Weather Center, NSSL/FRDD, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072. E-mail: adam.clark@noaa.gov
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