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Comparison of Mobile-Radar Measurements of Tornado Intensity with Corresponding WSR-88D Measurements

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  • 1 Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
  • | 2 Center for Severe Weather Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

In the United States, visual observations of tornadoes and/or the existence of tornado damage currently provide the sole evidence of tornadogenesis in association with a mesocyclone or other radar-detected storm-scale vortex. The severity of the tornado damage is currently the only means of estimating the intensity of tornadoes, radar detected or otherwise. The limitations of the damage-based record of tornado occurrence and intensity are well known and motivated this research. Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) measurements of the translating tornadic flow were compared with (semi-) coordinated measurements obtained near the surface with mobile radar. On the basis of a small yet fairly broad sample of tornadoes, high linear correlation was found between the vortex intensity (rotation plus translation) quantified using WSR-88D data and that quantified using Doppler on Wheels data. The possible effects of Doppler radar sampling on these results were explored through experiments with a simple vortex model. These experiments argued that the likelihood is high that a tornado would be sampled in a favorable way during at least one radar scan. Hence, the suggestion from this work is that WSR-88Ds (or similar operational radars) can potentially be used in isolation to estimate low-level tornado intensity. The proposed estimation is by way of a linear regression model, and application of this model is relevant only once a tornado is already confirmed.

Corresponding author address: Mallie Toth, Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Purdue University, 550 Stadium Mall Dr., West Lafayette, IN 47907. E-mail: toth2@purdue.edu

Abstract

In the United States, visual observations of tornadoes and/or the existence of tornado damage currently provide the sole evidence of tornadogenesis in association with a mesocyclone or other radar-detected storm-scale vortex. The severity of the tornado damage is currently the only means of estimating the intensity of tornadoes, radar detected or otherwise. The limitations of the damage-based record of tornado occurrence and intensity are well known and motivated this research. Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) measurements of the translating tornadic flow were compared with (semi-) coordinated measurements obtained near the surface with mobile radar. On the basis of a small yet fairly broad sample of tornadoes, high linear correlation was found between the vortex intensity (rotation plus translation) quantified using WSR-88D data and that quantified using Doppler on Wheels data. The possible effects of Doppler radar sampling on these results were explored through experiments with a simple vortex model. These experiments argued that the likelihood is high that a tornado would be sampled in a favorable way during at least one radar scan. Hence, the suggestion from this work is that WSR-88Ds (or similar operational radars) can potentially be used in isolation to estimate low-level tornado intensity. The proposed estimation is by way of a linear regression model, and application of this model is relevant only once a tornado is already confirmed.

Corresponding author address: Mallie Toth, Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Purdue University, 550 Stadium Mall Dr., West Lafayette, IN 47907. E-mail: toth2@purdue.edu
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