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Discriminating Environmental Conditions for Significant Warm Sector and Boundary Tornadoes in Parts of the Great Plains

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  • 1 NOAA/NWS WFO Omaha/Valley, Valley, Nebraska
  • 2 NOAA/NWS WFO Topeka, Topeka, Kansas
  • 3 NOAA/NWS WFO Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
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Abstract

Using system-relative composites, based on a dataset of significant tornadoes and null supercell events, environmental conditions associated with occurrences of significant tornadoes near discernible surface boundaries were compared to nontornadic boundary supercells, and warm sector significant tornadoes to nontornadic warm sector supercells, for a portion of the Great Plains. Results indicated that significant boundary tornadoes were associated with the exit region of a 300-hPa jet maximum, while null boundary events were in closer proximity to the 300-hPa jet entrance region. The differences at 300 hPa led to significant differences at the surface, as the null composite indicated deformation and confluence into the surface boundary and enhanced frontogenesis, while this was not present in the boundary significant tornado composite. Significant synoptic differences also were noted between the warm sector tornadoes and the warm sector null events. The warm sector significant tornadoes were associated with a much stronger, negatively tilted synoptic storm system, with the composite tornado in the 300-hPa jet exit region and downstream of increasing values of absolute vorticity. Additional thermodynamic and kinematic parameters pertaining to low-level moisture and environmental winds appeared to be important in distinguishing boundary and warm sector significant tornadoes from nontornadic supercell events. Statistical comparisons between boundary and warm sector significant tornado events showed significant differences in the climatology of their length, width, and date and time of occurrence.

Corresponding author address: Joshua M. Boustead, National Weather Service, 6707 N. 288th St., Valley, NE 68064. E-mail: josh.boustead@noaa.gov

Abstract

Using system-relative composites, based on a dataset of significant tornadoes and null supercell events, environmental conditions associated with occurrences of significant tornadoes near discernible surface boundaries were compared to nontornadic boundary supercells, and warm sector significant tornadoes to nontornadic warm sector supercells, for a portion of the Great Plains. Results indicated that significant boundary tornadoes were associated with the exit region of a 300-hPa jet maximum, while null boundary events were in closer proximity to the 300-hPa jet entrance region. The differences at 300 hPa led to significant differences at the surface, as the null composite indicated deformation and confluence into the surface boundary and enhanced frontogenesis, while this was not present in the boundary significant tornado composite. Significant synoptic differences also were noted between the warm sector tornadoes and the warm sector null events. The warm sector significant tornadoes were associated with a much stronger, negatively tilted synoptic storm system, with the composite tornado in the 300-hPa jet exit region and downstream of increasing values of absolute vorticity. Additional thermodynamic and kinematic parameters pertaining to low-level moisture and environmental winds appeared to be important in distinguishing boundary and warm sector significant tornadoes from nontornadic supercell events. Statistical comparisons between boundary and warm sector significant tornado events showed significant differences in the climatology of their length, width, and date and time of occurrence.

Corresponding author address: Joshua M. Boustead, National Weather Service, 6707 N. 288th St., Valley, NE 68064. E-mail: josh.boustead@noaa.gov
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