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Damage Survey, Radar, and Environment Analyses on the First-Ever Documented Tornado in Beijing during the Heavy Rainfall Event of 21 July 2012

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  • 1 Laboratory for Climate and Ocean–Atmosphere Studies, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing, China
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Abstract

On 21 July 2012, severe wind damage occurred in Beijing, China, during a heavy rainfall event. Through a damage survey that had the most detailed information in all of the published tornado damage surveys so far in China, this work showed significant evidence that the wind damage was caused by a mesocyclonic tornado rated as a category 3 storm on the enhanced Fujita scale (EF3) that was observed by people but of which not a single picture was taken. This was the first tornado ever reported or documented in Beijing. The most influential evidence indicating a tornado included a narrow damage swath 30–400 m wide and ~10 km long and convergent surface winds at multiple places along the swath. The radar analyses examined here show that the tornado was embedded in a strong mesocyclone. The initial linear and later sinusoidal tornado track was likely due to the intensification and expansion of the mesocyclone. The location, timing, and intensity variation of the wind damage were precisely collocated with those of a tornadic vortex signature. Descending reflectivity cores as well as their associated jetlets and counterrotating vortices were detected both before tornadogenesis and prior to the reintensification of the tornado damage. A tornadic debris signature was also detected in the later stages of the tornado. Compared to the U.S. climatology of forecast parameters for different storm categories, this storm developed in an environment that was favorable for the formation of supercells or weakly tornadic supercells rather than significantly tornadic supercells.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Zhiyong Meng, Laboratory for Climate and Ocean–Atmosphere Studies, Dept. of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, 209 Chengfu Road, Beijing 100871, China. E-mail: zymeng@pku.edu.cn

Abstract

On 21 July 2012, severe wind damage occurred in Beijing, China, during a heavy rainfall event. Through a damage survey that had the most detailed information in all of the published tornado damage surveys so far in China, this work showed significant evidence that the wind damage was caused by a mesocyclonic tornado rated as a category 3 storm on the enhanced Fujita scale (EF3) that was observed by people but of which not a single picture was taken. This was the first tornado ever reported or documented in Beijing. The most influential evidence indicating a tornado included a narrow damage swath 30–400 m wide and ~10 km long and convergent surface winds at multiple places along the swath. The radar analyses examined here show that the tornado was embedded in a strong mesocyclone. The initial linear and later sinusoidal tornado track was likely due to the intensification and expansion of the mesocyclone. The location, timing, and intensity variation of the wind damage were precisely collocated with those of a tornadic vortex signature. Descending reflectivity cores as well as their associated jetlets and counterrotating vortices were detected both before tornadogenesis and prior to the reintensification of the tornado damage. A tornadic debris signature was also detected in the later stages of the tornado. Compared to the U.S. climatology of forecast parameters for different storm categories, this storm developed in an environment that was favorable for the formation of supercells or weakly tornadic supercells rather than significantly tornadic supercells.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Zhiyong Meng, Laboratory for Climate and Ocean–Atmosphere Studies, Dept. of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, 209 Chengfu Road, Beijing 100871, China. E-mail: zymeng@pku.edu.cn
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