Short-Term Prediction of a Nocturnal Significant Tornado Outbreak Using a Convection-Allowing Ensemble

Thomas J. Galarneau Jr. aCooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
bNOAA/OAR/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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Louis J. Wicker bNOAA/OAR/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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Kent H. Knopfmeier aCooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
bNOAA/OAR/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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William J. S. Miller cCooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland
dNOAA/NESDIS/Center for Satellite Applications and Research, College Park, Maryland

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Patrick S. Skinner aCooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
bNOAA/OAR/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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Katie A. Wilson aCooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
bNOAA/OAR/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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Abstract

A multiscale analysis of the significant nocturnal tornado outbreak in Tennessee on 2–3 March 2020 is presented. This outbreak included several significant tornadoes and resulted in the second most fatalities (25) and most injuries (309) of all nocturnal tornado events in Tennessee in 1950–2020. The two deadliest tornadoes struck Nashville (EF3 intensity) and Cookeville (EF4) resulting in 5 and 19 fatalities, respectively. The supercell responsible for the tornado outbreak initiated at 0330 UTC 3 March within a region of warm frontogenesis in western Tennessee. Throughout its life cycle, the supercell was located in a region of convective available potential energy near 1000 J kg−1 and 0–1-km storm-relative helicity over 350 m2 s−2. Retrospective 3-h forecasts from the experimental Warn-on-Forecast System (WoFS) convection-allowing ensemble initialized after the parent supercell initiated indicated a high probability, high severity scenario for tornadoes across Tennessee and into Nashville through 0700 UTC. Earlier WoFS forecasts indicated a low probability, high severity scenario owing to uncertainty in the initiation of supercells. The presence of these supercells was sensitive to the upstream thermodynamic conditions and warm frontogenesis regions that were inherited from the lateral boundary conditions. In all, this study highlights the potential of the WoFS ensemble to contribute useful probabilistic severe weather information to the short-term forecast process during a nocturnal significant tornado outbreak.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Thomas J. Galarneau Jr., thomas.galarneau@noaa.gov

Abstract

A multiscale analysis of the significant nocturnal tornado outbreak in Tennessee on 2–3 March 2020 is presented. This outbreak included several significant tornadoes and resulted in the second most fatalities (25) and most injuries (309) of all nocturnal tornado events in Tennessee in 1950–2020. The two deadliest tornadoes struck Nashville (EF3 intensity) and Cookeville (EF4) resulting in 5 and 19 fatalities, respectively. The supercell responsible for the tornado outbreak initiated at 0330 UTC 3 March within a region of warm frontogenesis in western Tennessee. Throughout its life cycle, the supercell was located in a region of convective available potential energy near 1000 J kg−1 and 0–1-km storm-relative helicity over 350 m2 s−2. Retrospective 3-h forecasts from the experimental Warn-on-Forecast System (WoFS) convection-allowing ensemble initialized after the parent supercell initiated indicated a high probability, high severity scenario for tornadoes across Tennessee and into Nashville through 0700 UTC. Earlier WoFS forecasts indicated a low probability, high severity scenario owing to uncertainty in the initiation of supercells. The presence of these supercells was sensitive to the upstream thermodynamic conditions and warm frontogenesis regions that were inherited from the lateral boundary conditions. In all, this study highlights the potential of the WoFS ensemble to contribute useful probabilistic severe weather information to the short-term forecast process during a nocturnal significant tornado outbreak.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Thomas J. Galarneau Jr., thomas.galarneau@noaa.gov
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