A method for determining horizontal wind speeds in hurricanes using ground-based radars is presented and evaluated. The method makes use of the tracking reflectivity echos by correlation (TREC) method where individual features in radar reflectivity are tracked, from radar sweeps several minutes apart, by finding the maxima in the cross-correlation function between the two times. This method has been applied successfully in determining motions within the clear boundary layer where reflectors are insects and refractive index variations, but it generally has failed when applied to determining air motions by tracking precipitation elements in strong environmental shear. It appears to work in the lower few kilometers of the hurricane where the vertical wind shear is relatively weak.

Examples are presented where the TREC algorithm is applied to three landfalling hurricanes: Hurricanes Hugo and Erin in the United States and Typhoon Herb in Taiwan. The results from Hugo, where the radar data were provided by a WSR-57, were compared to in situ wind measurements by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration P-3 research aircraft. In Erin and Herb, Doppler radar data are available and the radial winds (with respect to the radar) computed by TREC could be compared.

The results were very promising. In Hugo, the agreement between the TREC analysis and the aircraft winds was generally to within 10%. In Erin and Herb less than 20% of the difference between radial-Doppler wind estimations by TREC and the actual Doppler wind measurements was greater than 5 m s−1. When Herb was closer to the radar, however, the error rates were much higher due to the interference of ground clutter.

TREC promises to provide a quick and reasonably accurate method for continuously computing fully two-dimensional winds from land-based radars as hurricanes approach the coast. Such information would complement that provided by Doppler radars where it could estimate the tangential component to the radar that is not observed using Doppler radar techniques, and it can provide useful wind information from reflectivity beyond the more limited range where the Doppler velocities can be determined. It can also retrieve wind information in hurricanes from conventional radar data.

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