Abstract

An improved understanding of common differences between tornadic and nontornadic supercells is sought using a large set of observations from the operational NEXRAD WSR-88D polarimetric radar network in the contiguous United States. In particular, data from 478 nontornadic and 294 tornadic supercells during a 7-year period (2011-2017) are used to produce probability-matched composite means of microphysical and kinematic variables. Means, which are centered on echo-top maxima and in a horizontal coordinate system rotated such that storm motion points in the positive x-dimension, are created in altitude relative to ground level at times of peak echo-top altitude and peak midlevel rotation for nontornadic supercells and times at and prior to the first tornado in tornadic supercells. Robust differences between supercell types are found, with consistent characteristics at and preceding tornadogenesis in tornadic storms. In particular, the mesocyclone is found to be vertically aligned in tornadic supercells and misaligned in nontornadic supercells. Microphysical differences found include a low-level radar reflectivity hook echo aligned with and ~10 km right of storm center in tornadic supercells and displaced 5-10 km down-motion in nontornadic supercells, a low-to-midlevel differential radar reflectivity dipole that is oriented more parallel to storm motion in tornadic supercells and more perpendicular in nontornadic supercells, and a separation between enhanced differential radar reflectivity and specific differential phase (with unique displacement-relative correlation coefficient reductions) at low levels that is more perpendicular to storm motion in tornadic supercells and more parallel in nontornadic supercells.

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