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Ryan C. Bunker, Ariel E. Cohen, John A. Hart, Alan E. Gerard, Kim E. Klockow-McClain, and David P. Nowicki

Abstract

Tornadoes that occur at night pose particularly dangerous societal risks, and these risks are amplified across the southeastern United States. The purpose of this study is to highlight some of the characteristics distinguishing the convective environment accompanying these events. This is accomplished by building upon previous research that assesses the predictive power of meteorological parameters. In particular, this study uses the Statistical Severe Convective Risk Assessment Model (SSCRAM) to determine how well convective parameters explain tornado potential across the Southeast during the months of November–May and during the 0300–1200 UTC (nocturnal) time frame. This study compares conditional tornado probabilities across the Southeast during November–May nocturnal hours to those probabilities for all other November–May environments across the contiguous United States. This study shows that effective bulk shear, effective storm-relative helicity, and effective-layer significant tornado parameter yield the strongest predictability for the November–May nocturnal Southeast regime among investigated parameters. This study demonstrates that November–May southeastern U.S. nocturnal predictability is generally similar to that within other regimes across the contiguous United States. However, selected ranges of multiple parameters are associated with slightly better predictability for the nocturnal Southeast regime. Additionally, this study assesses conditional November–May nocturnal tornado probabilities across a coastal domain embedded within the Southeast. Nocturnal coastal tornado predictability is shown to generally be lower than the other regimes. All of the differences highlight several forecast challenges, which this study analyzes in detail.

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Richard L. Thompson, Bryan T. Smith, Jeremy S. Grams, Andrew R. Dean, Joseph C. Picca, Ariel E. Cohen, Elizabeth M. Leitman, Aaron M. Gleason, and Patrick T. Marsh

Abstract

Previous work with observations from the NEXRAD (WSR-88D) network in the United States has shown that the probability of damage from a tornado, as represented by EF-scale ratings, increases as low-level rotational velocity increases. This work expands on previous studies by including reported tornadoes from 2014 to 2015, as well as a robust sample of nontornadic severe thunderstorms [≥1-in.- (2.54 cm) diameter hail, thunderstorm wind gusts ≥ 50 kt (25 m s−1), or reported wind damage] with low-level cyclonic rotation. The addition of the nontornadic sample allows the computation of tornado damage rating probabilities across a spectrum of organized severe thunderstorms represented by right-moving supercells and quasi-linear convective systems. Dual-polarization variables are used to ensure proper use of velocity data in the identification of tornadic and nontornadic cases. Tornado damage rating probabilities increase as low-level rotational velocity V rot increases and circulation diameter decreases. The influence of height above radar level (or range from radar) is less obvious, with a muted tendency for tornado damage rating probabilities to increase as rotation (of the same V rot magnitude) is observed closer to the ground. Consistent with previous work on gate-to-gate shear signatures such as the tornadic vortex signature, easily identifiable rotation poses a greater tornado risk compared to more nebulous areas of cyclonic azimuthal shear. Additionally, tornado probability distributions vary substantially (for similar sample sizes) when comparing the southeast United States, which has a high density of damage indicators, to the Great Plains, where damage indicators are more sparse.

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Matthew A. Campbell, Ariel E. Cohen, Michael C. Coniglio, Andrew R. Dean, Stephen F. Corfidi, Sarah J. Corfidi, and Corey M. Mead

Abstract

The goal of this study is to document differences in the convective structure and motion of long-track, severe-wind-producing MCSs from short-track severe-wind-producing MCSs in relation to the mean wind. An ancillary goal is to determine if these differences are large enough that some criterion for MCS motion relative to the mean wind could be used in future definitions of “derechos.” Results confirm past investigations that well-organized MCSs, including those that produce derechos, tend to move faster than the mean wind, exhibiting a significantly larger degree of propagation (component of MCS motion in addition to the component contributed by the mean flow). Furthermore, well-organized systems that produce shorter-track swaths of damaging winds likewise tend to move faster than the mean wind with a significant propagation component along the mean wind. Therefore, propagation in the direction of the mean wind is not necessarily a characteristic that can be used to distinguish derechos from nonderechos. However, there is some indication that long-track damaging wind events that occur without large-scale or persistent bow echoes and mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) require a strong propagation component along the mean wind direction to become long lived. Overall, however, there does not appear to be enough separation in the motion characteristics among the MCS types to warrant the inclusion of a mean-wind criterion into the definition of a derecho at this time.

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