Search Results

You are looking at 11 - 20 of 35 items for

  • Author or Editor: R. L. Thompson x
  • Refine by Access: All Content x
Clear All Modify Search
Alexandra K. Anderson-Frey
,
Yvette P. Richardson
,
Andrew R. Dean
,
Richard L. Thompson
, and
Bryan T. Smith

Abstract

In this work, self-organizing maps (SOMs) are used to investigate patterns of favorable near-storm environmental parameters in a 13-yr climatology of 14 814 tornado events and 44 961 tornado warnings across the continental United States. Establishing nine statistically distinct clusters of spatial distributions of the significant tornado parameter (STP) in the 480 km × 480 km region surrounding each tornado event or warning allows for the examination of each cluster in isolation. For tornado events, distinct patterns are associated more with particular times of day, geographical locations, and times of year. For example, the archetypal springtime dryline setup in the Great Plains emerges readily from the data. While high values of STP tend to correspond to relatively high probabilities of detection (PODs) and relatively low false alarm ratios (FARs), the majority of tornado events occur within a pattern of uniformly lower STP, with relatively high FAR and low POD. Overall, the two-dimensional plots produced by the SOM approach provide an intuitive way of creating nuanced climatologies of tornadic near-storm environments.

Full access
Alexandra K. Anderson-Frey
,
Yvette P. Richardson
,
Andrew R. Dean
,
Richard L. Thompson
, and
Bryan T. Smith

Abstract

Between 2003 and 2015, there were 5343 outbreak tornadoes and 9389 isolated tornadoes reported in the continental United States. Here, the near-storm environmental parameter-space distributions of these two categories are compared via kernel density estimation, and the seasonal, diurnal, and geographical features of near-storm environments of these two sets of events are compared via self-organizing maps (SOMs). Outbreak tornadoes in a given geographical region tend to be characterized by greater 0–1-km storm-relative helicity and 0–6-km vector shear magnitude than isolated tornadoes in the same geographical region and also have considerably higher tornado warning-based probability of detection (POD) than isolated tornadoes. A SOM of isolated tornadoes highlights that isolated tornadoes with higher POD also tend to feature higher values of the significant tornado parameter (STP), regardless of the specific shape of the area of STP. For a SOM of outbreak tornadoes, when two outbreak environments with similarly high magnitudes but different patterns of STP are compared, the difference is primarily geographical, with one environment dominated by Great Plains and Midwest outbreaks and another dominated by outbreaks in the southeastern United States. Two specific tornado outbreaks are featured, and the events are placed into their climatological context with more nuance than typical single proximity sounding-based approaches would allow.

Full access
Alexandra K. Anderson-Frey
,
Yvette P. Richardson
,
Andrew R. Dean
,
Richard L. Thompson
, and
Bryan T. Smith

Abstract

The southeastern United States has become a prime area of focus in tornado-related literature due, in part, to the abundance of tornadoes occurring in high-shear low-CAPE (HSLC) environments. Through this analysis of 4133 tornado events and 16 429 tornado warnings in the southeastern United States, we find that tornadoes in the Southeast do indeed have, on average, higher shear and lower CAPE than tornadoes elsewhere in the contiguous United States (CONUS). We also examine tornado warning skill in the form of probability of detection (POD; percent of tornadoes receiving warning prior to tornado occurrence) and false alarm ratio (FAR; percent of tornado warnings for which no corresponding tornado is detected), and find that, on average, POD is better and FAR is worse for tornadoes in the Southeast than for the CONUS as a whole. These measures of warning skill remain consistent even when we consider only HSLC tornadoes. The Southeast also has nearly double the CONUS percentage of deadly tornadoes, with the highest percentage of these deadly tornadoes occurring during the spring, the winter, and around local sunset. On average, however, the tornadoes with the lowest POD also tend to be those that are weakest and least likely to be deadly; for the most part, the most dangerous storms are indeed being successfully warned.

Full access
Dieter Kley
,
E.J. Stone
,
W.R. Henderson
,
J.W. Drummond
,
W.J. Harrop
,
A.L. Schmeltekopf
,
T.L. Thompson
, and
R.H. Winkler

Abstract

The results of four balloon flights of the NOAA ultraviolet fluorescence stratospheric water vapor instrument are presented. A series of improvements in the instrument has brought results which are credibly free from contamination by outgassing. The results are in essential agreement with the extensive soundings by H.J. Mastenbrook. The minimum water vapor mixing ratio occurs 2–3 km above the tropopause in both tropical and temperature latitudes. Our measured minimum values were 2.6 ppmv over Brazil (5°S) and 3.6 ppmv over Wyoming (41°N), with an estimated total error of 20%. This degree of dryness permits the conclusion that the global circulation originally proposed by Brewer is correct; i.e., that air enters the stratosphere from the troposphere in substantial quantities only through the tropical tropopause. This general circulation must apply to all other trace gases of tropospheric origin as well. The carbon monoxide measurements of Seiler support the conclusion.

Full access
Burkely T. Gallo
,
Adam J. Clark
,
Bryan T. Smith
,
Richard L. Thompson
,
Israel Jirak
, and
Scott R. Dembek

Abstract

Attempts at probabilistic tornado forecasting using convection-allowing models (CAMs) have thus far used CAM attribute [e.g., hourly maximum 2–5-km updraft helicity (UH)] thresholds, treating them as binary events—either a grid point exceeds a given threshold or it does not. This study approaches these attributes probabilistically, using empirical observations of storm environment attributes and the subsequent climatological tornado occurrence frequency to assign a probability that a point will be within 40 km of a tornado, given the model-derived storm environment attributes. Combining empirical frequencies and forecast attributes produces better forecasts than solely using mid- or low-level UH, even if the UH is filtered using environmental parameter thresholds. Empirical tornado frequencies were derived using severe right-moving supercellular storms associated with a local storm report (LSR) of a tornado, severe wind, or severe hail for a given significant tornado parameter (STP) value from Storm Prediction Center (SPC) mesoanalysis grids in 2014–15. The NSSL–WRF ensemble produced the forecast STP values and simulated right-moving supercells, which were identified using a UH exceedance threshold. Model-derived probabilities are verified using tornado segment data from just right-moving supercells and from all tornadoes, as are the SPC-issued 0600 UTC tornado probabilities from the initial day 1 forecast valid 1200–1159 UTC the following day. The STP-based probabilistic forecasts perform comparably to SPC tornado probability forecasts in many skill metrics (e.g., reliability) and thus could be used as first-guess forecasts. Comparison with prior methodologies shows that probabilistic environmental information improves CAM-based tornado forecasts.

Full access
Burkely T. Gallo
,
Adam J. Clark
,
Bryan T. Smith
,
Richard L. Thompson
,
Israel Jirak
, and
Scott R. Dembek

Abstract

Probabilistic ensemble-derived tornado forecasts generated from convection-allowing models often use hourly maximum updraft helicity (UH) alone or in combination with environmental parameters as a proxy for right-moving (RM) supercells. However, when UH occurrence is a condition for tornado probability generation, false alarm areas can occur from UH swaths associated with nocturnal mesoscale convective systems, which climatologically produce fewer tornadoes than RM supercells. This study incorporates UH timing information with the forecast near-storm significant tornado parameter (STP) to calibrate the forecast tornado probability. To generate the probabilistic forecasts, three sets of observed climatological tornado frequencies given an RM supercell and STP value are incorporated with the model output, two of which use UH timing information. One method uses the observed climatological tornado frequency for a given 3-h window to generate the probabilities. Another normalizes the observed climatological tornado frequency by the number of hail, wind, and tornado reports observed in that 3-h window compared to the maximum number of reports in any 3-h window. The final method is independent of when UH occurs and uses the observed climatological tornado frequency encompassing all hours. The normalized probabilities reduce the false alarm area compared to the other methods but have a smaller area under the ROC curve and require a much higher percentile of the STP distribution to be used in probability generation to become reliable. Case studies demonstrate that the normalized probabilities highlight the most likely area for evening RM supercellular tornadoes, decreasing the nocturnal false alarm by assuming a linear convective mode.

Full access
Matthew C. Brown
,
Christopher J. Nowotarski
,
Andrew R. Dean
,
Bryan T. Smith
,
Richard L. Thompson
, and
John M. Peters

Abstract

The response of severe local storms to environmental evolution across the early evening transition (EET) remains a forecasting challenge, particularly within the context of the Southeast U.S. storm climatology, which includes the increased presence of low-CAPE environments and tornadic nonsupercell modes. To disentangle these complex environmental interactions, Southeast severe convective reports spanning 2003–18 are temporally binned relative to local sunset. Sounding-derived data corresponding to each report are used to characterize how the near-storm environment evolves across the EET, and whether these changes influence the mode, frequency, and tornadic likelihood of their associated storms. High-shear, high-CAPE (HSHC) environments are contrasted with high-shear, low-CAPE (HSLC) environments to highlight physical processes governing storm maintenance and tornadogenesis in the absence of large instability. Last, statistical analysis is performed to determine which aspects of the near-storm environment most effectively discriminate between tornadic (or significantly tornadic) and nontornadic storms toward constructing new sounding-derived forecast guidance parameters for multiple modal and environmental combinations. Results indicate that HSLC environments evolve differently than HSHC environments, particularly for nonsupercell (e.g., quasi-linear convective system) modes. These low-CAPE environments sustain higher values of low-level shear and storm-relative helicity (SRH) and destabilize postsunset—potentially compensating for minimal buoyancy. Furthermore, the existence of HSLC storm environments presunset increases the likelihood of nonsupercellular tornadoes postsunset. Existing forecast guidance metrics such as the significant tornado parameter (STP) remain the most skillful predictors of HSHC tornadoes. However, HSLC tornado prediction can be improved by considering variables like precipitable water, downdraft CAPE, and effective inflow base.

Full access
Bryan T. Smith
,
Richard L. Thompson
,
Douglas A. Speheger
,
Andrew R. Dean
,
Christopher D. Karstens
, and
Alexandra K. Anderson-Frey

Abstract

A sample of damage-surveyed tornadoes in the contiguous United States (2009–17), containing specific wind speed estimates from damage indicators (DIs) within the Damage Assessment Toolkit dataset, were linked to radar-observed circulations using the nearest WSR-88D data in Part I of this work. The maximum wind speed associated with the highest-rated DI for each radar scan, corresponding 0.5° tilt angle rotational velocity V rot, significant tornado parameter (STP), and National Weather Service (NWS) convective impact-based warning (IBW) type, are analyzed herein for the sample of cases in Part I and an independent case sample from parts of 2019–20. As V rot and STP both increase, peak DI-estimated wind speeds and IBW warning type also tend to increase. Different combinations of V rot, STP, and population density—related to ranges of peak DI wind speed—exhibited a strong ability to discriminate across the tornado damage intensity spectrum. Furthermore, longer duration of high V rot (i.e., ≥70 kt) in significant tornado environments (i.e., STP ≥ 6) corresponds to increasing chances that DIs will reveal the occurrence of an intense tornado (i.e., EF3+). These findings were corroborated via the independent sample from parts of 2019–20, and can be applied in a real-time operational setting to assist in determining a potential range of wind speeds. This work provides evidence-based support for creating an objective and consistent, real-time framework for assessing and differentiating tornadoes across the tornado intensity spectrum.

Full access
Bryan T. Smith
,
Tomas E. Castellanos
,
Andrew C. Winters
,
Corey M. Mead
,
Andrew R. Dean
, and
Richard L. Thompson

Abstract

A severe thunderstorm wind gust climatology spanning 2003–09 for the contiguous United States is developed using measured Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) and Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) wind gusts. Archived severe report information from the National Climatic Data Center publication Storm Data and single-site volumetric radar data are used to identify severe wind gust observations [≥50 kt (25.7 m s−1)] associated with thunderstorms and to classify the convective mode of the storms. The measured severe wind gust distribution, comprising only 2% of all severe gusts, is examined with respect to radar-based convective modes. The convective mode scheme presented herein focuses on three primary radar-based storm categories: supercell, quasi-linear convective systems (QLCSs), and disorganized. Measured severe gust frequency revealed distinct spatial patterns, where the high plains received the greatest number of gusts and occurred most often in the late spring and summer months. Severe wind gusts produced by supercells were most frequent over the plains, while those from QLCS gusts were most frequent in the plains and Midwest. Meanwhile, disorganized storms produced most of their severe gusts in the plains and Intermountain West. A reverse spatial distribution signal exists in the location between the maximum measured severe wind gust corridor located over the high plains and the maximum in all severe thunderstorm wind reports from Storm Data, located near and west of the southern Appalachians.

Full access
Bryan T. Smith
,
Richard L. Thompson
,
Douglas A. Speheger
,
Andrew R. Dean
,
Christopher D. Karstens
, and
Alexandra K. Anderson-Frey

Abstract

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has developed a database of damage-surveyed tornadoes in the contiguous United States (2009–17) that relates environmental and radar-derived storm attributes to damage ratings that change during a tornado life cycle. Damage indicators (DIs), and the associated wind speed estimates from tornado damage surveys compiled in the Damage Assessment Toolkit (DAT) dataset, were linked to the nearest manual calculations of 0.5° tilt angle maximum rotational velocity V rot from single-site WSR-88D data. For each radar scan, the maximum wind speed from the highest-rated DI, V rot, and the significant tornado parameter (STP) from the SPC hourly objective mesoscale analysis archive were recorded and analyzed. Results from examining V rot and STP data indicate an increasing conditional probability for higher-rated DIs (i.e., EF-scale wind speed estimate) as both STP and V rot increase. This work suggests that tornadic wind speed exceedance probabilities can be estimated in real time, on a scan-by-scan basis, via V rot and STP for ongoing tornadoes.

Full access