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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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