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John A. Hart and Ariel E. Cohen

Abstract

This study is an application of the Statistical Severe Convective Risk Assessment Model (SSCRAM), which objectively assesses conditional severe thunderstorm probabilities based on archived hourly mesoscale data across the United States collected from 2006 to 2014. In the present study, SSCRAM is used to assess the utility of severe thunderstorm parameters commonly employed by forecasters in anticipating thunderstorms that produce significant tornadoes (i.e., causing F2/EF2 or greater damage) from June through October. The utility during June–October is compared to that during other months. Previous studies have identified some aspects of the summertime challenge in severe storm forecasting, and this study provides an in-depth quantification of the within-year variability of severe storms predictability. Conditional probabilities of significant tornadoes downstream of lightning occurrence using common parameter values, such as the effective-layer significant tornado parameter, convective available potential energy, and vertical shear, are found to substantially decrease during the months of June–October compared to other months. Furthermore, conditional probabilities of significant tornadoes during June–October associated with these parameters are nearly invariable regardless of value, highlighting the challenge of using objective environmental data to attempt to forecast significant tornadoes from June through October.

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Ariel E. Cohen, Joel B. Cohen, Richard L. Thompson, and Bryan T. Smith

Abstract

This study presents the development and testing of two statistical models that simulate tornado potential and wind speed. This study reports on the first-ever development of two multiple regression–based models to assist warning forecasters in statistically simulating tornado probability and tornado wind speed in a diagnostic manner based on radar-observed tornado signature attributes and one environmental parameter. Based on a robust database, the radar-based storm-scale circulation attributes (strength, height above ground, clarity) combine with the effective-layer significant tornado parameter to establish a tornado probability. The second model adds the categorical presence (absence) of a tornadic debris signature to derive the tornado wind speed. While the fits of these models are considered somewhat modest, their regression coefficients generally offer physical consistency, based on findings from previous research. Furthermore, simulating these models on an independent dataset and other past cases featured in previous research reveals encouraging signals for accurately identifying higher potential for tornadoes. This statistical application using large-sample-size datasets can serve as a first step to streamlining the process of reproducibly quantifying tornado threats by service-providing organizations in a diagnostic manner, encouraging consistency in messaging scientifically sound information for the protection of life and property.

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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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