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  • Author or Editor: Michael M. French x
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Darrel M. Kingfield
and
Michael M. French

Abstract

The Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) network has undergone several improvements in the last decade with the upgrade to dual-polarization capabilities and the ability for forecasters to rescan the lowest levels of the atmosphere more frequently through the use of Supplemental Adaptive Intra-volume Scanning (SAILS). SAILS reduces the revisit period for scanning the lowest 1 km of the atmosphere but comes at the cost of a longer delay between scans at higher altitudes. This study quantifies how often radar volume coverage patterns (VCPs) and all available SAILS options are used during the issuance of 148 882 severe thunderstorm and 18 263 tornado warnings, and near 10 474 tornado, 58 934 hail, and 127 575 wind reports in the dual-polarization radar era. A large majority of warnings and storm reports were measured with a VCP providing denser low-level sampling coverage. More frequent low-level updates were employed near tornado warnings and reports compared to severe thunderstorm warnings and hail or wind hazards. Warnings issued near a radar providing three extra low-level scans (SAILSx3) were more likely to be verified by a hazard with a positive lead time than warnings with fewer low-level scans. However, extra low-level scans were more frequently used in environments supporting organized convection as shown using watches issued by the Storm Prediction Center. In recent years, the number of midlevel radar elevation scans is declining per hour, which can adversely affect the tracking of convective polarimetric signatures, like Z DR columns, which were found above the lowest elevation angle in over 99% of cases examined.

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Michael M. French
and
Darrel M. Kingfield

Abstract

A sample of 198 supercells are investigated to determine if a radar proxy for the area of the storm midlevel updraft may be a skillful predictor of imminent tornado formation and/or peak tornado intensity. A novel algorithm, a modified version of the Thunderstorm Risk Estimation from Nowcasting Development via Size Sorting (TRENDSS) algorithm is used to estimate the area of the enhanced differential radar reflectivity factor (Z DR) column in Weather Surveillance Radar–1988 Doppler data; the Z DR column area is used as a proxy for the area of the midlevel updraft. The areas of Z DR columns are compared for 154 tornadic supercells and 44 nontornadic supercells, including 30+ supercells with tornadoes rated EF1, EF2, and EF3; 8 supercells with EF4+ tornadoes also are analyzed. It is found that (i) at the time of their peak 0–1-km azimuthal shear, nontornadic supercells have consistently small (<20 km2) Z DR column areas, while tornadic cases exhibit much greater variability in areas; and (ii) at the time of tornadogenesis, EF3+ tornadic cases have larger Z DR column areas than tornadic cases rated EF1/2. In addition, all eight violent tornadoes sampled have Z DR column areas > 30 km2 at the time of tornadogenesis. However, only weak positive correlation is found between Z DR column area and both radar-estimated peak tornado intensity and maximum tornado path width. Planned future work that focuses on mechanisms linking updraft size and tornado formation and intensity is summarized and the use of the modified TRENDSS algorithm, which is immune to Z DR bias and thus ideal for real-time operational use, is emphasized.

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Jacob H. Segall
,
Michael M. French
,
Darrel M. Kingfield
,
Scott D. Loeffler
, and
Matthew R. Kumjian

Abstract

Polarimetric radar data from the WSR-88D network are used to examine the evolution of various polarimetric precursor signatures to tornado dissipation within a sample of 36 supercell storms. These signatures include an increase in bulk hook echo median raindrop size, a decrease in midlevel differential radar reflectivity factor (Z DR) column area, a decrease in the magnitude of the Z DR arc, an increase in the area of low-level large hail, and a decrease in the orientation angle of the vector separating low-level Z DR and specific differential phase (K DP) maxima. Only supercells that produced “long-duration” tornadoes (with at least four consecutive volumes of WSR-88D data) are investigated, so that signatures can be sufficiently tracked in time, and novel algorithms are used to isolate each storm-scale process. During the time leading up to tornado dissipation, we find that hook echo median drop size (D 0) and median Z DR remain relatively constant, but hook echo median K DP and estimated number concentration (NT ) increase. The Z DR arc maximum magnitude and Z DRK DP separation orientation angles are observed to decrease in most dissipation cases. Neither the area of large hail nor the Z DR column area exhibit strong signals leading up to tornado dissipation. Finally, combinations of storm-scale behaviors and TVS behaviors occur most frequently just prior to tornado dissipation, but also are common 15–20 min prior to dissipation. The results from this study provide evidence that nowcasting tornado dissipation using dual-polarization radar may be possible when combined with TVS monitoring, subject to important caveats.

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Michael M. French
,
Howard B. Bluestein
,
Louis J. Wicker
,
David C. Dowell
, and
Matthew R. Kramar

Abstract

On 16 May 2003, two ground-based, mobile, Doppler radars scanned a potentially tornadic supercell in the Texas Panhandle intermittently from ∼0200 to 0330 UTC. The storm likely was tornadic, but because it was dark, visual confirmation of any tornadoes was not possible. A damage survey was completed after the storm moved through the area. The final conclusion of the damage survey prior to this analysis was that there were two tornadoes near Shamrock, Texas: one that formed prior to 0300 UTC and one that formed at or after 0300 UTC. High-resolution, mobile, Doppler radar data of the supercell were compared with the damage survey information at different times. The location of the first tornado damage path was not consistent with the locations of the low-level circulations in the supercell identified through the mobile, Doppler radar data. The damage within the first path, which consisted mostly of downed trees, may have been caused by straight-line winds in a squall line that moved through the area after the passage of the supercell. The mobile, Doppler radar data did not provide any supporting evidence for the first tornado, but the data did support the existence of the second tornado in Wheeler County on the evening of 15 May 2003. Ground-based, mobile, Doppler radar data may be used as an important tool to help to confirm (or deny) tornado damage reports in situations in which a damage survey cannot be completed or in which the survey does not provide clear evidence as to what phenomenon caused the damage.

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