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Madison L. Miller, Valliappa Lakshmanan, and Travis M. Smith

Abstract

The location and intensity of mesocyclone circulations can be tracked in real time by accumulating azimuthal shear values over time at every location of a uniform spatial grid. Azimuthal shear at low (0–3 km AGL) and midlevels (3–6 km AGL) of the atmosphere is computed in a noise-tolerant manner by fitting the Doppler velocity observations in the neighborhood of a pulse volume to a plane and finding the slope of that plane. Rotation tracks created in this manner are contaminated by nonmeteorological signatures caused by poor velocity dealiasing, ground clutter, radar test patterns, and spurious shear values. To improve the quality of these fields for real-time use and for an accumulated multiyear climatology, new dealiasing strategies, data thresholding, and multiple hypothesis tracking (MHT) techniques have been implemented. These techniques remove nearly all nonmeteorological contaminants, resulting in much clearer rotation tracks that appear to match mesocyclone paths and intensities closely.

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Travis M. Smith, Kimberly L. Elmore, and Shannon A. Dulin

Abstract

The problem of predicting the onset of damaging downburst winds from high-reflectivity storm cells that develop in an environment of weak vertical shear with Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) is examined. Ninety-one storm cells that produced damaging outflows are analyzed with data from the WSR- 88D network, along with 1247 nonsevere storm cells that developed in the same environments. Twenty-six reflectivity and radial velocity–based parameters are calculated for each cell, and a linear discriminant analysis was performed on 65% of the dataset in order to develop prediction equations that would discriminate between severe downburst-producing cells and cells that did not produce a strong outflow. These prediction equations are evaluated on the remaining 35% of the dataset. The datasets were resampled 100 times to determine the range of possible results. The resulting automated algorithm has a median Heidke skill score (HSS) of 0.40 in the 20–45-km range with a median lead time of 5.5 min, and a median HSS of 0.17 in the 45–80-km range with a median lead time of 0 min. As these lead times are medians of the mean lead times calculated from a large, resampled dataset, many of the storm cells in the dataset had longer lead times than the reported median lead times.

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Kristin M. Calhoun, Travis M. Smith, Darrel M. Kingfield, Jidong Gao, and David J. Stensrud

Abstract

A weather-adaptive three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVAR) system was included in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed as a first step toward introducing warn-on-forecast initiatives into operations. NWS forecasters were asked to incorporate the data in conjunction with single-radar and multisensor products in the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) as part of their warning-decision process for real-time events across the United States. During the 2011 and 2012 experiments, forecasters examined more than 36 events, including tornadic supercells, severe squall lines, and multicell storms. Products from the 3DVAR analyses were available to forecasters at 1-km horizontal resolution every 5 min, with a 4–6-min latency, incorporating data from the national Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) network and the North American Mesoscale model. Forecasters found the updraft, vertical vorticity, and storm-top divergence products the most useful for storm interrogation and quickly visualizing storm trends, often using these tools to increase the confidence in a warning decision and/or issue the warning slightly earlier. The 3DVAR analyses were most consistent and reliable when the storm of interest was in close proximity to one of the assimilated WSR-88D, or data from multiple radars were incorporated into the analysis. The latter was extremely useful to forecasters in blending data rather than having to analyze multiple radars separately, especially when range folding obscured the data from one or more radars. The largest hurdle for the real-time use of 3DVAR or similar data assimilation products by forecasters is the data latency, as even 4–6 min reduces the utility of the products when new radar scans are available.

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Matthew C. Mahalik, Brandon R. Smith, Kimberly L. Elmore, Darrel M. Kingfield, Kiel L. Ortega, and Travis M. Smith

Abstract

The local, linear, least squares derivative (LLSD) approach to radar analysis is a method of quantifying gradients in radar data by fitting a least squares plane to a neighborhood of range bins and finding its slope. When applied to radial velocity fields, for example, LLSD yields part of the azimuthal (rotational) and radial (divergent) components of horizontal shear, which, under certain geometric assumptions, estimate one-half of the two-dimensional vertical vorticity and horizontal divergence equations, respectively. Recent advances in computational capacity as well as increased usage of LLSD products by the meteorological community have motivated an overhaul of the LLSD methodology’s application to radar data. This paper documents the mathematical foundation of the updated LLSD approach, including a complete derivation of its equation set, discussion of its limitations, and considerations for other types of implementation. In addition, updated azimuthal shear calculations are validated against theoretical vorticity using simulated circulations. Applications to nontraditional radar data and new applications to nonvelocity radar data including reflectivity at horizontal polarization, spectrum width, and polarimetric moments are also explored. These LLSD gradient calculations may be leveraged to identify and interrogate a wide variety of severe weather phenomena, either directly by operational forecasters or indirectly as part of future automated algorithms.

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John L. Cintineo, Travis M. Smith, Valliappa Lakshmanan, Harold E. Brooks, and Kiel L. Ortega

Abstract

The threat of damaging hail from severe thunderstorms affects many communities and industries on a yearly basis, with annual economic losses in excess of $1 billion (U.S. dollars). Past hail climatology has typically relied on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Climatic Data Center’s (NOAA/NCDC) Storm Data publication, which has numerous reporting biases and nonmeteorological artifacts. This research seeks to quantify the spatial and temporal characteristics of contiguous United States (CONUS) hail fall, derived from multiradar multisensor (MRMS) algorithms for several years during the Next-Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) era, leveraging the Multiyear Reanalysis of Remotely Sensed Storms (MYRORSS) dataset at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL). The primary MRMS product used in this study is the maximum expected size of hail (MESH). The preliminary climatology includes 42 months of quality controlled and reprocessed MESH grids, which spans the warm seasons for four years (2007–10), covering 98% of all Storm Data hail reports during that time. The dataset has 0.01° latitude × 0.01° longitude × 31 vertical levels spatial resolution, and 5-min temporal resolution. Radar-based and reports-based methods of hail climatology are compared. MRMS MESH demonstrates superior coverage and resolution over Storm Data hail reports, and is largely unbiased. The results reveal a broad maximum of annual hail fall in the Great Plains and a diminished secondary maximum in the Southeast United States. Potential explanations for the differences in the two methods of hail climatology are also discussed.

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Jennifer F. Newman, Valliappa Lakshmanan, Pamela L. Heinselman, Michael B. Richman, and Travis M. Smith

Abstract

The current tornado detection algorithm (TDA) used by the National Weather Service produces a large number of false detections, primarily because it calculates azimuthal shear in a manner that is adversely impacted by noisy velocity data and range-degraded velocity signatures. Coincident with the advent of new radar-derived products and ongoing research involving new weather radar systems, the National Severe Storms Laboratory is developing an improved TDA. A primary component of this algorithm is the local, linear least squares derivatives (LLSD) azimuthal shear field. The LLSD method incorporates rotational derivatives of the velocity field and is affected less strongly by noisy velocity data in comparison with traditional “peak to peak” azimuthal shear calculations. LLSD shear is generally less range dependent than peak-to-peak shear, although some range dependency is unavoidable. The relationship between range and the LLSD shear values of simulated circulations was examined to develop a range correction for LLSD shear. A linear regression and artificial neural networks (ANNs) were investigated as range-correction models. Both methods were used to produce fits for the simulated shear data, although the ANN excelled as it could capture the nonlinear nature of the data. The range-correction methods were applied to real radar data from tornadic and nontornadic events to measure the capacity of the corrected shear to discriminate between tornadic and nontornadic circulations. The findings presented herein suggest that both methods increased shear values during tornadic periods by nearly an order of magnitude, facilitating differentiation between tornadic and nontornadic scans in tornadic events.

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Pamela L. Heinselman, David L. Priegnitz, Kevin L. Manross, Travis M. Smith, and Richard W. Adams

Abstract

A key advantage of the National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar (PAR) is the capability to adaptively scan storms at higher temporal resolution than is possible with the Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D): 1 min or less versus 4.1 min, respectively. High temporal resolution volumetric radar data are a necessity for rapid identification and confirmation of weather phenomena that can develop within minutes. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the PAR’s ability to collect rapid-scan volumetric data that provide more detailed depictions of quickly evolving storm structures than the WSR-88D. Scientific advantages of higher temporal resolution PAR data are examined for three convective storms that occurred during the spring and summer of 2006, including a reintensifying supercell, a microburst, and a hailstorm. The analysis of the reintensifying supercell (58-s updates) illustrates the capability to diagnose the detailed evolution of developing and/or intensifying areas of 1) low-altitude divergence and rotation and 2) rotation through the depth of the storm. The fuller sampling of the microburst’s storm life cycle (34-s updates) depicts precursors to the strong surface outflow that are essentially indiscernible in the WSR-88D data. Furthermore, the 34-s scans provide a more precise sampling of peak outflow. The more frequent sampling of the hailstorm (26-s updates) illustrates the opportunity to analyze storm structures indicative of rapid intensification, the development of hail aloft, and the onset of the downdraft near the surface.

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Kiel L. Ortega, Travis M. Smith, Kevin L. Manross, Kevin A. Scharfenberg, Arthur Witt, Angelyn G. Kolodziej, and Jonathan J. Gourley

During the springs and summers of 2006 through 2008, scientists from the National Severe Storms Laboratory and students from the University of Oklahoma have conducted an enhanced severe-storm verification effort. The primary goal for the Severe Hazards Analysis and Verification Experiment (SHAVE) was the remote collection of high spatial and temporal resolution hail, wind (or wind damage), and flash-flooding reports from severe thunderstorms. This dataset has a much higher temporal and spatial resolution than the traditional storm reports collected by the National Weather Service and published in Storm Data (tens of square kilometers and 1–5 min versus thousands of square kilometers and 30–60 min) and also includes reports of nonsevere storms that are not included in Storm Data. The high resolution of the dataset makes it useful for validating high-resolution, gridded warning guidance applications.

SHAVE is unique not only for the type of data collected and the resolution of that data but also for how the data are collected. The daily operations of the project are largely student led and run. To complete the remote, high-resolution verification, the students use Google Earth to display experimental weather data and geographic information databases, such as digital phonebooks. Using these data, the students then make verification phone calls to residences and businesses, throughout the United States, thought to have been affected by a severe thunderstorm. The present article summarizes the data collection facilities and techniques, discusses applications of these data, and shows comparisons of SHAVE reports to reports currently available from Storm Data.

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Travis M. Smith, Valliappa Lakshmanan, Gregory J. Stumpf, Kiel L. Ortega, Kurt Hondl, Karen Cooper, Kristin M. Calhoun, Darrel M. Kingfield, Kevin L. Manross, Robert Toomey, and Jeff Brogden

Abstract

The Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) system, which was developed at the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma, was made operational in 2014 at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The MRMS system consists of the Warning Decision Support System–Integrated Information suite of severe weather and aviation products, and the quantitative precipitation estimation products created by the National Mosaic and Multi-sensor Quantitative Precipitation Estimation system. Products created by the MRMS system are at a spatial resolution of approximately 1 km, with 33 vertical levels, updating every 2 min over the conterminous United States and southern Canada. This paper describes initial operating capabilities for the severe weather and aviation products that include a three-dimensional mosaic of reflectivity; guidance for hail, tornado, and lightning hazards; and nowcasts of storm location, height, and intensity.

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Christopher D. Karstens, Greg Stumpf, Chen Ling, Lesheng Hua, Darrel Kingfield, Travis M. Smith, James Correia Jr., Kristin Calhoun, Kiel Ortega, Chris Melick, and Lans P. Rothfusz

Abstract

A proposed new method for hazard identification and prediction was evaluated with forecasters in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hazardous Weather Testbed during 2014. This method combines hazard-following objects with forecaster-issued trends of exceedance probabilities to produce probabilistic hazard information, as opposed to the static, deterministic polygon and attendant text product methodology presently employed by the National Weather Service to issue severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. Three components of the test bed activities are discussed: usage of the new tools, verification of storm-based warnings and probabilistic forecasts from a control–test experiment, and subjective feedback on the proposed paradigm change. Forecasters were able to quickly adapt to the new tools and concepts and ultimately produced probabilistic hazard information in a timely manner. The probabilistic forecasts from two severe hail events tested in a control–test experiment were more skillful than storm-based warnings and were found to have reliability in the low-probability spectrum. False alarm area decreased while the traditional verification metrics degraded with increasing probability thresholds. The latter finding is attributable to a limitation in applying the current verification methodology to probabilistic forecasts. Relaxation of on-the-fence decisions exposed a need to provide information for hazard areas below the decision-point thresholds of current warnings. Automated guidance information was helpful in combating potential workload issues, and forecasters raised a need for improved guidance and training to inform consistent and reliable forecasts.

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