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Amanda K. Kis
and
Jerry M. Straka

Abstract

Very few studies on nocturnal tornadoes have been performed, and operational forecasting of nocturnal tornadoes is often guided by the results of studies that are biased toward daytime tornadoes. However, it is likely that tornado environments vary significantly over the diurnal cycle. For example, the depth and nature of storm inflow may change as the daytime boundary layer transitions into a stable nighttime boundary layer, and a low-level jet (LLJ) may form above in the residual layer and free atmosphere. The study performed herein is used to investigate features unique to nocturnal boundary layers and the free atmosphere above that may affect nocturnal tornadoes.

A climatology of significant (F2–F5) nocturnal tornadoes in the contiguous United States between 2004 and 2006 shows that environments deemed by previous climatologies as unfavorable for late afternoon/early evening tornadogenesis are in fact conducive to significant nocturnal tornadogenesis. These nocturnal environments may be characterized by marginal convective instability with shallow stable boundary layers. Substantial low-level shear, storm relative helicity (SREH), and exceptionally strong nocturnal low-level jets stand out as the most common features of significant nocturnal tornadoes and have utility in distinguishing environments of weak nocturnal tornadoes from environments of significant nocturnal tornadoes. Analysis of the data gathered in the climatology shows that the suggestions of existing tornado climatologies are inadequate and even misguiding for forecasting nocturnal tornadoes. Several recommendations for operational forecasting of nocturnal tornadoes are made based on the results of this climatology.

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Paul M. Markowski
,
Erik N. Rasmussen
, and
Jerry M. Straka

Abstract

During the Verifications of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment, nearly 70% of the significant tornadoes occurred near low-level boundaries not associated with the forward or rear flank downdrafts of supercells. In general, these were preexisting boundaries readily identified using conventional data sources. Most of the tornadoes occurred on the cool side of these low-level boundaries and generally within 30 km of the boundaries. It is likely that the low-level boundaries augmented the “ambient” horizontal vorticity, which, upon further generation in the forward-flank region, became sufficient to be associated with tornadic low-level mesocyclones. Some implications for forecasting and further research are discussed.

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Aaron Kennedy
,
Jerry M. Straka
, and
Erik N. Rasmussen

Abstract

A new three-dimensional reflectivity echo in the rear flank of supercells known as the descending reflectivity core (DRC) has been documented in the literature by Rasmussen et al. The DRC is an enhanced region of reflectivity presumed to occur in the rear-flank downdraft (RFD) of a supercell. In the four cases they studied, this feature descended with time from the rear-echo overhang at 3–6 km in height into the supercell appendage. In addition, the DRC often occurred prior to tornadogenesis. The purpose of this paper is to serve as a more thorough analysis of DRCs using a larger sample of storms. The frequency of DRCs is explored within isolated supercells with persistent rear-flank appendages, and in particular at times preceding reported tornado onset in those supercells. Of the 64 supercells included within this study, 59% produced DRCs, with 30% of these DRCs occurring within 10 min prior to 5 min after tornadogenesis. This study included 89 reported tornadoes and 71 DRCs. Statistical analysis of the dataset reveals that while DRCs are sometimes associated with tornadoes, they presently have limited usefulness for tornado nowcasting. Improvements to Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) resolution and further classification of DRCs may help discriminate between tornadic and nontornadic appendages in the future, however.

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Erik N. Rasmussen
,
Jerry M. Straka
,
Matthew S. Gilmore
, and
Robert Davies-Jones

Abstract

This paper develops a definition of a supercell reflectivity feature called the descending reflectivity core (DRC). This is a reflectivity maximum pendant from the rear side of an echo overhang above a supercell weak-echo region. Examples of supercells with and without DRCs are presented from two days during the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX), as well as one day with tornadic high-precipitation supercell storms in central Kansas. It was found that in all cases, tornado formation was preceded by the descent of a DRC. However, the sample reported herein is much too small to allow conclusions regarding the overall frequency of DRC occurrence in supercells, or the frequency with which DRCs precede tornado formation. Although further research needs to be done to establish climatological frequencies, the apparent relationship observed between DRCs and impending tornado formation in several supercells is important enough to warrant publication of preliminary findings.

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