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Roger Edwards
,
Harold E. Brooks
, and
Hannah Cohn

Abstract

U.S. tornado records form the basis for a variety of meteorological, climatological, and disaster-risk analyses, but how reliable are they in light of changing standards for rating, as with the 2007 transition of Fujita (F) to enhanced Fujita (EF) damage scales? To what extent are recorded tornado metrics subject to such influences that may be nonmeteorological in nature? While addressing these questions with utmost thoroughness is too large of a task for any one study, and may not be possible given the many variables and uncertainties involved, some variables that are recorded in large samples are ripe for new examination. We assess basic tornado-path characteristics—damage rating, length, width, and occurrence time, as well as some combined and derived measures—for a 24-yr period of constant path-width recording standard that also coincides with National Weather Service modernization and the WSR-88D deployment era. The middle of that period (in both time and approximate tornado counts) crosses the official switch from F to EF. At least minor shifts in all assessed path variables are associated directly with that change, contrary to the intent of EF implementation. Major and essentially stepwise expansion of tornadic path widths occurred immediately upon EF usage, and widths have expanded still farther within the EF era. We also document lesser increases in pathlengths and in tornadoes rated at least EF1 in comparison with EF0. These apparently secular changes in the tornado data can impact research dependent on bulk tornado-path characteristics and damage-assessment results.

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Roger Edwards
,
John T. Allen
, and
Gregory W. Carbin

Abstract

Convective surface winds in the contiguous United States are classified as severe at 50 kt (58 mi h−1, or 26 m s−1), whether measured or estimated. In 2006, NCDC (now NCEI) Storm Data, from which analyzed data are directly derived, began explicit categorization of such reports as measured gusts (MGs) or estimated gusts (EGs). Because of the documented tendency of human observers to overestimate winds, the quality and reliability of EGs (especially in comparison with MGs) has been challenged, mostly for nonconvective winds and controlled-testing situations, but only speculatively for bulk convective data. For the 10-yr period of 2006–15, 150 423 filtered convective-wind gust magnitudes are compared and analyzed, including 15 183 MGs and 135 240 EGs, both nationally and by state. Nonmeteorological artifacts include marked geographic discontinuities and pronounced “spikes” of an order of magnitude in which EG values (in both miles per hour and knots) end in the digits 0 or 5. Sources such as NWS employees, storm chasers, and the general public overestimate EGs, whereas trained spotters are relatively accurate. Analysis of the ratio of EG to MG and their sources also reveals an apparent warning-verification-influence bias in the climatological distribution of wind gusts imparted by EG reliance in the Southeast. Results from prior wind-tunnel testing of human subjects are applied to 1) illustrate the difference between measured and perceived winds for the database and 2) show the impact on the severe-wind dataset if EGs were bias-corrected for the human overestimation factor.

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Roger L. Steele
,
C. P. Edwards
,
Lewis O. Grant
, and
Gerhard Langer

Abstract

The NCAR acoustical ice nucleus counter was calibrated against a Bigg-Warner Weather Bureau type chamber modified as a mixing chamber. The mixing chamber was in turn calibrated against the CSU-NSF isothermal diffusion cloud chamber. This work was carried out using a 300-liter aluminized mylar bag into which known samples of silver iodide nuclei were introduced. Nuclei were transferred from the bag to the NCAR counter in a carrier gas, at a flow rate of 10 liters min−1. It was found that the NCAR counter measured from 16–52% of the count given by the mixing chamber. An NCAR unit was modified with a velvet liner to test the feasibility of eliminating the glycol system, and measurements were made as described above. The modified unit did not count reliably.

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