Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 5 of 5 items for

  • Author or Editor: Chad M. Shafer x
  • Refine by Access: All Content x
Clear All Modify Search
Chad M. Shafer
,
Andrew E. Mercer
,
Charles A. Doswell III
,
Michael B. Richman
, and
Lance M. Leslie

Abstract

Uncertainty exists concerning the links between synoptic-scale processes and tornado outbreaks. With continuously improving computer technology, a large number of high-resolution model simulations can be conducted to study these outbreaks to the storm scale, to determine the degree to which synoptic-scale processes appear to influence the occurrence of tornado outbreaks, and to determine how far in advance these processes are important. To this end, 50 tornado outbreak simulations are compared with 50 primarily nontornadic outbreak simulations initialized with synoptic-scale input using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) mesoscale model to determine if the model is able to distinguish the outbreak type 1, 2, and 3 days in advance of the event. The model simulations cannot resolve tornadoes explicitly; thus, the use of meteorological covariates (in the form of numerous severe-weather parameters) is necessary to determine whether or not the model is predicting a tornado outbreak. Results indicate that, using the covariates, the WRF model can discriminate outbreak type consistently at least up to 3 days in advance. The severe-weather parameters that are most helpful in discriminating between outbreak types include low-level and deep-layer shear variables and the lifting condensation level. An analysis of the spatial structures and temporal evolution, as well as the magnitudes, of the severe-weather parameters is critical to diagnose the outbreak type correctly. Thermodynamic instability parameters are not helpful in distinguishing the outbreak type, primarily because of a strong seasonal dependence and convective modification in the simulations.

Full access
Andrew E. Mercer
,
Chad M. Shafer
,
Charles A. Doswell III
,
Lance M. Leslie
, and
Michael B. Richman

Abstract

Tornadoes often strike as isolated events, but many occur as part of a major outbreak of tornadoes. Nontornadic outbreaks of severe convective storms are more common across the United States but pose different threats than do those associated with a tornado outbreak. The main goal of this work is to distinguish between significant instances of these outbreak types objectively by using statistical modeling techniques on numerical weather prediction output initialized with synoptic-scale data. The synoptic-scale structure contains information that can be utilized to discriminate between the two types of severe weather outbreaks through statistical methods. The Weather Research and Forecast model (WRF) is initialized with synoptic-scale input data (the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis dataset) on a set of 50 significant tornado outbreaks and 50 nontornadic severe weather outbreaks. Output from the WRF at 18-km grid spacing is used in the objective classification. Individual severe weather parameters forecast by the model near the time of the outbreak are analyzed from simulations initialized at 24, 48, and 72 h prior to the outbreak. An initial candidate set of 15 variables expected to be related to severe storms is reduced to a set of 6 or 7, depending on lead time, that possess the greatest classification capability through permutation testing. These variables serve as inputs into two statistical methods, support vector machines and logistic regression, to classify outbreak type. Each technique is assessed based on bootstrap confidence limits of contingency statistics. An additional backward selection of the reduced variable set is conducted to determine which variable combination provides the optimal contingency statistics. Results for the contingency statistics regarding the verification of discrimination capability are best at 24 h; at 48 h, modest degradation is present. By 72 h, the contingency statistics decline by up to 15%. Overall, results are encouraging, with probability of detection values often exceeding 0.8 and Heidke skill scores in excess of 0.7 at 24-h lead time.

Full access
Chad M. Shafer
,
Andrew E. Mercer
,
Lance M. Leslie
,
Michael B. Richman
, and
Charles A. Doswell III

Abstract

Recent studies, investigating the ability to use the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to distinguish tornado outbreaks from primarily nontornadic outbreaks when initialized with synoptic-scale data, have suggested that accurate discrimination of outbreak type is possible up to three days in advance of the outbreaks. However, these studies have focused on the most meteorologically significant events without regard to the season in which the outbreaks occurred. Because tornado outbreaks usually occur during the spring and fall seasons, whereas the primarily nontornadic outbreaks develop predominantly during the summer, the results of these studies may have been influenced by climatological conditions (e.g., reduced shear, in the mean, in the summer months), in addition to synoptic-scale processes.

This study focuses on the impacts of choosing outbreaks of severe weather during the same time of year. Specifically, primarily nontornadic outbreaks that occurred during the summer have been replaced with outbreaks that do not occur in the summer. Subjective and objective analyses of the outbreak simulations indicate that the WRF’s capability of distinguishing outbreak type correctly is reduced when the seasonal constraints are included. However, accuracy scores exceeding 0.7 and skill scores exceeding 0.5 using 1-day simulation fields of individual meteorological parameters, show that precursor synoptic-scale processes play an important role in the occurrence or absence of tornadoes in severe weather outbreaks. Low-level storm-relative helicity parameters and synoptic parameters, such as geopotential heights and mean sea level pressure, appear to be most helpful in distinguishing outbreak type, whereas thermodynamic instability parameters are noticeably both less accurate and less skillful.

Full access
Andrew E. Mercer
,
Chad M. Shafer
,
Charles A. Doswell III
,
Lance M. Leslie
, and
Michael B. Richman

Abstract

Tornadic and nontornadic outbreaks occur within the United States and elsewhere around the world each year with devastating effect. However, few studies have considered the physical differences between these two outbreak types. To address this issue, synoptic-scale pattern composites of tornadic and nontornadic outbreaks are formulated over North America using a rotated principal component analysis (RPCA). A cluster analysis of the RPC loadings group similar outbreak events, and the resulting map types represent an idealized composite of the constituent cases in each cluster. These composites are used to initialize a Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) simulation of each hypothetical composite outbreak type in an effort to determine the WRF’s capability to distinguish the outbreak type each composite represents.

Synoptic-scale pattern analyses of the composites reveal strikingly different characteristics within each outbreak type, particularly in the wind fields. The tornado outbreak composites reveal a strong low- and midlevel cyclone over the eastern Rockies, which is likely responsible for the observed surface low pressure system in the plains. Composite soundings from the hypothetical outbreak centroids reveal significantly greater bulk shear and storm-relative environmental helicity values in the tornado outbreak environment, whereas instability fields are similar between the two outbreak types. The WRF simulations of the map types confirm results observed in the composite soundings.

Full access
Chad M. Shafer
,
Andrew E. Mercer
,
Michael B. Richman
,
Lance M. Leslie
, and
Charles A. Doswell III

Abstract

The areal extent of severe weather parameters favorable for significant severe weather is evaluated as a means of identifying major severe weather outbreaks. The first areal coverage method uses kernel density estimation (KDE) to identify severe weather outbreak locations. A selected severe weather parameter value is computed at each grid point within the region identified by KDE. The average, median, or sum value is used to diagnose the event’s severity. The second areal coverage method finds the largest contiguous region where a severe weather parameter exceeds a specified threshold that intersects the KDE region. The severe weather parameter values at grid points within the parameter exceedance region are computed, with the average, median, or sum value used to diagnose the event’s severity. A total of 4057 severe weather outbreaks from 1979 to 2008 are analyzed. An event is considered a major outbreak if it exceeds a selected ranking index score (developed in previous work), and is a minor event otherwise. The areal coverage method is also compared to Storm Prediction Center (SPC) day-1 convective outlooks from 2003 to 2008. Comparisons of the SPC forecasts and areal coverage diagnoses indicate the areal coverage methods have similar skill to SPC convective outlooks in discriminating major and minor severe weather outbreaks. Despite a seemingly large sample size, the rare-events nature of the dataset leads to sample size sensitivities. Nevertheless, the findings of this study suggest that areal coverage should be tested in a forecasting environment as a means of providing guidance in future outbreak scenarios.

Full access