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Jeffrey C. Snyder
and
Alexander V. Ryzhkov

Abstract

Although radial velocity data from Doppler radars can partially resolve some tornadoes, particularly large tornadoes near the radar, most tornadoes are not explicitly resolved by radar owing to inadequate spatiotemporal resolution. In addition, it can be difficult to determine which mesocyclones typically observed on radar are associated with tornadoes. Since debris lofted by tornadoes has scattering characteristics that are distinct from those of hydrometeors, the additional information provided by polarimetric weather radars can aid in identifying debris from tornadoes; the polarimetric tornadic debris signature (TDS) provides what is nearly “ground truth” that a tornado is ongoing (or has recently occurred). This paper outlines a modification to the hydrometeor classification algorithm used with the operational Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) network in the United States to include a TDS category. Examples of automated TDS classification are provided for several recent cases that were observed in the United States.

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Howard B. Bluestein
and
Jeffrey C. Snyder

Abstract

This paper documents features that led to major forecast errors on the 12–24-h time scale in the nature and location of severe weather in the southern plains on 30 May 2012. Evidence is presented that the forecast errors were the result of 1) dry air that originated in a region of dissipating, elevated convective storms, and which was advected in a narrow tongue into western Oklahoma, inhibiting convective initiation; 2) the development of a cyclone along the dryline in western Texas, to the east of which several supercells formed; 3) the upscale development of the supercells into a mesoscale convective system (MCS) at nightfall; and 4) the dissipation of an MCS that had formed along a cold front in southwestern Kansas and was propagating into northwestern Oklahoma, as it encountered dry, subsiding air underneath the stratiform precipitation region of the rear portion of the MCS farther south. There was a meridionally oriented swath of high winds in clear air, in between the two MCSs. This swath of high winds may have been associated with a bore triggered at night by the MCSs approaching from the north, as the MCS collapsed, producing a gust front that propagated through stable, low-level air. This case study illustrates how the predictability of severe weather in a region can be extremely sensitive to the details of where nearby convective storms form and how they evolve. It also highlights the likely importance of the accurate representation of cloud microphysics and dynamics in numerical forecast models on predictability.

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Jeffrey C. Snyder
and
Howard B. Bluestein

Abstract

The increasing number of mobile Doppler radars used in field campaigns across the central United States has led to an increasing number of high-resolution radar datasets of strong tornadoes. There are more than a few instances in which the radar-measured radial velocities substantially exceed the estimated wind speeds associated with the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale rating assigned to a particular tornado. It is imperative, however, to understand what the radar data represent if one wants to compare radar observations to damage-based EF-scale estimates. A violent tornado observed by the rapid-scan, X-band, polarimetric mobile radar (RaXPol) on 31 May 2013 contained radar-relative radial velocities exceeding 135 m s−1 in rural areas essentially devoid of structures from which damage ratings can be made. This case, along with others, serves as an excellent example of some of the complications that arise when comparing radar-estimated velocities with the criteria established in the EF scale. In addition, it is shown that data from polarimetric radars should reduce the variance of radar-relative radial velocity estimates within the debris field compared to data from single-polarization radars. Polarimetric radars can also be used to retrieve differential velocity, large magnitudes of which are spatially associated with large spectrum widths inside the polarimetric tornado debris signature in several datasets of intense tornadoes sampled by RaXPol.

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E. Ilotoviz
,
A. Khain
,
Alexander V. Ryzhkov
, and
Jeffrey C. Snyder

Abstract

Mechanisms of formation of differential reflectivity columns are investigated in simulations of a midlatitude summertime hailstorm with hailstones up to several centimeters in diameter. Simulations are performed using a new version of the Hebrew University Cloud Model (HUCM) with spectral bin microphysics. A polarimetric radar forward operator is used to calculate radar reflectivity and differential reflectivity Z DR. It is shown that Z DR columns are associated with raindrops and with hail particles growing in a wet growth regime within convective updrafts. The height and volume of Z DR columns increases with an increase in aerosol concentration. Small hail forming under clean conditions grows in updrafts largely in a dry growth regime corresponding to low Z DR. Characteristics of Z DR columns are highly correlated with vertical velocity, hail size, and aerosol concentration.

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Soyoung Ha
,
Chris Snyder
,
William C. Skamarock
,
Jeffrey Anderson
, and
Nancy Collins

Abstract

A global atmospheric analysis and forecast system is constructed based on the atmospheric component of the Model for Prediction Across Scales (MPAS-A) and the Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART) ensemble Kalman filter. The system is constructed using the unstructured MPAS-A Voronoi (nominally hexagonal) mesh and thus facilitates multiscale analysis and forecasting without the need for developing new covariance models at different scales. Cycling experiments with the assimilation of real observations show that the global ensemble system is robust and reliable throughout a one-month period for both quasi-uniform and variable-resolution meshes. The variable-mesh assimilation system consistently provides higher-quality analyses than those from the coarse uniform mesh, in addition to the benefits of the higher-resolution forecasts, which leads to substantial improvements in 5-day forecasts. Using the fractions skill score, the spatial scale for skillful precipitation forecasts is evaluated over the high-resolution area of the variable-resolution mesh. Skill decreases more rapidly at smaller scales, but the variable mesh consistently outperforms the coarse uniform mesh in precipitation forecasts at all times and thresholds. Use of incremental analysis updates (IAU) greatly decreases high-frequency noise overall and improves the quality of EnKF analyses, particularly in the tropics. Important aspects of the system design related to the unstructured Voronoi mesh are also investigated, including algorithms for handling the C-grid staggered horizontal velocities.

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Jana Lesak Houser
,
Howard B. Bluestein
, and
Jeffrey C. Snyder

Abstract

On 24 May 2011, a mobile, rapid-scan, X-band, polarimetric, Doppler radar (RaXPol) collected data on a supercell as it produced two tornadoes near El Reno, Oklahoma. The first tornado, rated an EF-3, was documented from intensification to decay, and the genesis and intensification of a second tornado that was rated an EF-5 was subsequently also documented.

The objective of this study is to examine the spatiotemporal evolution of the rotation associated with the tornadoes (i) as the first tornado weakened to subtornadic intensity and (ii) as the second tornado formed and intensified. It is found that weakening did not occur monotonically. The transition from tornadic to subtornadic intensity over the depth of the radar volume (~4 km) occurred in less than 30 s, but this behavior is contingent upon the threshold for Doppler shear used to define the tornado. Similarly, the onset of a tornadic-strength Doppler velocity couplet occurred within a 30-s period over all elevations.

Additionally, the evolution of storm-scale features associated with tornado dissipation and tornadogenesis is detailed. These features evolved considerably over relatively short time intervals (1–4 min). It is shown that during the transition period between the two tornadoes, two mesocyclones were present, but neither the tornadoes nor the mesocyclones evolved in a manner entirely consistent with any published conceptual model of supercell cycling, although certain aspects were similar to classic conceptual models. The mesocyclone and the tornado evolved differently from each other, in a manner that resembles a hybrid between the occluding and nonoccluding cyclic mesocyclogenesis models presented by Adlerman and Droegemeier.

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Jana Lesak Houser
,
Howard B. Bluestein
, and
Jeffrey C. Snyder

Abstract

High-resolution data of the tornadic debris signature (TDS) and weak-echo reflectivity band (WRB) associated with a large, violent tornado on 24 May 2011 in central Oklahoma are examined using a rapid-scan, X-band, polarimetric, mobile Doppler radar. Various characteristics of these features and their evolution are examined over time intervals of 20 s or less. The formation of the TDS, debris fallout, and inhomogeneities in the TDS structure, are analyzed from volumetric and single-elevation observations. Constant-radius vertical cross sections of Doppler velocity, reflectivity, and copolar cross-correlation coefficient are compared at various times during the tornado’s life cycle; from them it is found that the weak echo column (WEC) is considerably narrower than the TDS and the WEC is confined to the strong gradient of Doppler velocities in the tornado’s core. The TDS of the mature tornado extends radially outward, bound approximately by the 40 m s−1 radial isodop.

Rapid-scan, near-surface data were collected for a period of 6 min, during which 2-s single-elevation PPI updates at 1° were available at heights below 100 m above radar level. During this period, a WRB associated with a visually observed horizontal vortex developed east of the tornado, along the leading edge of the secondary rear-flank gust front, as the tornado was rapidly intensifying. A relationship was noted between reduced radar-observed reflectivity and increased radar-observed radial convergence/divergence in the vicinity of the horizontal vortex as it strengthened. This feature is qualitatively analyzed and hypotheses explaining its generation and structure are discussed.

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Howard B. Bluestein
,
Jeffrey C. Snyder
, and
Jana B. Houser

Abstract

On 31 May 2013 a broad, intense, cyclonic tornado and a narrower, weaker companion anticyclonic tornado formed in a supercell in central Oklahoma. This paper discusses the synoptic- and mesoscale environment in which the parent storm formed, based on data from the operational network of surface stations, rawinsondes, and WSR-88D radars, and from the Oklahoma Mesonet, a Doppler radar wind profiler, Rapid Refresh (RAP) analyses, and photographs. It also documents the overall behavior of the tornadoes and their relationships to features in their parent supercell based on data from a nearby, rapid-scan, polarimetric, mobile Doppler radar. The supercell formed near the intersection of a cold front and a dryline in an environment of moderately strong vertical shear and high CAPE, at the southern end of a line of multicell convective storms. The tornado damage path was as wide as 4.2 km according to the NWS damage assessment and ground-relative Doppler velocities of at least 135 m s−1 were found at the theoretical beam height of <20 m AGL. The tornado debris signature in the copolar cross-correlation coefficient ρ hv was as wide as ~4–5 km. After the strong tornado formed, at least one additional cyclonic tornado formed and rotated cyclonically around the main tornado; it was then absorbed by it and the main tornado broadened. Smaller subvortices, which rotated cyclonically around a common axis of rotation, were subsequently observed. The tornado then weakened but remained broad, while the anticyclonic tornado formed to the southeast along the rear-flank gust front.

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Jeffrey C. Snyder
,
Howard B. Bluestein
,
Daniel T. Dawson II
, and
Youngsun Jung

Abstract

With the development of multimoment bulk microphysical schemes and polarimetric radar forward operators, one can better examine convective storms simulated in high-resolution numerical models from a simulated polarimetric radar perspective. Subsequently, relationships between observable and unobservable quantities can be examined that may provide useful information about storm intensity and organization that otherwise would be difficult to obtain. This paper, Part I of a two-part sequence, describes the bulk microphysics scheme, polarimetric radar forward operator, and numerical model configuration used to simulate supercells in eight idealized, horizontally homogenous environments with different wind profiles. The microphysical structure and evolution of copolar cross-correlation coefficient (ρhv) rings associated with simulated supercells are examined in Part I, whereas Part II examines Z DR columns, Z DR rings, and K DP columns. In both papers, some systematic differences between the signature seen at X and S bands are discussed. The presence of hail is found to affect ρhv much more at X band than at S band (and is found to affect Z DR more at S band than at X band), which corroborates observations. The ρhv half ring is found to be associated with the presence of large, sometimes wet, hail aloft, with an ~20-min time lag between increases in the size of the ρhv ring aloft and the occurrence of a large amount of hail near the ground in some simulations.

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Jeffrey C. Snyder
,
Howard B. Bluestein
,
Daniel T. Dawson II
, and
Youngsun Jung

Abstract

A high-resolution numerical model and polarimetric forward operator allow one to examine simulated convective storms from the perspective of observable polarimetric radar quantities, enabling a better comparison of modeled and observed deep moist convection. Part I of this two-part study described the model and forward operator used for all simulations and examined the structure and evolution of rings of reduced copolar cross-correlation coefficient (i.e., ρ hv rings). The microphysical structure of upward extensions of enhanced differential reflectivity (Z DR columns and Z DR rings) and enhanced specific differential phase (K DP columns) near and within the updrafts of convective storms serve as the focus of this paper. In general, simulated Z DR columns are located immediately west of the midlevel updraft maximum and are associated with rainwater lofted above the 0°C level and wet hail/graupel, whereas Z DR rings are associated with wet hail located near and immediately east of the midlevel updraft maximum. The deepest areas of Z DR > 1 dB aloft are associated with supercells in the highest shear environments and those that have the most intense updrafts; the upper extent of the Z DR signatures is found to be positively correlated with the amount and mean-mass diameter of large hail aloft likely as a by-product of the shared correlations with updraft intensity and wind shear. Large quantities of rain compose the K DP columns, with the size and intensity of the updrafts directly proportional to the size and depth of the K DP columns.

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