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Mateusz Taszarek and Jakub Gromadzki

Abstract

Using historical sources derived from 12 Polish digital libraries, an investigation into killer tornado events was carried out. Although some of the cases took place more than 150 years ago, it was still possible to identify tornado phenomena and the course of events. This study has shown that historical sources contain dozens of tornado reports, sometimes with information precise enough to reconstruct the tornado damage paths. In total, 26 newly identified deadly tornado cases were derived from the historical sources and the information on 11 currently known was expanded. An average of 1–2 killer tornadoes with 5 fatalities may be depicted for each decade and this rate is decreasing over time. It was estimated that 5%–10% of significant tornadoes in Poland have caused fatalities and the average number of fatalities per significant tornado was roughly 0.27. Most of the cases were reported in late July and early August. The majority of deaths and injuries were associated with victims being lifted or crushed by buildings (usually a wooden barn). Most of these cases took place in rural areas but some tornadoes hit urban areas, causing a higher number of fatalities. The spatial distribution of cases included maxima in the central lowland and south-central upland of Poland. In a noticeable fraction of cases (38%), large hail occurred either before or after passage of the tornado.

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Artur Surowiecki and Mateusz Taszarek

Abstract

In this study, a 10-yr (2008–17) radar-based mesoscale convective system (MCS) and derecho climatology for Poland is presented. This is one of the first attempts of a European country to investigate morphological and precipitation archetypes of MCSs as prior studies were mostly based on satellite data. Despite its ubiquity and significance for society, economy, agriculture, and water availability, little is known about the climatological aspects of MCSs over central Europe. Our results indicate that MCSs are not rare in Poland as an annual mean of 77 MCSs and 49 days with MCS can be depicted for Poland. Their lifetime ranges typically from 3 to 6 h, with initiation time around the afternoon hours (1200–1400 UTC) and dissipation stage in the evening (1900–2000 UTC). The most frequent morphological type of MCSs is a broken line (58% of cases), then areal/cluster (25%), and then quasi-linear convective systems (QLCS; 17%), which are usually associated with a bow echo (72% of QLCS). QLCS are the feature with the longest life cycle. Among precipitation archetypes of linear MCSs, trailing stratiform (73%) and parallel stratiform (25%) are the most common. MCSs are usually observed from April to September, with a peak in mid-July. A majority of MCSs travels from the west, southwest, and south sectors. A total of 16 derecho events were identified (1.5% of all MCS and 9.1% of all QLCS); the majority of them were produced by a warm-season QLCS, whereas only 4 were produced by cold-season narrow cold-frontal rainbands. Warm-season derechos produced a bigger impact than did cold-season events, even though their damage paths were shorter.

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Mateusz Taszarek and Harold E. Brooks

Abstract

Very few studies on the occurrence of tornadoes in Poland have been performed and, therefore, their temporal and spatial variability have not been well understood. This article describes an updated climatology of tornadoes in Poland and the major problems related to the database. In this study, the results of an investigation of tornado occurrence in a 100-yr historical record (1899–1998) and a more recent 15-yr observational dataset (1999–2013) are presented. A total of 269 tornado cases derived from the European Severe Weather Database are used in the analysis. The cases are divided according to their strength on the F scale with weak tornadoes (unrated/F0/F1; 169 cases), significant tornadoes (F2/F3/F4; 66 cases), and waterspouts (34 cases). The tornado season extends from May to September (84% of all cases) with the seasonal peak for tornadoes occurring over land in July (23% of all land cases) and waterspouts in August (50% of all waterspouts). On average 8–14 tornadoes (including 2–3 waterspouts) with 2 strong tornadoes occur each year and 1 violent one occurs every 12–19 years. The maximum daily probability for weak and significant tornadoes occurs between 1500 and 1800 UTC while it occurs between 0900 and 1200 UTC for waterspouts. Tornadoes over land are most likely to occur in the south-central part of the country known as the “Polish Tornado Alley.” Cases of strong, and even violent, tornadoes that caused deaths indicate that the possibility of a large-fatality tornado in Poland cannot be ignored.

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Mateusz Taszarek, Bartosz Czernecki, and Aneta Kozioł

Abstract

This research focuses on the climatology of cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning flashes based on PERUN lightning detection network data from 2002 to 2013. To present various CG lightning flash characteristics, 10 km × 10 km grid cells are used, while for estimating thunderstorm days, circles with radii of 17.5 km in the 1 km × 1 km grid cells are used. A total of 4 328 892 CG lightning flashes are used to analyze counts, density, polarity, peak current, and thunderstorm days. An average of 151 days with thunderstorm (appearing anywhere in Poland) occurs each year. The annual number of days with thunderstorms increases southeasterly from the coast of the Baltic Sea (15–20 days) to the Carpathian Mountains (30–35 days). The mean CG lightning flash density varies from 0.2 to 3.1 flashes km−2 yr−1 with the highest values in the southwest–northeast belt from Kraków-Częstochowa Upland to the Masurian Lake District. The maximum daily CG lightning flash density in this region amounted to 9.1 km−2 day−1 (3 July 2012). The monthly variation shows a well-defined thunderstorm season extending from May to August with July as the peak month. The vast majority of CG lightning flashes were detected during the daytime (85%) with a peak at 1400 UTC and a minimum at 0700 UTC. Almost 97% of all CG lightning flashes in the present study had a negative current, reaching the highest average monthly values in February (55 kA) and the lowest in July (24 kA). The percentage of positive CG lightning flashes was the lowest during the summer (2%–3%) and the highest during the winter (10%–20%).

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Mateusz Taszarek, Harold E. Brooks, and Bartosz Czernecki

Abstract

Observed proximity soundings from Europe are used to highlight how well environmental parameters discriminate different kind of severe thunderstorm hazards. In addition, the skill of parameters in predicting lightning and waterspouts is also tested. The research area concentrates on central and western European countries and the years 2009–15. In total, 45 677 soundings are analyzed including 169 associated with extremely severe thunderstorms, 1754 with severe thunderstorms, 8361 with nonsevere thunderstorms, and 35 393 cases with nonzero convective available potential energy (CAPE) that had no thunderstorms. Results indicate that the occurrence of lightning is mainly a function of CAPE and is more likely when the temperature of the equilibrium level drops below −10°C. The probability for large hail is maximized with high values of boundary layer moisture, steep mid- and low-level lapse rates, and high lifting condensation level. The size of hail is mainly dependent on the deep layer shear (DLS) in a moderate to high CAPE environment. The likelihood of tornadoes increases along with increasing CAPE, DLS, and 0–1-km storm-relative helicity. Severe wind events are the most common in high vertical wind shear and steep low-level lapse rates. The probability for waterspouts is maximized in weak vertical wind shear and steep low-level lapse rates. Wind shear in the 0–3-km layer is the best at distinguishing between severe and extremely severe thunderstorms producing tornadoes and convective wind gusts. A parameter WMAXSHEAR multiplying square root of 2 times CAPE (WMAX) and DLS turned out to be the best in distinguishing between nonsevere and severe thunderstorms, and for assessing the severity of convective phenomena.

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Brice E. Coffer, Mateusz Taszarek, and Matthew D. Parker

Abstract

The near-ground wind profile exhibits significant control over the organization, intensity, and steadiness of low-level updrafts and mesocyclones in severe thunderstorms, and thus their probability of being associated with tornadogenesis. The present work builds upon recent improvements in supercell tornado forecasting by examining the possibility that storm-relative helicity (SRH) integrated over progressively shallower layers has increased skill in differentiating between significantly tornadic and nontornadic severe thunderstorms. For a population of severe thunderstorms in the United States and Europe, sounding-derived parameters are computed from the ERA5 reanalysis, which has significantly enhanced vertical resolution compared to prior analyses. The ERA5 is shown to represent U.S. convective environments similarly to the Storm Prediction Center’s mesoscale surface objective analysis, but its greater number of vertical levels in the lower troposphere permits calculations to be performed over shallower layers. In the ERA5, progressively shallower layers of SRH provide greater discrimination between nontornadic and significantly tornadic thunderstorms in both the United States and Europe. In the United States, the 0–100 m AGL layer has the highest forecast skill of any SRH layer tested, although gains are comparatively modest for layers shallower than 0–500 m AGL. In Europe, the benefit from using shallower layers of SRH is even greater; the lower-tropospheric SRH is by far the most skillful ingredient there, far exceeding related composite parameters like the significant tornado parameter (which has negligible skill in Europe).

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Mateusz Taszarek, Natalia Pilguj, John T. Allen, Victor Gensini, Harold E. Brooks, and Piotr Szuster

Abstract

In this study we compared 3.7 mln rawinsonde observations from 232 stations over Europe and North America with proximal vertical profiles from ERA5 and MERRA2 to examine how well reanalysis depicts observed convective parameters. Larger differences between soundings and reanalysis are found for thermodynamic theoretical parcel parameters, low-level lapse rates and low-level wind shear. In contrast, reanalysis best represents temperature and moisture variables, mid-tropospheric lapse rates, and mean wind. Both reanalyses underestimate CAPE, low-level moisture and wind shear, particularly when considering extreme values. Overestimation is observed for low-level lapse rates, mid-tropospheric moisture and the level of free convection. Mixed-layer parcels have overall better accuracy when compared to most-unstable, especially considering convective inhibition and lifted condensation level. Mean absolute error for both reanalyses has been steadily decreasing over the last 39 years for almost every analyzed variable. Compared to MERRA2, ERA5 has higher correlations and lower mean absolute errors. MERRA2 is typically drier and less unstable over central Europe and the Balkans, with the opposite pattern over western Russia. Both reanalyses underestimate CAPE and CIN over the Great Plains. Reanalyses are more reliable for lower elevations stations and struggle along boundaries such as coastal zones and mountains. Based on the results from this and prior studies we suggest that ERA5 is likely one of the most reliable available reanalysis for exploration of convective environments, mainly due to its improved resolution. For future studies we also recommend that computation of convective variables should use model levels that provide more accurate sampling of the boundary-layer conditions compared to less numerous pressure levels.

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Mateusz Taszarek, Harold E. Brooks, Bartosz Czernecki, Piotr Szuster, and Krzysztof Fortuniak

Abstract

We compare over 1 million sounding measurements with ERA-Interim reanalysis for the 38-yr period from 1979 to 2016. The large dataset allows us to provide an improved insight into the spatial and temporal distributions of the prerequisites of deep moist convection across Europe. In addition, ERA-Interim is also evaluated. ERA-Interim estimates parameters describing boundary layer moisture and midtropospheric lapse rates well, with correlation coefficients of 0.94. Mixed-layer CAPE is, on average, underestimated by the reanalysis while the most unstable CAPE is overestimated. Vertical shear parameters in the reanalysis are better correlated with observations than CAPE, but are underestimated by approximately 1–2 m s−1. The underestimation decreases as the depth of the shear layer increases. Compared to radiosonde observations, instability in ERA-Interim is overestimated in southern Europe and underestimated over eastern Europe. High values of instability are observed from May to September, out of phase with the climatological pattern of wind shear, which peaks in winter. From September to April, favorable conditions for thunderstorms occur mainly over southern and western Europe with the peak location and higher frequency shifting to central and eastern Europe from May to August. For southern Europe, the annual cycle peaks in September with high values of inhibition suppressing thunderstorm activity in July and August. The area with the highest annual number of days with environmental conditions favorable for thunderstorms extends from Italy and Austria eastward through the Carpathians and Balkans.

Open access
Mateusz Taszarek, John T. Allen, Tomáš Púčik, Kimberly A. Hoogewind, and Harold E. Brooks

Abstract

In this study we investigate convective environments and their corresponding climatological features over Europe and the United States. For this purpose, National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) and Arrival Time Difference long-range lightning detection network (ATDnet) data, ERA5 hybrid-sigma levels, and severe weather reports from the European Severe Weather Database (ESWD) and Storm Prediction Center (SPC) Storm Data were combined on a common grid of 0.25° and 1-h steps over the period 1979–2018. The severity of convective hazards increases with increasing instability and wind shear (WMAXSHEAR), but climatological aspects of these features differ over both domains. Environments over the United States are characterized by higher moisture, CAPE, CIN, wind shear, and midtropospheric lapse rates. Conversely, 0–3-km CAPE and low-level lapse rates are higher over Europe. From the climatological perspective severe thunderstorm environments (hours) are around 3–4 times more frequent over the United States with peaks across the Great Plains, Midwest, and Southeast. Over Europe severe environments are the most common over the south with local maxima in northern Italy. Despite having lower CAPE (tail distribution of 3000–4000 J kg−1 compared to 6000–8000 J kg−1 over the United States), thunderstorms over Europe have a higher probability for convective initiation given a favorable environment. Conversely, the lowest probability for initiation is observed over the Great Plains, but, once a thunderstorm develops, the probability that it will become severe is much higher compared to Europe. Prime conditions for severe thunderstorms over the United States are between April and June, typically from 1200 to 2200 central standard time (CST), while across Europe favorable environments are observed from June to August, usually between 1400 and 2100 UTC.

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Mateusz Taszarek, John T. Allen, Harold E. Brooks, Natalia Pilguj, and Bartosz Czernecki

Abstract

Long-term trends in the historical frequency of environments supportive of atmospheric convection are unclear, and only partially follow the expectations of a warming climate. This uncertainty is driven by the lack of unequivocal changes in the ingredients for severe thunderstorms (i.e., conditional instability, sufficient low-level moisture, initiation mechanism, and vertical wind shear). ERA5 hybrid-sigma data allow for superior characterization of thermodynamic parameters including convective inhibition, which is very sensitive to the number of levels in the lower troposphere. Using hourly data we demonstrate that long-term decreases in instability and stronger convective inhibition cause a decline in the frequency of thunderstorm environments over the southern United States, particularly during summer. Conversely, increasingly favorable conditions for tornadoes are observed during winter across the Southeast. Over Europe, a pronounced multidecadal increase in low-level moisture has provided positive trends in thunderstorm environments over the south, central, and north, with decreases over the east due to strengthening convective inhibition. Modest increases in vertical wind shear and storm-relative helicity have been observed over northwestern Europe and the Great Plains. Both continents exhibit negative trends in the fraction of environments with likely convective initiation. This suggests that despite increasing instability, thunderstorms in a warming climate may be less likely to develop due to stronger convective inhibition and lower relative humidity. Decreases in convective initiation and resulting precipitation may have long-term implications for agriculture, water availability, and the frequency of severe weather such as large hail and tornadoes. Our results also indicate that trends observed over the United States cannot be assumed to be representative of other continents.

Open access