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Matthew S. Van Den Broeke

Abstract

Biological scatterers, consisting of birds and insects, may become trapped near the circulation center of tropical cyclones, particularly if a well-developed eyewall is present. These scatterers may be observed using weather radar, where they may appear to the radar operator as areas of light precipitation. Polarimetric radar characteristics of these scatterers, informed by additional observations of known bioscatter, include a combination of very high differential reflectivity (3–7.9 dB) and very low copolar correlation coefficient (0.3–0.8). Polarimetric radar observations of bioscatter are presented for Hurricane Irene (2011) and Hurricane Sandy (2012). In these storms, the bioscatter signature first appeared at the 0.5° elevation angle at a distance of 100–120 km from the radar. The signature appeared on successively higher tilts as the circulation center neared the radar, and its areal coverage in constant altitude plan position indicator (CAPPI) slices was primarily governed by the distribution of convection in the eye and by the timing of landfall. The highest altitude at which the signature appears may represent the inversion level within certain tropical cyclone eyes. For Hurricane Irene, inland observations of oceanic bird species support biological transport. Knowledge of the bioscatter signature has value to meteorologists monitoring tropical cyclones within the range of a polarimetric radar, possible value for estimating inversion height changes within the eyes of well-structured tropical cyclones, and value to biologists who wish to estimate the magnitude of biological transport in tropical cyclones.

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Matthew S. Van Den Broeke

Abstract

Values of polarimetric radar variables may vary substantially between and through tornadic debris signature (TDS) events. Tornadoes with higher intensity ratings are associated with higher average and extreme values of reflectivity factor at horizontal polarization Z HH and lower values of copolar cross-correlation coefficient ρ hv. Although values of these variables often fluctuate through reported tornado life cycles, Z HH repeatably decreases and ρ hv repeatably increases across the volume scan immediately following reported tornado demise. Land cover has a relatively small effect on values of the polarimetric variables within TDSs, although near-radar urban TDSs may exhibit relatively high Z HH values. TDS areal extent is typically larger aloft than near the surface, although this trend may reverse in the most intense tornadoes. Maximum altitude to which a TDS is visible is more strongly a function of tornado intensity than of land cover or ambient shear and instability. Debris often disappears once lofted but may also be observed to spread out downstream with the storm-relative flow or to fall out along the parent storm’s northwest flank in a debris fallout signature (DFS). DFS characteristics, although variable, most commonly include Z HH values of 30–35 dBZ, ρ hv values of 0.60–0.80, and values of differential reflectivity Z DR that are repeatably near 0 dB.

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Matthew S. Van Den Broeke

Abstract

Supercell thunderstorms produce a variety of hazards, including tornadoes. A supercell will often exist for some time prior to producing a tornado, while other supercells never become tornadic. In this study, a series of hypotheses is tested regarding the ability of S-band polarimetric radar fields to distinguish pretornadic from nontornadic supercell storms. Several quantified polarimetric radar metrics are examined that are related to storm inflow, updraft, and hailfall characteristics in samples of 19–30 pretornadic and 18–31 nontornadic supercells. The results indicate that pretornadic supercells are characterized by smaller hail extent and echo appendages with larger mean drop size. Additionally, differential reflectivity Z DR column size is larger and less variable in the pretornadic storms in the 25–30 min prior to initial tornadogenesis. Many of the results indicate relatively small polarimetric differences that will likely be difficult to translate to operational use. Hail extent and Z DR column size, however, may exhibit operationally useful differences between pretornadic and nontornadic supercells.

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Matthew S. Van Den Broeke

Abstract

Classic supercell storms occur in a generally well understood environment characterized by instability and vertical wind shear. Within this broadly favorable environment, large day-to-day variability in environmental parameters may lead to widely varying radar presentation of storms. Of interest here is whether specific storm structures exhibit repeatable characteristics in similar environments and whether radar presentation can be predicted with knowledge of environmental characteristics. Specifically, this paper focuses on (i) updraft characteristics inferred using differential reflectivity Z DR columns, (ii) characteristics of storm-relative inflow inferred using Z DR arcs, and (iii) areal extent and cyclicality of polarimetrically inferred hailfall at low levels. Variability of these radar features is compared among storms in similar environments and among a larger subset of storms across highly varying environments. The similarity of storms in similar and different environments is quantified, and tornadic and nontornadic storms are compared. Associations between inferred updraft, inflow, and hailfall characteristics and environmental variables are discussed. Storm features generally exhibit greater similarity among storms in similar environments than across environments, although exceptions occur. The results indicate that many radar features of classic supercells may be useful to learn about microphysical variability across environments.

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Matthew S. Van Den Broeke

Abstract

Polarimetric radar signatures have been related to the typical evolution of supercell storms, including through tornado life cycles. Now that polarimetric radar observations are available for a large sample of supercell storms, time series of new radar metrics can be derived. These metrics can be compared with phases of known tornado life cycles in an effort to develop new methods of anticipating tornadoes and to increase understanding of storm-scale structural and microphysical changes through supercell and tornado life cycles. In this paper, radar metrics including measures of differential reflectivity Z DR columns, Z DR arcs, polarimetrically inferred hailfall regions, and mean value of copolar correlation coefficient ρ hv in the echo appendage are compared to the tornado life cycle and to storm-maximum tornado intensity in a sample of 35 tornadic supercells. It is shown that these radar metrics may change repeatedly and thus can be used to distinguish tornadic and nontornadic periods in single supercell storms, tornadogenesis from tornado demise times, and modes of storm evolution relative to tornadoes (e.g., if a storm produces one tornado or several). The polarimetric radar metrics are nearly as predictive of tornado intensity as commonly used measures of environmental variability for this sample.

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Matthew S. Van Den Broeke and Cynthia A. Van Den Broeke

Abstract

A family of four waterspouts was produced by a convective cell over western Lake Michigan on 12 September 2013. This storm initiated along a boundary north of a mesolow in a low-level cold-air advection regime, and developed supercell characteristics once the second waterspout was in progress. Polarimetric characteristics of the storm, and of the development of supercell character, are presented. These observations represent the first documented polarimetric radar observations of waterspout-producing convection in the Great Lakes region. Unusually high differential reflectivity values accompanied this storm and its initiating boundary. The high values along the boundary are partially explained by a high density of dragonflies. High differential reflectivity values were present through much of the storm of interest despite very low aerosol concentration at low levels in the lake-influenced air mass. Finally, this case illustrates the importance of environmental awareness on waterspout-favorable days, especially when boundaries are nearby to serve as a potential source of enhanced environmental vertical vorticity.

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Matthew B. Wilson and Matthew S. Van Den Broeke

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Supercell thunderstorms often have pronounced signatures of hydrometeor size sorting within their forward-flank regions, including an arc-shaped region of high differential reflectivity (Z DR) along the inflow edge of the forward flank known as the Z DR arc and a clear horizontal separation between this area of high Z DR values and an area of enhanced K DP values deeper into the storm core. Recent work has indicated that Z DR arc and K DPZ DR separation signatures in supercell storms may be related to environmental storm-relative helicity and low-level shear. Thus, characteristics of these signatures may be helpful to indicate whether a given storm is likely to produce a tornado. Although Z DR arc and K DPZ DR separation signatures are typically easy to qualitatively identify in dual-polarization radar fields, quantifying their characteristics can be time-consuming and makes research into these signatures and their potential operational applications challenging. To address this problem, this paper introduces an automated Python algorithm to objectively identify and track these signatures in Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) data and quantify their characteristics. This paper will discuss the development of the algorithm, demonstrate its performance through comparisons with manually generated time series of Z DR arc and K DPZ DR separation signature characteristics, and briefly explore potential uses of this algorithm in research and operations.

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Rebecca S. Duell and Matthew S. Van Den Broeke

Abstract

The dryline is an important focal point for convection initiation. Although drylines most commonly occur on the southern Great Plains, dryline passages and subsequent severe weather outbreaks have been documented in the Mississippi River valley. This study presents a 15-yr (1999–2013) climatology of these Mississippi River valley drylines and associated severe weather. Additionally, synoptic patterns are identified that may result in drylines moving atypically far eastward into the Mississippi River valley. In total, 39 Mississippi River valley drylines (hereafter referred to as MRV drylines) were identified from the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) dataset through the study period. Mean and anomaly synoptic composites were created for these drylines. MRV dryline events typically occur under synoptically active conditions with an amplified upper-air pattern, a 500-hPa shortwave trough to the west or northwest of the dryline, and a strong surface cyclone to the north. These boundaries are often misanalyzed or inconsistently analyzed as cold fronts, stationary fronts, or trough axes on surface maps; of the 33 cases of identified MRV drylines for which the Weather Prediction Center archived analyses were available, only 6 were correctly analyzed as drylines. Drylines moving into the Mississippi River valley often result in severe weather outbreaks in the Mississippi River valley, the Midwest, and the southeastern United States.

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Matthew S. Van Den Broeke and Sabrina T. Jauernic

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Nonmeteorological scatter, including debris lofted by tornadoes, may be detected using the polarimetric radar variables. For the 17 months from January 2012 to May 2013, radar data were examined for each tornado reported in the domain of an operational polarimetric Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D). Characteristics of the tornadic debris signature (TDS) were recorded when a signature was present. Approximately 16% of all tornadoes reported in Storm Data were associated with a debris signature, and this proportion is shown to vary regionally. Signatures were more frequently seen with tornadoes that were rated higher on the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, with tornadoes causing higher reported total property damage, with tornadoes that were closer to the radar and thus intercepted by the beam at lower altitude, and associated with tornadoes with greater total pathlength. Tornadic debris signatures were most common in spring, when more strong tornadoes occur, and in autumn, when natural debris is more available. Debris-signature areal extent is shown to increase consistently with EF-scale rating and tornado longevity. Vertical extent of a TDS is shown to be greatest for strong, long-lived tornadoes with large radii of damaging wind. Land cover is also shown to exhibit some control over TDS characteristics—in particular, a large percentage of tornadoes with substantial track over urban land cover exhibited a TDS and do so very quickly after reported tornadogenesis, as compared with tornadoes over other land-cover classifications. TDS characteristics over grassland and cropland tended to be similar.

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Sabrina T. Jauernic and Matthew S. Van Den Broeke

Abstract

Few studies show how university students perceive and respond to tornado warnings. Lacking in the literature are investigations of what influences perceptions of tornado risk among this population and how these perceptions may influence actions. Through an online survey of 640 undergraduates enrolled at a large university in Nebraska, significant relationships were found between student demographics, perceptions, and response actions. Tornado mythology relevant to the local city influenced perceptions so that students felt the city was less at risk than surrounding rural land. Confirming risk before sheltering remained popular, with some students choosing to never seek shelter during a warning. International students were more likely to initially seek shelter during a warning but had difficulty interpreting warning polygons or accurately choosing the best safety actions. Tornado-related education resulted in international students being more likely to have safety plans and shelter in more appropriate locations. Most domestic students correctly identified safe areas in which to shelter, but fewer knew the precise meaning of a tornado warning polygon. Parents/guardians and the school were the most popular tornado knowledge sources for domestic students, while friends and self-education were popular with international students. Respondents seemed willing to learn more about tornadoes and perceived a lack of tornado-related resources available on campus. This implies that more thorough tornado education and information dissemination on university campuses is warranted. Faster personalization of risk, dispelling local myths, and educating those new to tornado-prone locations should be emphasized.

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