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Charles M. Kuster, Barry R. Bowers, Jacob T. Carlin, Terry J. Schuur, Jeff W. Brogden, Robert Toomey, and Andy Dean

Abstract

Decades of research have investigated processes that contribute to downburst development, as well as identified precursor radar signatures that can accompany these events. These advancements have increased downburst predictability, but downbursts still pose a significant forecast challenge, especially in low-shear environments that produce short-lived single and multicell thunderstorms. Additional information provided by dual-polarization radar data may prove useful in anticipating downburst development. One such radar signature is the K DP core (where K DP is the specific differential phase), which can indicate processes such as melting and precipitation loading that increase negative buoyancy and can result in downburst development. Therefore, K DP cores associated with 81 different downbursts across 10 states are examined to explore if this signature could provide forecasters with a reliable and useable downburst precursor signature. The K DP core characteristics near the environmental melting layer, vertical gradients of K DP, and environmental conditions were quantified to identify any differences between downbursts of varying intensities. The analysis shows that 1) K DP cores near the environmental melting layer are a reliable signal that a downburst will develop; 2) while using K DP cores to anticipate an impending downburst’s intensity is challenging, larger K DP near the melting layer and larger vertical gradients of K DP are more commonly associated with strong downbursts than weak ones; 3) downbursts occurring in environments with less favorable conditions for downbursts are associated with higher magnitude K DP cores, and 4) K DP cores evolve relatively slowly (typically longer than 15 min), which makes them easily observable with the 5-min volumetric updates currently provided by operational radars.

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Charles M. Kuster, Jeffrey C. Snyder, Terry J. Schuur, T. Todd Lindley, Pamela L. Heinselman, Jason C. Furtado, Jeff W. Brogden, and Robert Toomey

Abstract

The recent dual-polarization upgrade to the National Weather Service radar network provides forecasters with new information to use during operations, yet currently this information is not routinely used to explicitly make warning decisions. One potential way to increase operational use is to link new radar signatures and products to existing forecaster conceptual models and the warning decision process. Over the past several years, a unique dataset consisting of rapid-update (<2-min volumes) radar data of storms over central Oklahoma has been collected to examine possible links between Z DR columns and forecaster conceptual models. In total, over 1400 volume scans from 42 storms—ranging from tornadic supercells to nonsevere multicells—are used to relate Z DR column depth to storm reports and radar signatures typically used to issue warnings, such as −20°C reflectivity core and low-level mesocyclone evolution. After completing the analysis, the following key operational findings emerged: 1) no clear differences exist between the Z DR column depth of tornadic and nontornadic mesocyclones, but statistically significant differences do exist between severe and nonsevere storms, 2) the lead time in advance of severe hail and wind reports provided by peaks in Z DR column depth is greater than that provided by peaks in −20°C reflectivity cores, 3) increases in Z DR column size precede increases in −20°C reflectivity core size by about 3.5–9.0 min, and 4) rapid-update volumetric data captures signature evolution several minutes earlier than conventional-update data therefore providing forecasters more time to anticipate hazards and issue warnings.

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Travis M. Smith, Valliappa Lakshmanan, Gregory J. Stumpf, Kiel L. Ortega, Kurt Hondl, Karen Cooper, Kristin M. Calhoun, Darrel M. Kingfield, Kevin L. Manross, Robert Toomey, and Jeff Brogden

Abstract

The Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) system, which was developed at the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma, was made operational in 2014 at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The MRMS system consists of the Warning Decision Support System–Integrated Information suite of severe weather and aviation products, and the quantitative precipitation estimation products created by the National Mosaic and Multi-sensor Quantitative Precipitation Estimation system. Products created by the MRMS system are at a spatial resolution of approximately 1 km, with 33 vertical levels, updating every 2 min over the conterminous United States and southern Canada. This paper describes initial operating capabilities for the severe weather and aviation products that include a three-dimensional mosaic of reflectivity; guidance for hail, tornado, and lightning hazards; and nowcasts of storm location, height, and intensity.

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