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Roger Edwards and Richard L. Thompson
Introduction

Kellenbenz et al. (2007, hereafter KGD07) present a case study of supercells in eastern North Dakota on 18 July 2004. Three storms occurred, 1 two of which were tornadic, as discussed in the paper. We commend the authors for documenting many aspects of the event. Further, we believe the study could furnish important nuggets of understanding directly relevant to the prediction of violent (≥F4 damage) tornadoes, particularly those heavily dependent on meso-α to meso-β scale processes, as opposed to broader “synoptically evident” (Doswell et al. 1993) outbreaks. We

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Roger Edwards and Richard L. Thompson

Abstract

This study tests hypothetical correspondences between size of severe hail, WSR-88D derived vertically integrated liquid water (VIL), and an array of thermodynamic variables derived from computationally modified sounding analyses. In addition, these associations are documented for normalized VIL using various sounding parameters, and statistical predictive value is assigned to the various VIL-based and sounding variables. The database was gathered from Weather Service Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) units nationwide from cases identified during real-time operations and consists of over 400 hail events, each associated with a radar-observed VIL value and a modified observational sounding.

Some parameters are found to increase in the mean with larger hail-size categories. Specific hail size, however, varies widely across the spectra of VIL, thermodynamic sounding variables, and combinations thereof, with only a few exceptions. No operationally useful parameters of value in hail-size prediction were discovered in the database of VIL and thermodynamic sounding data. These largely antihypothetical findings are compared with hail forecasting and warning techniques developed in the WSR-88D era—few in number and mostly regionalized and informal in nature—and with more widespread and empirical forecasting assumptions involving many of the same variables.

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Richard L. Thompson and Roger Edwards

Abstract

An overview of conditions associated with the Oklahoma–Kansas tornado outbreak of 3 May 1999 is presented, with emphasis on the evolution of environmental and supercellular characteristics most relevant to the prediction of violent tornado episodes. This examination provides a unique perspective of the event by combining analyses of remote observational data and numerical guidance with direct observations of the event in the field by forecasters and other observers. The 3 May 1999 outbreak included two prolific supercells that produced several violent tornadoes, with ambient parameters comparable to those of past tornado outbreaks in the southern and central Great Plains. However, not all aspects leading to the evening of 3 May unambiguously favored a major tornado outbreak. The problems that faced operational forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center are discussed in the context of this outbreak, including environmental shear and instability, subtle processes contributing to convective initiation, the roles of preexisting boundaries, and storm-relative flow. This examination reveals several specific aspects where conceptual models are deficient and/or additional research is warranted.

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Roger Edwards and Stephen J. Hodanish

Abstract

Anticyclonic left-moving supercells are observed each year in the United States, emanating both discretely and from storm splitting processes. Such thunderstorms often produce severe hail and wind gusts and, on rare occasion, tornadoes. The body of documentary literature on this subset of supercells is relatively scant compared with right-moving storms, and this is especially true regarding visual characteristics and conceptual models. Here a characteristic example of the anticyclonic supercell is presented using an intense and well-defined specimen that passed over Aroya, Colorado, on 15 June 2002. Photographic and radar documentation is provided in original and mirrored forms, for aid in conceptualizing the left-moving supercell and associated structures and processes. A summary overview is presented of the environment, development, evolution, and effects of this remotely located but noteworthy event.

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Roger Edwards, Harold E. Brooks, and Hannah Cohn

Abstract

U.S. tornado records form the basis for a variety of meteorological, climatological, and disaster-risk analyses, but how reliable are they in light of changing standards for rating, as with the 2007 transition of Fujita (F) to enhanced Fujita (EF) damage scales? To what extent are recorded tornado metrics subject to such influences that may be nonmeteorological in nature? While addressing these questions with utmost thoroughness is too large of a task for any one study, and may not be possible given the many variables and uncertainties involved, some variables that are recorded in large samples are ripe for new examination. We assess basic tornado-path characteristics—damage rating, length, width, and occurrence time, as well as some combined and derived measures—for a 24-yr period of constant path-width recording standard that also coincides with National Weather Service modernization and the WSR-88D deployment era. The middle of that period (in both time and approximate tornado counts) crosses the official switch from F to EF. At least minor shifts in all assessed path variables are associated directly with that change, contrary to the intent of EF implementation. Major and essentially stepwise expansion of tornadic path widths occurred immediately upon EF usage, and widths have expanded still farther within the EF era. We also document lesser increases in pathlengths and in tornadoes rated at least EF1 in comparison with EF0. These apparently secular changes in the tornado data can impact research dependent on bulk tornado-path characteristics and damage-assessment results.

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Benjamin A. Schenkel, Roger Edwards, and Michael Coniglio

Abstract

The cyclone-relative location and variability in the number of tornadoes among tropical cyclones (TCs) are not completely understood. A key understudied factor that may improve our understanding is ambient (i.e., synoptic-scale) deep-tropospheric (i.e., 850–200-hPa) vertical wind shear (VWS), which impacts both the symmetry and strength of deep convection in TCs. This study conducts a climatological analysis of VWS impacts upon tornadoes in TCs from 1995 to 2018, using observed TC and tornado data together with radiosondes. TC tornadoes were classified by objectively defined VWS categories, derived from reanalyses, to quantify the sensitivity of tornado frequency, location, and their environments to VWS. The analysis shows that stronger VWS is associated with enhanced rates of tornado production—especially more damaging ones. Tornadoes also become localized to the downshear half of the TC as VWS strengthens, with tornado location in strongly sheared TCs transitioning from the downshear-left quadrant in the TC inner core to the downshear-right quadrant in the TC outer region. Analysis of radiosondes shows that the downshear-right quadrant in strongly sheared TCs is most frequently associated with sufficiently strong near-surface speed shear and veering aloft, and lower-tropospheric thermodynamic instability for tornadoes. These supportive kinematic environments may be due to the constructive superposition of the ambient and TC winds, and the VWS-induced downshear enhancement of the TC circulation among other factors. Together, this work provides a basis for improving forecasts of TC tornado frequency and location.

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Benjamin A. Schenkel, Michael Coniglio, and Roger Edwards

Abstract

This work investigates how the relationship between tropical cyclone (TC) tornadoes and ambient (i.e., synoptic-scale) deep-tropospheric (i.e., 850–200-hPa) vertical wind shear (VWS) varies between coastal and inland environments. Observed U.S. TC tornado track data are used to study tornado frequency and location, while dropsonde and radiosonde data are used to analyze convective-scale environments. To study the variability in the TC tornado–VWS relationship, these data are categorized by both 1) their distance from the coast and 2) reanalysis-derived VWS magnitude. The analysis shows that TCs produce coastal tornadoes regardless of VWS magnitude primarily in their downshear sector, with tornadoes most frequently occurring in strongly sheared cases. Inland tornadoes, including the most damaging cases, primarily occur in strongly sheared TCs within the outer radii of the downshear-right quadrant. Consistent with these patterns, dropsondes and coastal radiosondes show that the downshear-right quadrant of strongly sheared TCs has the most favorable combination of enhanced lower-tropospheric near-surface speed shear and veering, and reduced lower-tropospheric thermodynamic stability for tornadic supercells. Despite the weaker intensity farther inland, these kinematic conditions are even more favorable in inland environments within the downshear-right quadrant of strongly sheared TCs, due to the strengthened veering of the ambient winds and the lack of changes in the TC outer tangential wind field strength. The constructive superposition of the ambient and TC winds may be particularly important to inland tornado occurrence. Together, these results will allow forecasters to anticipate how the frequency and location of tornadoes and, more broadly, convection may change as TCs move inland.

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Benjamin A. Schenkel, Roger Edwards, and Michael Coniglio

An error was discovered in the inadvertent inclusion of tropical cyclone (TC) motion from both the composite hodographs (Fig. 12) and vertical profiles of TC-relative tangential and radial winds (Fig. 13) computed from radiosondes sampling landfalling TCs in Schenkel et al. (2020). There are two primary reasons why TC motion should have been removed from these figures. First, the inclusion of TC motion makes it impossible to determine whether changes in the total wind field are due to the ambient or TC wind field when Fig. 12 and especially Fig. 13

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Extreme Weather Records

Compilation, Adjudication, and Publication

Randall S. Cerveny, Jay Lawrimore, Roger Edwards, and Christopher Landsea
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Adam L. Houston, Richard L. Thompson, and Roger Edwards

Abstract

An analysis of 4 yr of Rapid Update Cycle-2 (RUC-2) derived soundings in proximity to radar-observed supercells and nonsupercells is conducted in an effort to answer two questions: 1) over what depth is the fixed-layer bulk wind differential (BWD; the vector difference between the wind velocity at a given level and the wind velocity at the surface) the best discriminator between supercell and nonsupercell environments and 2) does the upper-tropospheric storm-relative flow (UTSRF) discriminate between the environments of supercells and nonsupercells? Previous climatologies of sounding-based supercell forecast parameters have documented the ability of the 0–6-km BWD in delineating supercell from nonsupercell environments. However, a systematic examination of a wide range of layers has never been documented. The UTSRF has previously been tested as a parameter for discriminating between supercell and nonsupercell environments and there is some evidence that supercells may be sensitive to the UTSRF. However, this sensitivity may be a consequence of the correlation between UTSRF and the surface to midtropospheric BWD. Accurately assessing the ability of the UTSRF to distinguish between supercell and nonsupercell environments requires controlling for the surface to midtropospheric BWD.

It is shown that the bulk wind differential within the 0–5-km layer delineates best between supercell and nonsupercell environments. Analysis of the UTSRF demonstrates that even when not controlling for the BWD, the UTSRF has limited reliability in forecasting supercells. The lack of merit in using the UTSRF to forecast supercells is particularly evident when it is isolated from the BWD. Because the UTSRF and BWD are not independent, controlling for the BWD when examining the UTSRF reveals that the UTSRF is not a fundamental parameter that can be used to distinguish supercell from nonsupercell environments. Therefore, this work demonstrates that the UTSRF is an unreliable metric for forecasting supercell events.

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