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Satellite-Observed Cloud-Top Height Changes in Tornadic Thunderstorms

Robert F. AdlerLaboratory for Atmospheric Sciences, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771

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Douglas D. FennGE/MAISCO, Beltsville, MD 20705

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Abstract

Short-interval geosynchronous infrared satellite data are used to examine 11 cases of tornadic thunder-storms with respect to cloud-top temperature (height) variations relative to tornado touchdown times, and in three cases relative to the initial observation of mesocyclones by Doppler radar. The scale of the updrafts observable with the satellite infrared data is ∼10 km. The cases are limited to those with relatively intense tornadoes. In 8 of the A 1 cases there is a period of rapid cloud-top ascent 30–45 min prior to tornado touchdown. This upward growth appears to be associated with the formation of the mesocyclone. This ascent is followed by a period of no growth or even a drop in cloud-top height preceding, or at the time of, tornado touchdown. In the three remaining cases cloud-top ascent is evident in the satellite data at tornado touchdown.

Abstract

Short-interval geosynchronous infrared satellite data are used to examine 11 cases of tornadic thunder-storms with respect to cloud-top temperature (height) variations relative to tornado touchdown times, and in three cases relative to the initial observation of mesocyclones by Doppler radar. The scale of the updrafts observable with the satellite infrared data is ∼10 km. The cases are limited to those with relatively intense tornadoes. In 8 of the A 1 cases there is a period of rapid cloud-top ascent 30–45 min prior to tornado touchdown. This upward growth appears to be associated with the formation of the mesocyclone. This ascent is followed by a period of no growth or even a drop in cloud-top height preceding, or at the time of, tornado touchdown. In the three remaining cases cloud-top ascent is evident in the satellite data at tornado touchdown.

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