Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Polarimetric Radar Metrics Related to Tornado Life Cycles and Intensity in Supercell Storms

Matthew S. Van Den Broeke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Document Type Article

© 2017 American Meteorological Society.

DOI: 10.1175/MWR-D-16-0453.1


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 ZDR columns, ZDR arcs, polarimetrically inferred hailfall regions, and mean value of copolar correlation coefficient phv 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.