Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



© 2015 American Meteorological Society

DOI: 10.1175/JAMC-D-15-0077.1


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 ZHH and lower values of copolar cross-correlation coefficient rhv. Although values of these variables often fluctuate through reported tornado life cycles, ZHH repeatably decreases and rhv 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 ZHH 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 ZHH values of 30–35 dBZ, phv values of 0.60–0.80, and values of differential reflectivity ZDR that are repeatably near 0 dB.