U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Weather and Forecasting (February 2019) 34: 151-164. DOI: 10.1175/WAF-D-18-0108.1.


U. S. government work.


Probabilistic ensemble-derived tornado forecasts generated from convection-allowing models often use hourly maximum updraft helicity (UH) alone or in combination with environmental parameters as a proxy for right-moving (RM) supercells. However, when UH occurrence is a condition for tornado probability generation, false alarm areas can occur from UH swaths associated with nocturnal mesoscale convective systems, which climatologically produce fewer tornadoes than RM supercells. This study incorporates UH timing information with the forecast near-storm significant tornado parameter (STP) to calibrate the forecast tornado probability. To generate the probabilistic forecasts, three sets of observed climatological tornado frequencies given an RM supercell and STP value are incorporated with the model output, two of which use UH timing information. One method uses the observed climatological tornado frequency for a given 3-h window to generate the probabilities. Another normalizes the observed climatological tornado frequency by thenumberofhail,wind,andtornadoreportsobservedinthat3-hwindowcomparedtothemaximumnumber of reports in any 3-h window. The final method is independent of when UH occurs and uses the observed climatological tornado frequency encompassing all hours. The normalized probabilities reduce the false alarm area compared to the other methodsbut havea smaller area under the ROC curveandrequirea much higher percentile of the STP distribution to be used in probability generation to become reliable. Case studies demonstrate that the normalized probabilities highlight the most likely area for evening RM supercellular tornadoes, decreasing the nocturnal false alarm by assuming a linear convective mode.