Using a Low-Order Model to Detect and Characterize Tornadoes in Multiple-Doppler Radar Data

Potvin, Corey K.; Shapiro, Alan; Tian-You Yu; Jidong Gao; Ming Xue
April 2009
Monthly Weather Review;Apr2009, Vol. 137 Issue 4, p1230
Academic Journal
A new multiple-Doppler radar analysis technique is presented for the objective detection and characterization of tornado-like vortices. The technique consists of fitting radial wind data from two or more radars to a simple analytical model of a vortex and its near-environment. The model combines a uniform flow, linear shear flow, linear divergence flow (all of which compose a broadscale flow), and a modified combined Rankine vortex (representing the tornado). The vortex and its environment are allowed to translate. The parameters in the low-order model are determined by minimizing a cost function that accounts for the discrepancy between the model and observed radial winds. Since vortex translation is taken into account, the cost function can be evaluated over time as well as space, and thus the observations can be used at the actual times and locations where they were acquired. The technique is first tested using analytically simulated observations whose wind field and error characteristics are systematically varied. An Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS) high-resolution numerical simulation of a supercell and associated tornado is then used to emulate an observation dataset. The method is tested with two virtual radars for several radar-sampling strategies. Finally, the technique is applied to a dataset of real dual-Doppler observations of a tornado that struck central Oklahoma on 8 May 2003. The method shows skill in retrieving the tornado path and radar-grid-scale features of the horizontal wind field in the vicinity of the tornado. The best results are obtained using a two-step procedure in which the broadscale flow is retrieved first.


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