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AdvancedSevereWeather SpotterCourse 2013

NationalWeatherService Wakefield,VA

TheNationalWeatherService(NWS)providesweather, hydrologic,andclimateforecastsandwarningsforthe UnitedStates,itsterritories,adjacentwatersandocean areas,fortheprotectionoflifeandproperty andthe enhancementofthenationaleconomy. NWSdataandproductsformanationalinformation databaseandinfrastructurewhichcanbeusedbyother governmentalagencies,theprivatesector,thepublic, andtheglobalcommunity.

ReviewofWhattoReport ReviewofBasicWeather(TheBIGPicture) SevereWeatherIngredients RadarBasicOperations&DualPolarizationRadar RadarSignatures Break SevereWeatherSignaturesandStormIntensity UnderstandingRotationandShear

A Review of What to Report

What Info Are We Looking For?

1)WhatHappened?TypeandMagnitudeoftheEvent 2)Whendidithappen?...Also,eventduration. 3).Wheredidithappen?LocationReferencedto City/Town,PortionofCounty,MajorIntersection a)Lat/LoninfoisGREAT...butnotneeded.

How can we make these bad statements better ?? think of some examples

Good & Bad Examples:

1) "Hello, I'm a trained severe weather spotter. At 6:04 p.m., 3 miles northwest of Richmond, I spotted a tornado a few miles to my north, heading northeast. 2) We are having severe lightning here . The wind is really blowing 3) I am a trained spotter and I would like to report mainly nickel size hail but some of the large stones are as big as the size of quartersand it is still hailing 3 miles south of the city of Richmond. 4) It sounds bad outare we under a warning? (WHERE ARE YOU!?!) 5) I would like to report trees and power lines down near the intersection of Wood St. and Blair Ave5 NW of Jackson in Northampton County in NC. 6) It is starting to get dark here!

LimitedVisibilityduetoblockageby trees,hills,buildings,etc. Understandingthebigpictureofwhat isgoingonaroundthem. Mobileaccesstoradardata(improving). Judgingdistancestoweather phenomenagenerallyunderestimate.


Marble hail ambiguousfind another description!!!

Copyright Simon Brewer

Copyright Greg Woods

April 28, 2008 Suffolk,VA

March 5, 2008 Bertie, NC

Feb. 24, 2012 Dorchester, MD

Flood Damage Urban Flooding

Rural Flooding

High Water

LettheNWSknow whatyouobserved,to helpprotectothers!

Forcriticalinformation, likeadevelopingoron goingtornado



Ifyourecloseenoughtohearthethunder,youreclose enoughtobestruckbylightning!

TheBigPicture& Thunderstorm Ingredients

The Big Picture

Low Pressure Systems = counter-clockwise flow, rising motion, and typically the weather makers High Pressure Systems = clockwise flow, sinking motion, and typically tranquil weather

3 Ingredients for T-Storms

Instability Shear Lift


= Heat and Moisture Shear = Increasing Speed & Veering (Clockwise turning) with height (SE S SW) Lift = An upward forcing of air

Sheared environments foster the development of sustained storms

When winds increase strongly and / or change direction with height, updraft (red arrow) is slanted; rain-cooled storm outflow (blue) can then spread down shear away from updraft; The storm therefore avoids tendency to self-destruct

10 km 8 km 6 km 4 km 2 km

2-10 km Shear
(Moller et al. 1994; after Browning and Ludlam, 1962)

Lifting mechanisms
Warm & Cold Fronts large-scale lifting Low Pressure Areas draw air in and lifts it Dry Line dry air undercuts moist air

Thunderstorm Outflow cold air flowing out from a storm undercuts warm air Hills / Mountains

Lift is needed



Fundamental Definitions
What Makes a Thunderstorm Severe ?
Damaging Winds 55-60+ mph Hail at least 1 inch in diameter (Quarter Size) Trees or power lines down, structural damage, etc. from wind or tornado

Severe weather rarely happens without any warning! Forecasts define broader areas of severe weather potential Warnings pinpoint exact timing/location.
BEFORE the Storm, Monitor: Hazardous Weather Outlook

Check the forecast several times daily, to see if you areor will be at risk for severe weather.

Convective Outlooks from the Storm Predictions Center TV and NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio for Watches and Warnings

NWS Wakefield Severe Page

Mouse over ? next to each element for an explanation of that parameter!

Basic Radar Operations

NWS Radar Web Page


NWS Doppler radar images are available on the Internet at: Click on the radar button from AKQs web site:

Radar Products
Base & Composite Reflectivity
Shows Energy returned to radar Higher Reflectivity from heavy rain/ice Composite Reflectivity= highest reflectivity in lowest 4 elevation scans

Base reflectivity

dataforthelowest(0.5degree) elevationslice. Now well see a composite reflectivity image from the same time

Composite Reflectivity
Highest Reflectivity in lowest 4 elevation scans. Higher intensity returns were above the lowest (0.5 degree) base reflectivity slice.

Productthatputsthe DopplerinDoppler Radar OneDimensional Velocity Motion Toward orAway FromRadar MotionTowardthe Radarin GREEN,Away fromtheRadarinRED


Storm Relative Motion - SRM

SRM = Base Velocity MINUS Avg. Storm Motion Useful in finding Mesocyclones /Tornado circulations.

Base Velocity

Storm Relative Motion

Dual Polarization (Dual Pol) Radar

Dual-Pol Radar
AKQ/DOX upgraded in late Winter 2012 Available in GR2Analyst Software Will Assist in Forecast/Warning process with:
Improved Precipitation Estimation Tracking Heavy Rainfall Ability to classify areas of Snow, Rain and Hail Ability to confirm Tornado on the Ground within 60-70 miles of radar (Tornado Debris Signature)

Dual-Pol Radar (Contd)

Non DP Radar
Limited to Horizontal sampling of clouds and precipitation.

Dual Pol Radar

Samples both horizontally/vertically. MUCH better sampling of shape of radar return!

Base Data Terminology

Data Types
Z (Reflectivity), V (Velocity) SW (Spectrum Width)

Dual Pol Base Variables


Example Dual-Pol Image

Dual Polarization Online /outreach/ Online Module by WDTB on each product Courses for media & non-meteorologists available!

Common Radar Signatures

MultipleCellStorms Linear(SquallLine)



Rear Inflow Jet Downdraft


Shelf Cloud

April 3rd 2006 1700z Reflectivity Image

Inflow Notches

Outflow Boundaries

Outflow Boundary Interacts with Sea Breeze Boundary Over SE VA

A. Early Stage

C. Mature Stage B. Developing hook

Tornado Signatures on Radar

Couplets of Opposite Motion Close Together Motion TOWARD the Radar in GREEN/BLUE Motion AWAY FROM the Radar in RED/YELLOW

Line Echo Wave Pattern

Meso Low

Tornadoes From Broken S-Shaped Signatures 6 am 9/23/2003

Wilmington, NC 11/07/1995 2124 - 2159 UTC

Series of Boundaries


Well Resume with Severe Weather Signatures in about 10 minutes!

Severe Weather Signatures

Total Totals (TT) K Index (KI)

A cornucopia of indices *
Convective Inhibition (CIN)* Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) Bulk Vertical Wind Shear* Total Vertical Wind Shear* Storm-Relative Wind*

Showalter Index (SI) Severe Weather Threat (SWEAT) Lifted Index (LI)* CAP Strength (700 mb LI) Lapse Rate (LR)* Relative Humidity (RH)* Lifted Condensation Level (LCL)* Level of Free Convection (LFC)* Equilibrium Level (EL)* Wet Bulb Zero (WBZ) Melting Level (MLT) Warm Cloud Depth (WCD)* Precipitable Water (PW)*

HI = Haines Index* HMI = Hybrid Microburst Index LSI = Lid Strength Index Bulk Richardson Number (BRN)* DCI = Deep Convective Index Bulk Richardson Number Shear (BRNSHR) TQ Index = for low-topped instability

Indices of Indices (Inbreeding)

Energy-Helicity Index (EHI)*

Downdraft CAPE (DCAPE) Vorticity Generation Parameter (VGP)* Storm-Relative Helicity (SRH) Supercell Composite Parameter (SCP)

Normalized CAPE (nCAPE)* Wind Index (WINDEX) Dry Microburst Index (DMI) Theta-E Index (TEI)

Significant Tornado Parameter (STP)* Significant Hail Parameter (SHIP) Significant Severe Parameter (SSP) Strong Tornado Parameter (STP)

Microburst Day Potential Index (MDPI) Wet Microburst Severity Index (WMSI) Mesoscale Convective System Forecast Index (MCS Index) a recent index published in WAF (2007) This list is not nearly

Equivalent Potential Temperature (e)* Moisture Flux Convergence (MFC)*

* Can be calculated over many different layers/levels/parcels


The Result?
Paralysis by analysis!

Types of Thunderstorms
Single Cell
Weak updraft (non-severe or severe)

Multicell Cluster
Moderate updraft (nonsevere or severe) Moderate threat

Multicell Line
Squall Line

Intense updraft (Always severe) Mesocyclone Rotating updraft High threat

Moderate updraft (nonsevere or severe) Moderate threat

Slight threat

Single Cell Storms

May produce brief severe events

Single Cell Storms

Multi-cell Thunderstorms
Ordinary non-organized storms with low severe threat

Each cell lasts

about 20 minutes, but a cluster can last for hours.

Courtesy Alan Switzer

Heavy rain is usually the main problem. However,

strong winds, small hail and weak tornadoes are possible.

Multi-cell Thunderstorms
Ordinary non-organized storms with low severe threat

Multi-cell (Squall) Line

Leading edge of

Squall Line.
What to expect Strong and

possibly damaging wind

Heavy rain/hail Worst is first; then

comes the rain/hail.

Multi-cell Line (Bow Echo)

Supercell Thunderstorm
Contains a rotating

updraft called a mesocyclone

Produce large hail,

high winds, and violent tornadoes hours

Lasts for several

Main Features Overshooting Top


Rotating Updraft

Supercell Thunderstorm
3 Types of Supercells


High Precipitation

Low Precipitation

Main Features
Rear Flank Downdraft


Rain Free Base

Wall Cloud

-Supercell ThunderstormsRear Flank Downdraft (RFD) This indicates an area of downward rushing air and at times just precedes the development of a tornado.

Rear Flank Downdraft

Classic Supercell Thunderstorm Birds-eye View

Shelf Cloud N
Light Rain

Moderate/Heavy Rain & Hail

Gust Front

Storm Motion

Hook echo

Anvil Edge

Hook echo

Supercell Thunderstorm
(top view)
Nautical miles


WSR-88D Radar Image

Rotating wall cloud under rain-free base

HP Supercell
HP Supercell

Light Rain
Looking west

Heavy Rain

Updraft Anvil Edge Top view

Generally, there is not a good spot to view this type of storm since it is wrapped by a rain shield.

HP Supercell

Copyright Jon Davies

HP Supercell

LP Supercell
(Most Common West of the Appalachians)

Light Rain Possible Hail

LP Supercell

Top Down View

N Light Rain

Shelf Cloud

Moderate/Heavy Rain & Hail

Gust Front

Viewing angle

(top view)

Supercell Thunderstorm


Wall Cloud

Rain Free Base

Tail Cloud
Wall Cloud

Storm Intensity Clues

Storm Strength Clues

Flanking Line


Overshooting Top

Wall cloud

Evaluating the Surroundings

A thick, crisp anvil is another sign of a strong updraft

An indication of a rapidly, intensifying storm!

Low Level Storm Clues

Low, flat cloud
base with little visible precipitation falling. On the back side of a potentially tornadic storm.

Understanding Rotation

Understanding Rotation
In order to generate a tornado, a storm needs two basic things 1. Time it must persist for an appreciable time long lived updraft that doesnt get choked by downdraft.

2. Wind shear that translates into vertical rotation.

Updraft Weak Wind Speed Shear

Updraft Strong Wind Speed Shear

Wind Shear
Directional wind shear Speed wind shear


Very little separation

between updraft and downdraft. Downdraft chokes updraft causing storm be short-lived.

Tilted Updraft & downdraft are separated, so they coexist. Therefore, the storm lives longer.

Supercell Structure/RFD

Due to favorable shear, the downdraft does NOT contaminate the updraft!

Secondary downdraft forms at rear of storm called the Rear Flank Downdraft (RFD)

What is a Rear Flank Downdraft (RFD)?

Rear Flank Downdraft

Crucial to tornado development

Downdraft on backside of updraft tower



Wraps around updraft to tighten circulation

(Top view)

Rear Flank Downdraft


Wall Cloud


(Looking northwest)

Rear Flank Downdraft

Photo by Michael Peregrine


Wall Cloud

Rear Flank Downdraft

Signs of Rotation

Spiral bands or striations in the clouds serve as a rotation indicator!

Mesocyclone Development
Rotating updraft within the Rain-Free Cloud Base Present with all Supercells! How does mesocyclone develop and how can it last for 1 hour or more?

Mesocyclone gets it energy from vertical wind shear concentrated in the lowest 10,000 feet of the atmosphere

Wall Cloud time lapse


Supercell Tornado Stages




Funnel Clouds
Rotation aloft

Report Funnel Clouds If funnel extends more than half way to ground, circulation may likely be in contact watch closely!

Funnel Clouds

Photo by Chris Gullickson

Some funnels can form without a Supercell (Cold Air Funnels) No wall cloud - usually weaker Less lead time (if any); WATCH unlikely

Your perspective is the key!

Copyright Chris Gullikson

Copyright Chris Gullikson

This is the same feature, but looking at it from a different perspective.

This was simply low hanging cloud elements attached to the front of the shelf cloud. No rotation was present. ALWAYS look for rotation!

Where you are in relation to the storm?

Looking South (1) Looking Northeast (2)

Looking Northwest (3)


Shelf Cloud

Kiptopeke, VA - 081508

Shelf Cloud


Down and awayTOWARDS US!


What is this feature?

Copyright Mike Umscheid

What is this?


What are these?

Rain Shafts Tornadoes

Wall Clouds Shelf Clouds

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Spotter Hotline: 1-800-737-8624

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