Tornado Warning Decisions Using Phased Array Radar Data

Weather and Forecasting: Early Online Release

Tornado Warning Decisions Using Phased Array Radar Data

Authors:  Pamela Heinselman, Daphne LaDue, Darrel M. Kingfield, and Robert Hoffman

The 2012 Phased Array Radar Innovative Sensing Experiment identified how rapidly scanned full-volumetric data captured known mesoscale processes and impacted tornado-warning lead time. Twelve forecasters from nine National Weather Service forecast offices used this rapid-scan phased array radar (PAR) data to issue tornado warnings on two low-end tornadic and two nontornadic supercell cases. Verification of the tornadic cases revealed that forecasters’ use of PAR data provided a median tornado-warning lead time (TLT) of 20 min.  Precursors that triggered forecasters’ decisions to warn occurred within one or two typical WSR-88D scans, indicating PAR’s temporal sampling better matches the time-scale at which these precursors evolve.

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Phased array radar Spring 2012 projects

The NOAA National Weather Radar Testbed Multi-function Phased Array Radar will support three experiments with data collection during the spring of 2012 as part of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) Phased Array Radar Innovative Sensing Experiment (PARISE).

The Severe Weather Outbreak Study is a NOAA NSSL program to determine the importance of rapid and adaptive scanning from MPAR in the depiction and understanding of weather events with potential for significant societal impacts. The research field phase is from April 14 – June 15 2012 over the MPAR domain (defined as significant weather sampled within 120 km of MPAR).   The main focus of this study to sample rare significant events such as tornado outbreaks.

NSSL will partner with MIT/Lincoln Labs and the FAA on the Multi-function Phased Array Radar’s (MPAR) Wind-Shear Detection Capability Assessment Experiment from April 16 – June 15, 2012.  Low-altitude wind shear is a deadly threat to aircraft during landing and takeoff and its accurate and timely detection near airports is critical.  Microbursts, in particular, are fairly small and evolve rapidly.  There are 45 Terminal Doppler Weather Radars (TDWR) currently serving U.S. airports. MPAR’s have the potential to replace TDWRs at the end of their life cycle, provided they can effectively detect wind shear.  Researchers will compare radar data from the Oklahoma City TDWR with data from the NOAA MPAR.

The Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry (DC3) experiment will explore the role of the thunderstorm updrafts in carrying electrically charged particles, water vapor and other chemicals to the upper parts of our atmosphere.  Scientists from more than two dozen organizations will use research aircraft, mobile radars, lightning mapping arrays and other tools to make measurements that will help scientists understand more about the electrical and chemical structure of thunderstorms, including the concentration of ozone.  DC3 will focus on Alabama, Colorado and Oklahoma, but when thunderstorms are within 120 km of the Multi-function Phased Array Radar in central Oklahoma, teams will coordinate data collection. The project runs from May 15 –  June 30, 2012 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA.

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NSSL/CIMMS team wins prestigious award for phased-array radar research paper

NSSL’s Dr. Pamela Heinselman, along with NSSL/Cooperative Institute of Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, David Priegnitz, Kevin Manross, Travis Smith and Richard Adams are the winners of the twenty-second Professor Dr. Vilho Vaisala Award for an Outstanding Research Paper.  The award recognized “Rapid Sampling of Severe Storms by the National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar,” published in the American Meteorological Society Weather and Forecasting journal, Vol. 23 in 2008.

The paper can be found here:

This same paper was selected as a 2009 Outstanding Scientific Paper Award from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

The winning paper describes a study that demonstrated the National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar’s capability for adaptable, high temporal resolution scanning of quickly developing features in deep convective storms.

The purpose of the prestigious Professor Dr. Vilho Vaisala Award is to encourage and stimulate interest in research in the field of instruments and methods of observation in support of WMO Programs.  The award was established in 1985, and is granted on a biennial basis.

Heinselman presented the research during the World Meteorological Organization Technical Conference on Meteorological and Environmental Instruments and Methods of Observation in Helsinki, Finland at the beginning of September.  Heinselman, along with Adams and Priegnitz were on hand to receive a diploma and a medal on behalf of the team.

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