Close proximity soundings within supercell environments obtained from the rapid update cycle

Richard L. Thompson, Roger Edwards, John A. Hart, Kimberly L. Elmore, Paul Markowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

523 Scopus citations


A sample of 413 soundings in close proximity to tornadic and nontornadic supercells is examined. The soundings were obtained from hourly analyses generated by the 40-km Rapid Update Cycle-2 (RUC-2) analysis and forecast system. A comparison of 149 observed soundings and collocated RUC-2 soundings in regional supercell environments reveals that the RUC-2 model analyses were reasonably accurate through much of the troposphere. The largest error tendencies were in temperatures and mixing ratios near the surface, primarily in 1-h forecast soundings immediately prior to the standard rawinsonde launches around 1200 and 0000 UTC. Overall, the RUC-2 analysis soundings appear to be a reasonable proxy for observed soundings in supercell environments. Thermodynamic and vertical wind shear parameters derived from RUC-2 proximity soundings are evaluated for the following supercell and storm subsets: significantly tornadic supercells (54 soundings), weakly tornadic supercells (144 soundings), nontornadic supercells (215 soundings), and discrete nonsupercell storms (75 soundings). Findings presented herein are then compared to results from previous and ongoing proximity soundings studies. Most significantly, proximity soundings presented here reinforce the findings of previous studies in that vertical shear and moisture within 1 km of the ground can discriminate between nontornadic supercells and supercells producing tornadoes with F2 or greater damage. Parameters that combine measures of buoyancy, vertical shear, and low-level moisture show the strongest ability to discriminate between supercell classes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1243-1261
Number of pages19
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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