Investigating the Relationship between Polarimetric Radar Signatures of Hydrometeor Size Sorting and Tornadic Potential in Simulated Supercells

Scott D. Loeffler, Matthew R. Kumjian, Paul M. Markowski, Brice E. Coffer, Matthew D. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The national upgrade of the operational weather radar network to include polarimetric capabilities has led to numerous studies focusing on polarimetric radar signatures commonly observed in supercells. One such signature is the horizontal separation of regions of enhanced differential reflectivity (ZDR) and specific differential phase (KDP) values due to hydrometeor size sorting. Recent observational studies have shown that the orientation of this separation tends to be more perpendicular to storm motion in supercells that produce tornadoes. Although this finding has potential operational utility, the physical relationship between this observed radar signature and tornadic potential is not known. This study uses an ensemble of supercell simulations initialized with tornadic and nontornadic environments to investigate this connection. The tendency for tornadic supercells to have a more perpendicular separation orientation was reproduced, although to a lesser degree. This difference in orientation angles was caused by stronger rearward storm-relative flow in the nontornadic supercells, leading to a rearward shift of precipitation and, therefore, the enhanced KDP region within the supercell. Further, this resulted in an unfavorable rearward shift of the negative buoyancy region, which led to an order of magnitude less baroclinic generation of circulation in the nontornadic simulations compared to tornadic simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1863-1884
Number of pages22
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

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