Polarimetric signatures in supercell thunderstorms

Matthew R. Kumjian, Alexander V. Ryzhkov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

286 Scopus citations


Data from polarimetric radars offer remarkable insight into the microphysics of convective storms. Numerous tornadic and nontornadic supercell thunderstorms have been observed by the research polarimetric Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) in Norman, Oklahoma (KOUN); additional storm data come from the Enterprise Electronics Corporation "Sidpol" C-band polarimetric radar in Enterprise, Alabama, as well as the King City C-band polarimetric radar in Ontario, Canada. A number of distinctive polarimetric signatures are repeatedly found in each of these storms. The forward-flank down-draft (FED) is characterized by a signature of hail observed as near-zero ZDR and high ZHH. In addition, a shallow region of very high ZDR is found consistently on the southern edge of the FED, called the ZDR "arc." The ZDR and KDP columns and midlevel "rings" of enhanced ZDR and depressed ρHV are usually observed in the vicinity of the main rotating updraft and in the rear-flank downdraft (RFD). Tornado touchdown is associated with a well-pronounced polarimetric debris signature. Similar polarimetric features in supercell thunderstorms have been reported in other studies. The data considered here are taken from both S- and C-band radars from different geographic locations and during different seasons. The consistent presence of these features may be indicative of fundamental processes intrinsic to supercell storms. Hypotheses on the origins, as well as microphysical and dynamical interpretations of these signatures, are presented. Implications about storm morphology for operational applications are suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1940-1961
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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