A reassessment of the percentage of tornadic mesocyclones

Robert J. Trapp, Gregory J. Stumpf, Kevin L. Manross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A large set of data collected by numerous Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) units around the United States was analyzed to reassess the percentage of tornadic mesocyclones. Out of the 5322 individual mesocyclone detections that satisfied the relatively stringent WSR-88D Mesocyclone Detection Algorithm objective criteria, only 26% were associated with tornadoes. In terms of height or altitude of mesocyclone base, 15% of midaltitude mesocyclone detections were tornadic, and more than 40% of low-altitude mesocyclone detections (e.g., those with bases ≤ 1000 m above radar level) were tornadic. These results confirm that a low-altitude mesocyclone is much more likely to be associated with a tornado than is a midaltitude mesocyclone, and more generally, that the percentage of tornadic mesocyclones is indeed lower than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)680-687
Number of pages8
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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