Comparison of mobile-radar measurements of tornado intensity with corresponding WSR-88d measurements

M. Toth, R. J. Trapp, J. Wurman, K. A. Kosiba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the United States, visual observations of tornadoes and/or the existence of tornado damage currently provide the sole evidence of tornadogenesis in association with a mesocyclone or other radar-detected stormscale vortex. The severity of the tornado damage is currently the only means of estimating the intensity of tornadoes, radar detected or otherwise. The limitations of the damage-based record of tornado occurrence and intensity are well known and motivated this research. Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR- 88D) measurements of the translating tornadic flow were compared with (semi-) coordinated measurements obtained near the surface with mobile radar. On the basis of a small yet fairly broad sample of tornadoes, high linear correlation was found between the vortex intensity (rotation plus translation) quantified using WSR- 88D data and that quantified using Doppler on Wheels data. The possible effects of Doppler radar sampling on these results were explored through experiments with a simple vortex model. These experiments argued that the likelihood is high that a tornado would be sampled in a favorable way during at least one radar scan. Hence, the suggestion from this work is that WSR-88Ds (or similar operational radars) can potentially be used in isolation to estimate low-level tornado intensity. The proposed estimation is by way of a linear regression model, and application of this model is relevant only once a tornado is already confirmed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-426
Number of pages9
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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