Quantification of QLCS Tornadogenesis, Associated Characteristics, and Environments across a Large Sample

James S. Goodnight, Devin A. Chehak, Robert J. Trapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The skillful anticipation of tornadoes produced by quasi-linear convective systems (QLCSs) is a well-known forecasting challenge. This study was motivated by the possibility that warning accuracy of QLCS tornadoes depends on the processes leading to tornadogenesis, namely, one that is dominated by an apparent release of horizontal shearing instability [shearing instability dominant (SID)] and one by a pre-tornadic mesocyclone [pre-tornadic mesocyclone dominant (PMD)] and its associated generative mechanisms. The manual classification of the genesis of 530 QLCS tornadoes as either SID or PMD was performed using heuristic, yet process-driven criteria based on single-Doppler radar (WSR-88D) data. This included 214, 213, and 103 tornadoes that occurred during 2019, 2017, and 2016, respectively. As a function of tornadogenesis process, 36% were classified as SID, and 60% were classified as PMD; the remaining 4% could not be clas-sified. Approximately 30% of the SID cases were operationally warned prior to tornadogenesis, compared to 44% of the PMD cases. PMD tornadoes were also more common during the warm season and displayed a diurnal, midafternoon peak in frequency. Finally, SID cases were more likely to be associated with QLCS tornado outbreaks but tended to be slightly shorter lived. A complementary effort to investigate environmental characteristics of QLCS tornadogenesis revealed dif-ferences between SID and PMD cases. MLCAPE was relatively larger for warm-season SID cases, and 0–3-km SRH was relatively larger in warm-season PMD cases. Additionally, pre-tornadic frontogenesis was more prominent for cool-season SID cases, suggestive of a more significant role of the larger-scale meteorological forcing in vertical vorticity that fosters tornadogenesis through SID processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2087-2105
Number of pages19
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Mesoscale forecasting
  • Radars/Radar observations
  • Tornadoes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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