Evaluation of WRF Forecasts of Tornadic and Nontornadic Outbreaks when Initialized with Synoptic-Scale Input
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Uncertainty exists concerning the links between synoptic-scale processes and tornado outbreaks. With continuously improving computer technology, a large number of high-resolution model simulations can be conducted to study these outbreaks to the storm scale, to determine the degree to which synoptic-scale processes appear to influence the occurrence of tornado outbreaks, and to determine how far in advance these processes are important. To this end, 50 tornado outbreak simulations are compared with 50 primarily nontornadic outbreak simulations initialized with synoptic-scale input using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) mesoscale model to determine if the model is able to distinguish the outbreak type 1, 2, and 3 days in advance of the event. The model simulations cannot resolve tornadoes explicitly; thus, the use of meteorological covariates (in the form of numerous severe-weather parameters) is necessary to determine whether or not the model is predicting a tornado outbreak. Results indicate that, using the covariates, the WRF model can discriminate outbreak type consistently at least up to 3 days in advance. The severe-weather parameters that are most helpful in discriminating between outbreak types include low-level and deep-layer shear variables and the lifting condensation level. An analysis of the spatial structures and temporal evolution, as well as the magnitudes, of the severe-weather parameters is critical to diagnose the outbreak type correctly. Thermodynamic instability parameters are not helpful in distinguishing the outbreak type, primarily because of a strong seasonal dependence and convective modification in the simulations.
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