Using high-resolution simulations to quantify errors in radar estimates of tornado intensity

Nathan A. Dahl, David S. Nolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Observation experiments are performed on a set of high-resolution large-eddy simulations of translating tornado-like vortices. Near-surface Doppler wind measurements are taken by emulating a mobile radar positioned from 1 to 10 km south of each vortex track and conducting single-level scans every 2 s. The departure of each observed gust (wind measurement averaged over two successive scans) from the corresponding true maximum 3-s gust at 10 m AGL ("S10-3s") is partitioned into error sources associated with resolution volume size, wind direction relative to the radar beam, beam elevation, and temporal sampling. The distributions of each error type are diagrammed as functions of range, observed wind speed, and predicted deviation between the wind direction and the radar beam. The results indicate that the deviation between the wind direction and the radar beam is the predominant source of error in these rapid scan scenarios, although range is also a substantial factor. The median total error is ~10% for small deviation at close range, but it approximately doubles if the range is increased from 1 to 10 km; a more pronounced increase in both the median value and the variance of the total error is seen as the deviation becomes large. Because of this, the underestimate of the global maximum S10-3s approaches 30-40 m s-1 at a longer range, although the global maximum of the time-averaged observed wind speed gives a reasonable approximation of the time-mean maximum S10-3s in many cases. Because of simplifying assumptions and the limited number of cases examined, these results are intended as a baseline for further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2271-2296
Number of pages26
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Data processing
  • Large eddy simulations
  • Radars/Radar observations
  • Tornadoes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Using high-resolution simulations to quantify errors in radar estimates of tornado intensity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this