Precursors to Southwest Florida Warm Season Tornado Development

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Predicting and warning for tornadoes developing near the complex coastline of urban Lee and Charlotte counties in Southwest Florida is often a challenge. The closest National Weather Service Doppler radar is 130-180 km to the northwest. Four warm season tornado days were initially examined from coastal southwest Florida. Those cases showed a number of similarities in the synoptic and mesoscale patterns and processes leading to tornado development. Easterly flow and gulf coast sea breeze development interacted with local topography to create cyclonic mesoscale circulations around 50 km in diameter. These circulations likely lead to more predictable boundary collisions and enhanced convection with strong updrafts capable of supporting brief tornadoes. An additional nineteen case days were gathered by collecting dates of tornadoes in Lee and Charlotte counties and parsed to include only those days with similar vertical wind profiles. To gain more insight into the patterns of various interactions, the cases were composited to show ambient flows and the degree of instability. Thirty warm season tornado events that occurred on 23 different days from 1980-2008 are examined from coastal southwest Florida to identify synoptic and mesoscale environments associated with tornado development. The results of this study should help forecasters identify the profiles conducive to southwest Florida tornado development.

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Electronic Journal of Operational Meteorology, art. EJ12