Forensic meteorological investigation of hail occurrence in Clermont, FL, on 3/24/2013 and during the period 4/1/2015 7/3/2015.

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1 Forensic meteorological investigation of hail occurrence in Clermont, FL, on 3/24/2013 and during the period 4/1/2015 7/3/2015. PREPARED ON: 6 8 November 2015 PREPARED FOR: Mr. Tom Smith, Field Claims Adjuster AFFILIATION: Florida Regional Insurance Company PREPARED BY: Megan Walker-Radtke, CCM INCIDENT DATES: 3/24/2013, 4/1/2015 7/3/2015 INCIDENT LOCATION: 8538 Chessington Street Clermont, FL N, W SUMMARY: At the request of Florida Regional Insurance Company, Blue Skies Meteorological Services performed a forensic meteorological investigation to identify potential hail events on 3/24/2013 and during the period 4/1/2015 7/3/2015 at the above-mentioned incident location ( policy address ) in Clermont, FL. Through the assessment of National Weather Service (NWS) hail reports, NEXRAD hail index data, NWS bulletins (significant and severe weather advisories), and NEXRAD radar reflectivity and dual-polarization radar data, Blue Skies Meteorological Services identified 4 potential hail events near the policy address. In each of these 4 events, radar indicated hail larger than one-inch diameter aloft in the near vicinity of the policy address. CONCLUSIONS: Hail was likely at the policy address on two dates during the period of interest and was possible on one additional date. 3/24/13: hail likely, with maximum hail size estimated at diameter 6/1/15: isolated hailstones possible given proximity to storm producing 1.75 diameter hail 7/3/15: hail likely, with maximum hail size estimated at 1.0 diameter Blue Skies Meteorological Services 3520 NW 7 th Ave Gainesville, FL

2 DATA The use of high-quality, reliable data is crucial to ensure the accuracy of forensic meteorological analyses. In the performance of our meteorological investigations and in accordance with industry best practices, Blue Skies Meteorological Services utilizes only quality-controlled data from trusted, official sources that specialize in the collection, quality control, and analysis of meteorological, climatological, and hydrological data for research and operational purposes. Much of the data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that was obtained and reviewed for this report can be certified by the Department of Commerce, if necessary. The following data were reviewed and analyzed during this forensic meteorological investigation. The conclusions drawn in this report are based upon the data that were available at the time of report preparation. Any new, updated, or revised data relevant to these incidents may be incorporated in a later revision of this report. Storm Event Reports Sources: 1. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): National Climatic Data Center (NCDC): Storm Events Database 2. National Weather Service, Storm Prediction Center: Preliminary Storm Reports Products: 1. Hail event reports for Lake and Orange counties, 2013 and 4/2015 6/ Preliminary storm event reports from the SPC for Lake and Orange counties, 7/1/2015 7/3/2015 Radar Sources: 1. Source: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): National Climatic Data Center (NCDC): Radar Data 2. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): National Climatic Data Center: National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS): Severe Weather Data Inventory Products: 1. KMLB Melbourne, FL: Level II and Level III radar products 2. NEXRAD Hail Index Overlay (HI) centered on the policy address with a radius of approximately 5 miles Weather Advisories and Warning Statements 3. Source: National Weather Service: Archived NWS Bulletins and Text Products 4. Products: Severe weather warnings and significant weather statements (WUUS5, WWUS3, WWUS5, WWUS6, and WWUS8) for NWS Forecast Office MLB Blue Skies Meteorological Services 2

3 METHODOLOGY Hail Event Identification: 1. An initial list of possible hail events near the policy address was first developed from the NEXRAD Level III Hail Index Overlay product. This product identifies storm cells that are capable of producing hail aloft based on an automated (algorithm) analysis of radar data. The Hail Index Overlay (HI) does not provide information about whether hail is actually reaching the ground, however; it identifies only whether hail is possibly being produced aloft. The Hail Index Overlay product was examined for the period 1 April 3 July 2015, centered over the policy address with a radius of approximately 5 miles. Only events for which the Hail Index indicated a high probability of hail aloft and a maximum hail size of 0.5 diameter or greater in the immediate vicinity of the policy address were included. Five events met this inclusion criterion with maximum hail size estimates of 0.5 diameter to 3.5 diameter (Table 2). Note: Significant damage to property typically does not occur for hail smaller than 1 diameter ( and all hail will experience melting as it falls below the freezing level toward the ground. The Hail Index therefore represents an estimate of the maximum size of hail aloft within the storm. It is quite common for strong storms that form in a warm atmosphere (high freezing level) to produce hail aloft, but for little or no hail to reach the ground due to melting. Small hail melts significantly faster than large hail. 2. A preliminary analysis of radar reflectivity was performed to determine whether the cores of the five storms identified in (1) directly impacted the policy address. Of those five storms, two did not directly impact the policy address, leaving three dates/events of interest during 2015 plus the storm known to have produced hail in the general vicinity of the policy address on 3/24/2013. These four events were subjected to further analysis. 3. The list of four storms that directly impacted the policy address from (2) was crosschecked against National Weather Service storm event reports for hail that occurred during 2013 and 2015 in Lake and Orange counties. These reports include the size and location of hail reported on the ground. The presence of a hail report relatively near the policy address would indicate that the atmosphere on the date in question was conducive to the formation of hail large enough to reach the ground before melting. Likewise, a hail report associated with the same storm cell that impacted the policy address would indicate that that particular storm, during at least one point in its evolution, was capable of producing hail. (It should be noted, however, that the absence of an official hail report does not necessarily imply that hail did not occur. An observer must be present to initiate a severe weather report. If no observer is present, a report will not be generated, even if severe weather is occurring.) Hail reports are listed in Table 1. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 3

4 4. NWS bulletins (severe weather warnings and significant weather advisories) were reviewed to determine whether any of the four storm events identified in (2) were also identified by the NWS forecast office in Melbourne, FL, as capable of producing damaging hail. 5. Finally, a full analysis of dual-polarization radar data was performed for the four storm events identified in (4) to determine whether hail likely impacted policy address during the passage of those storms. 6. The results of (1) through (5) were synthesized to produce Table 2 - a summary of all storm events that were examined for this report. BACKGROUND/REFERENCE For detailed information about radar operations, interpretation, and hail detection, please consult Appendix A: Background and Reference Material at the end of this report. This information is intended to provide necessary context for the radar analyses performed by Blue Skies Meteorological Services for this forensic meteorological report. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 4

5 HAIL REPORTS Hail was reported in Lake and Orange counties on four dates during the period of interest (Table 1). On three of these dates (3/24/13, 6/1/15, and 7/3/15), the same storm that produced the hail also impacted the policy address Chessington St. Figure 1: Location and date of National Weather Service hail reports in Lake and Orange counties for the period 3/24/2013 and 4/1/2015 7/3/2015 (orange circles). The policy address is indicated by a red star. Table 1: Hail event reports for Lake and Orange Counties on 3/24/13 and from 4/1/15 7/3/15. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 5

6 NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BULLETINS The NWS issues severe weather warnings and significant weather advisories based on both radar data as well as storm spotter reports. When issuing a warning or advisory for hail, NWS meteorologists analyze radar reflectivity as well as dual-polarization radar products that can be used to distinguish very heavy rain from hail aloft. They also take into consideration storm structure and the environment in which the storm has formed to estimate the amount of melting that hail will likely experience as it falls to the ground. Warnings and advisories often provide explicit information about the largest hailstones that can be expected on the ground with a given storm. Thunderstorms typically produce a variety of hail sizes, though, and not all locations impacted by a storm will experience the largest hail. Locations outside or on the outskirts of the storm s core may not experience any hail at all. Severe weather warnings and advisories are issued for an entire storm and contain general information about the storm s location and movement, focusing on populated areas in the path of the storm. Radar data must be used to pinpoint the exact track of the storm, to locate areas of hail within the storm, and to identify pulses in storm strength and hail size; however, NWS bulletins provide generally reliable estimates of the largest hail possible beneath the core of the storm. Table 2 includes information about NWS warnings and advisories associated with the four storms that affected the policy address on 3/24/2013 and from 4/1/2015 7/3/2015. This table also synthesizes reported hail events and a narrative summary of the radar analysis for each event. DUAL-POLARIZATION RADAR ANALYSIS: Dual-polarization radar reflectivity data were analyzed for each of the four intense thunderstorm events that impacted the policy address during the period of interest (Table 2). In general, when examining dual-polarization radar data for indications of hail, one is looking for a location at which radar reflectivity is maximized and at which correlation coefficient (CC), differential reflectivity (ZDR), and specific differential phase (KDP) are simultaneously minimized. (See Appendix for more information about the use of dualpolarization radar to detect the presence and estimate the size of hail aloft.) The nearest radar to the policy location (Melbourne, FL KMLB) is approximately 73 miles away. At that distance, the radar beam at its lowest elevation angle (tilt) is approximately 7,000 feet above ground level. This is the lowest altitude at which the radar can sample the storm and see hail. In the warm Florida atmosphere, hail typically continues to melt as it falls below that level and toward the ground. Direct comparison of radar data during a known hail event on the same date (same atmospheric profile/conditions) allows one to account for melting and enables a more constrained, accurate estimate of hail size on the Blue Skies Meteorological Services 6

7 ground. Fortunately, hail was reported in association with three of the four storms that impacted the policy address, permitting this type of comparison. 24 March 2013 During the early afternoon of March 24, 2013, a severe thunderstorm began impacting the policy address, moving from west to east. Reflectivity values at the lowest tilt (0.5 ) in the core of the storm ranged from dbz as it traversed the policy address. Correlation coefficient (CC) values in the core were depressed, ranging from at 2:16 pm, just prior to the core impacting the policy address. The radar hail signature of the storm weakened as it passed over the policy address, with CC values rising above 0.95 throughout the core by 2:20 pm. Quarter size (1 diameter) hail was reported in Lake Louisa State Park as this storm passed. Correlation coefficient values were slightly lower (approximately 0.90) over Lake Louisa than over the policy address at 2:16 pm, indicating the potential for slightly larger hail. Differential reflectivity (ZDR) was not significantly depressed within the storm s core as it impacted the policy address and Lake Louisa State Park, with ZDR ranging from db in the areas with reduced CC. These ZDR values indicate that any hail that was falling was likely water-coated/partially melted. This storm was likely producing small to moderately large hail as it traversed the policy address. Maximum hail size is estimated at penny to quarter size ( diameter), based on dual-polarization radar analysis and the size of hail reported with the passage of this storm over Lake Louisa State Park. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 7

8 Figure 2: Radar reflectivity at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 2:16 pm EDT on 24 March The region in which hail is indicated aloft is encircled in black. Figure 3: Correlation coefficient (CC) at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 2:16 pm EDT on 24 March The region in which hail is indicated aloft is encircled in black. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 8

9 Figure 4: Differential reflectivity (ZDR) at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 2:16 pm EDT on 24 March The region in which hail is indicated aloft is encircled in black. 20 April 2015 On 20 April 2015, a small but intense thunderstorm approached the policy address from the west, with a compact hail core indicated by radar. However, as the storm neared the policy address, it weakened substantially, and hail was not indicated aloft as the storm passed over the policy address. No hail was reported with this storm or on this date with any other storms. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 9

10 Figure 5: Radar reflectivity at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 3:26 pm EDT. Hail is not indicated aloft near the policy address. Figure 6: Correlation coefficient (CC) at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 3:26 pm EDT. Hail is not indicated aloft near the policy address. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 10

11 Figure 7: Differential reflectivity (ZDR) at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 3:26 pm EDT. Hail is not indicated aloft near the policy address. 1 June 2015 On 1 June 2015, a slow-moving storm with large hail indicated aloft formed northeast of the policy address and drifted slowly southward. Golf ball size hail was reported in Oakland, 5.5 miles northeast of the policy address, as the storm passed over that location. The hail core of the storm, with correlation coefficient values below 0.90, differential reflectivity below 0 db, and an evident three-body-scatter-spike (TBSS) in CC, appears to have remained just north and east of the policy address. However, at 5:46 pm EDT, a range bin less than a half mile from the policy address registered reflectivity of 61 dbz, CC of , and ZDR below 1.5 db, indicative of large hail. Due to this proximity of the hail core, hail at the policy address cannot be ruled out, although any hail that did fall would likely have been isolated and smaller than that which impacted Oakland. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 11

12 Figure 8: Radar reflectivity at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 5:46 pm EDT on 1 June The region in which hail is indicated aloft is encircled in black. Figure 9: Correlation coefficient (CC) at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 5:46 pm EDT on 1 June The region in which hail is indicated aloft is encircled in black. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 12

13 Figure 10: Differential reflectivity (ZDR) at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 5:46 pm EDT on 1 June The region in which hail is indicated aloft is encircled in black. 3 July 2015 On 3 July 2015, two storm cells collided, merged, and intensified over the policy address. Radar indicates hail over that location from 7:23 7:28 pm EDT. Correlation coefficient values at 7:23 pm over the policy address were , while reflectivity values remained above 60 dbz. By 7:28 pm, radar indicators of hail had weakened, with CC values rising above 0.95 and reflectivity values ranging from dbz. Quarter size (1 diameter) hail was reported approximately 2 miles east-northeast of Lake Louisa (1.5 miles south of the policy address) in association with this storm. Comparison of dual-polarization radar variables at the policy address to those over the location where hail was reported indicate that similarly-sized hail likely fell at the policy address during this storm. Based on this information, maximum hail size at the policy address is estimated at quarter size (1 diameter). Blue Skies Meteorological Services 13

14 Figure 11: Radar reflectivity at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 7:23 pm EDT on 3 July The region in which hail is indicated aloft is encircled in black. Figure 12: Correlation coefficient (CC) at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 7:23 pm EDT on 3 July The region in which hail is indicated aloft is encircled in black. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 14

15 Figure 13: Differential reflectivity (ZDR) at lowest tilt (0.5 ) at 7:23 pm EDT on 3 July The region in which hail is indicated aloft is encircled in black. SUMMARY: Regarding Table 2: Date and time information for each storm event are noted in the first two panels on the left. The Hail Reports panel (3 rd from left) provides information about the size and location of hail reported within Lake and Orange counties on the days the policy address was impacted by storms of interest (more detailed hail report information is found in Table 1). The NWS Bulletin panel (2 nd from right) identifies severe weather warnings issued for storms that directly or nearly impacted the policy address. And finally, the Comments panel (far right) provides a narrative summary of the results of the radar analysis. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 15

16 Table 2: Compiled data for the 4 intense storms that impacted the policy address on 3/24/13 and from 4/1/15 7/3/15. Key: Orange = claimed loss date, Gray = hail unlikely at the policy address. CONCLUSIONS Hail was likely at the policy address on two dates during the period of interest and was possible on one additional date. On 24 March 2013, a severe thunderstorm that produced quarter size hail at Lake Louisa State Park also traversed the policy address. Radar indicates that the storm produced similar to slightly smaller hail at the policy address. Maximum hail size at 8538 Chessington St. is estimated at penny to quarter size ( diameter). On 3 July 2015, a severe thunderstorm that produced quarter size hail 1.5 miles south of the policy address also impacted 8538 Chessington St. Radar indicates that the storm produced similarly sized hail at the policy address. Maximum hail size at the policy address is estimated at quarter size (1 diameter). Blue Skies Meteorological Services 16

17 On 1 June 2015, the core of a very intense severe thunderstorm that produced golf ball sized hail over Oakland passed within a half mile of the policy address. Although radar indicates that the hail core remained just northeast of the policy address, due to proximity, isolated hailstones cannot be ruled out at the policy address. Any hail that did fall would likely have been smaller that what impacted Oakland. Blue Skies Meteorological Services 17

18 Note: At Blue Skies Meteorological Services, we specialize in providing our forensic meteorology clients with reports that are both rigorous and accessible to non-experts. To that end, we have developed extensive educational background and reference material that we include, as applicable, in each report. This material explains in clear language and with accompanying graphics the tools and methodologies used in our meteorological analyses and investigations. Due to the proprietary nature of this material, we have removed it from our online samples. If you would like to see the full version of this sample report, please contact Blue Skies Meteorological Services at Thank you for your understanding. APPENDIX A: Background and Reference Material Radar Basics: Overview Radar Beam Characteristics and Resolution Measuring Reflectivity Rainfall Rates and Reflectivity Measuring Velocity Radar Limitations Limitation Mitigation and Radar Estimate Verification Dual-Polarization Radar: Dual-polarization radar variables and interpretation Hail Detection: Blue Skies Meteorological Services 18

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