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Mesoscale Convective Vortex Formation in a Weakly Sheared Moist Neutral Environment

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, and Windlogics, Inc., Grand Rapids, Minnesota
  • | 2 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, and Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science (IACETH), ETH-Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • | 3 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, Department of Meteorology, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, and Hurricane Research Division, NOAA/AOML, Miami, Florida
  • | 4 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Idealized simulations of a diabatic Rossby vortex (DRV) in an initially moist neutral baroclinic environment are performed using the fifth-generation National Center for Atmospheric Research–Pennsylvania State University (NCAR–PSU) Mesoscale Model (MM5). The primary objective is to test the hypothesis that the formation and maintenance of midlatitude warm-season mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) are largely influenced by balanced flow dynamics associated with a vortex that interacts with weak vertical shear. As a part of this objective, the simulated DRV is placed within the context of the Bow Echo and Mesoscale Convective Vortex Experiment (BAMEX) field campaign by comparing its tangential velocity, radius of maximum winds, CAPE, and shear with the MCVs observed in BAMEX.

The simulations reveal two distinct scales of development. At the larger scale, the most rapidly growing moist baroclinic mode is excited, and exponential growth of this mode occurs during the simulation. Embedded within the large-scale baroclinic wave is a convective system exhibiting the characteristic DRV development, with a positive potential vorticity (PV) anomaly in the lower troposphere and a negative PV anomaly in the upper troposphere, and the positive/negative PV doublet tilted downshear with height. The DRV warm-air advection mechanism is active, and the resulting deep convection helps to reinforce the DRV against the deleterious effects of environmental shear, causing an eastward motion of the convective system as a whole.

The initial comparisons between the simulated DRVs and the BAMEX MCVs show that the simulated DRVs grew within background conditions of CAPE and shear similar to those observed for BAMEX MCVs and suggest that the same dynamical mechanisms are active. Because the BAMEX field campaign sampled MCVs in different backgrounds of CAPE and shear, the comparison also demonstrates the need to perform additional simulations to explore these different CAPE and shear regimes and to understand their impacts on the intensity and longevity of MCVs. Such a study has the additional benefit of placing MCV dynamics in an appropriate context for exploring their relevance to tropical cyclone formation.

Corresponding author address: Robert Conzemius, Windlogics Inc., 201 NW 4th Street, Grand Rapids, MN 55744. Email: Robert.conzemius@att.net

Abstract

Idealized simulations of a diabatic Rossby vortex (DRV) in an initially moist neutral baroclinic environment are performed using the fifth-generation National Center for Atmospheric Research–Pennsylvania State University (NCAR–PSU) Mesoscale Model (MM5). The primary objective is to test the hypothesis that the formation and maintenance of midlatitude warm-season mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) are largely influenced by balanced flow dynamics associated with a vortex that interacts with weak vertical shear. As a part of this objective, the simulated DRV is placed within the context of the Bow Echo and Mesoscale Convective Vortex Experiment (BAMEX) field campaign by comparing its tangential velocity, radius of maximum winds, CAPE, and shear with the MCVs observed in BAMEX.

The simulations reveal two distinct scales of development. At the larger scale, the most rapidly growing moist baroclinic mode is excited, and exponential growth of this mode occurs during the simulation. Embedded within the large-scale baroclinic wave is a convective system exhibiting the characteristic DRV development, with a positive potential vorticity (PV) anomaly in the lower troposphere and a negative PV anomaly in the upper troposphere, and the positive/negative PV doublet tilted downshear with height. The DRV warm-air advection mechanism is active, and the resulting deep convection helps to reinforce the DRV against the deleterious effects of environmental shear, causing an eastward motion of the convective system as a whole.

The initial comparisons between the simulated DRVs and the BAMEX MCVs show that the simulated DRVs grew within background conditions of CAPE and shear similar to those observed for BAMEX MCVs and suggest that the same dynamical mechanisms are active. Because the BAMEX field campaign sampled MCVs in different backgrounds of CAPE and shear, the comparison also demonstrates the need to perform additional simulations to explore these different CAPE and shear regimes and to understand their impacts on the intensity and longevity of MCVs. Such a study has the additional benefit of placing MCV dynamics in an appropriate context for exploring their relevance to tropical cyclone formation.

Corresponding author address: Robert Conzemius, Windlogics Inc., 201 NW 4th Street, Grand Rapids, MN 55744. Email: Robert.conzemius@att.net

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