A Study of Two-Dimensional Dry Convective Plume Modes with Variable Critical Level Height

Michael T. Kiefer Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Yuh-Lang Lin Cary, North Carolina

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Joseph J. Charney Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, East Lansing, Michigan

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Abstract

This study investigates the impact of wind speed and critical level height on dry convection above a prescribed heat source. This is done using the Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS) model in its two-dimensional form with an imposed 400-K soil potential temperature perturbation. The result of these experiments is the identification of three modes of convective plumes. The first, termed multicell convective plumes, is analogous to multicell convection generated from squall-line cold pools in the moist atmosphere. The second mode, a deep wave mode, consists of disturbances with wavelengths of 7–10 km and results from the multicell plumes perturbing the dynamically unstable shear flow centered at the critical level. The third mode, termed the intense fire plume, has stronger updrafts than the multicell mode and is marked by quasi-stationary movement and substantial low-level inflow and upper-level outflow. The presence of a critical level is shown to be crucial to the development of both the deep wave and intense plume modes. The intense fire plume mode is most consistent with the so-called fire storm, or conflagration phenomenon, in which strong updrafts and low-level indrafts can produce mesocyclones and tornadic fire whirls capable of significant damage. This study marks an important step in understanding the dynamics behind the fire storm phenomenon, as well as other types of convection (multicell and deep wave) that may be generated by a fire.

Corresponding author address: Michael Kiefer, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8208. Email: Email: mtkiefer@ncsu.edu

Abstract

This study investigates the impact of wind speed and critical level height on dry convection above a prescribed heat source. This is done using the Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS) model in its two-dimensional form with an imposed 400-K soil potential temperature perturbation. The result of these experiments is the identification of three modes of convective plumes. The first, termed multicell convective plumes, is analogous to multicell convection generated from squall-line cold pools in the moist atmosphere. The second mode, a deep wave mode, consists of disturbances with wavelengths of 7–10 km and results from the multicell plumes perturbing the dynamically unstable shear flow centered at the critical level. The third mode, termed the intense fire plume, has stronger updrafts than the multicell mode and is marked by quasi-stationary movement and substantial low-level inflow and upper-level outflow. The presence of a critical level is shown to be crucial to the development of both the deep wave and intense plume modes. The intense fire plume mode is most consistent with the so-called fire storm, or conflagration phenomenon, in which strong updrafts and low-level indrafts can produce mesocyclones and tornadic fire whirls capable of significant damage. This study marks an important step in understanding the dynamics behind the fire storm phenomenon, as well as other types of convection (multicell and deep wave) that may be generated by a fire.

Corresponding author address: Michael Kiefer, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8208. Email: Email: mtkiefer@ncsu.edu

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