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Tornadogenesis in a Simulated Mesovortex within a Mesoscale Convective System

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  • 1 Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, and School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

The Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS) is used to simulate a tornadic mesovortex with the aim of understanding the associated tornadogenesis processes. The mesovortex was one of two tornadic mesovortices spawned by a mesoscale convective system (MCS) that traversed southwestern and central Oklahoma on 8–9 May 2007. The simulation used 100-m horizontal grid spacing, and is nested within two outer grids with 400-m and 2-km grid spacing, respectively. Both outer grids assimilate radar, upper-air, and surface observations via 5-min three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVAR) cycles. The 100-m grid is initialized from a 40-min forecast on the 400-m grid.

Results from the 100-m simulation provide a detailed picture of the development of a mesovortex that produces a submesovortex-scale tornado-like vortex (TLV). Closer examination of the genesis of the TLV suggests that a strong low-level updraft is critical in converging and amplifying vertical vorticity associated with the mesovortex. Vertical cross sections and backward trajectory analyses from this low-level updraft reveal that the updraft is the upward branch of a strong rotor that forms just northwest of the simulated TLV. The horizontal vorticity in this rotor originates in the near-surface inflow and is caused by surface friction. An additional simulation with surface friction turned off does not produce a rotor, strong low-level updraft, or TLV. Comparison with previous two-dimensional numerical studies of rotors in the lee of mountains shows striking similarities to the rotor formation presented herein.

The findings of this study are summarized in a four-stage conceptual model for tornadogenesis in this case that describes the evolution of the event from mesovortexgenesis through rotor development and finally TLV genesis and intensification.

Corresponding author address: Ming Xue, Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, University of Oklahoma, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072. E-mail: mxue@ou.edu

Abstract

The Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS) is used to simulate a tornadic mesovortex with the aim of understanding the associated tornadogenesis processes. The mesovortex was one of two tornadic mesovortices spawned by a mesoscale convective system (MCS) that traversed southwestern and central Oklahoma on 8–9 May 2007. The simulation used 100-m horizontal grid spacing, and is nested within two outer grids with 400-m and 2-km grid spacing, respectively. Both outer grids assimilate radar, upper-air, and surface observations via 5-min three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVAR) cycles. The 100-m grid is initialized from a 40-min forecast on the 400-m grid.

Results from the 100-m simulation provide a detailed picture of the development of a mesovortex that produces a submesovortex-scale tornado-like vortex (TLV). Closer examination of the genesis of the TLV suggests that a strong low-level updraft is critical in converging and amplifying vertical vorticity associated with the mesovortex. Vertical cross sections and backward trajectory analyses from this low-level updraft reveal that the updraft is the upward branch of a strong rotor that forms just northwest of the simulated TLV. The horizontal vorticity in this rotor originates in the near-surface inflow and is caused by surface friction. An additional simulation with surface friction turned off does not produce a rotor, strong low-level updraft, or TLV. Comparison with previous two-dimensional numerical studies of rotors in the lee of mountains shows striking similarities to the rotor formation presented herein.

The findings of this study are summarized in a four-stage conceptual model for tornadogenesis in this case that describes the evolution of the event from mesovortexgenesis through rotor development and finally TLV genesis and intensification.

Corresponding author address: Ming Xue, Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, University of Oklahoma, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072. E-mail: mxue@ou.edu
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