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The Genesis of Mesovortices within a Real-Data Simulation of a Bow Echo System

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  • 1 Key Laboratory of Mesoscale Severe Weather/Ministry of Education, and School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China, and Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • 2 Key Laboratory of Mesoscale Severe Weather/Ministry of Education, and School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China, and Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, and School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • 3 Key Laboratory of Mesoscale Severe Weather/Ministry of Education, and School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
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Abstract

The genesis of two mesovortices (MVs) within a real-data, convection-resolving simulation of the 8 May 2009 central U.S. bow echo system is studied. Both MVs form near the bow apex but differ distinctively in intensity, lifetime, and damage potential. The stronger and longer-lived mesovortex, MVa, stays near the bow apex where the system-scale rear-inflow jet (RIJ) is present. The descending RIJ produces strong downdrafts and surface convergence, which in turn induce strong vertical stretching and intensification of MVa into an intense mesovortex. In contrast, the weaker and shorter-lived mesovortex, MVb, gradually moves away from the bow apex, accompanied by localized convective-scale downdrafts.

Lagrangian circulation and vorticity budget analyses reveal that the vertical vorticity of MVs in general originate from the tilting of near-surface horizontal vorticity, which is mainly created via surface friction. The circulation of the material circuit that ends up to be a horizontal circuit at the foot of the MVs increases as the frictionally generated horizontal vortex tubes pass through the tilted material circuit (tilted following backward trajectories defining the material circuit) surface, especially in the final few minutes prior to mesovortex genesis. The tilted material circuit becomes horizontal at the MV foot, turning associated horizontal vorticity into vertical. The results show at least qualitatively that, in addition to baroclinicity, surface friction can also have significant contributions to the generation of low-level MVs, which was not considered in previous MV studies.

Corresponding author address: Ming Xue, School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, No. 163, Qixia Avenue, Nanjing 210093, Jiangsu, China. E-mail: mxue@ou.edu

Abstract

The genesis of two mesovortices (MVs) within a real-data, convection-resolving simulation of the 8 May 2009 central U.S. bow echo system is studied. Both MVs form near the bow apex but differ distinctively in intensity, lifetime, and damage potential. The stronger and longer-lived mesovortex, MVa, stays near the bow apex where the system-scale rear-inflow jet (RIJ) is present. The descending RIJ produces strong downdrafts and surface convergence, which in turn induce strong vertical stretching and intensification of MVa into an intense mesovortex. In contrast, the weaker and shorter-lived mesovortex, MVb, gradually moves away from the bow apex, accompanied by localized convective-scale downdrafts.

Lagrangian circulation and vorticity budget analyses reveal that the vertical vorticity of MVs in general originate from the tilting of near-surface horizontal vorticity, which is mainly created via surface friction. The circulation of the material circuit that ends up to be a horizontal circuit at the foot of the MVs increases as the frictionally generated horizontal vortex tubes pass through the tilted material circuit (tilted following backward trajectories defining the material circuit) surface, especially in the final few minutes prior to mesovortex genesis. The tilted material circuit becomes horizontal at the MV foot, turning associated horizontal vorticity into vertical. The results show at least qualitatively that, in addition to baroclinicity, surface friction can also have significant contributions to the generation of low-level MVs, which was not considered in previous MV studies.

Corresponding author address: Ming Xue, School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, No. 163, Qixia Avenue, Nanjing 210093, Jiangsu, China. E-mail: mxue@ou.edu
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