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Invented Forces in Supercell Models

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  • 1 a NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

This paper examines methods used in supercell models to maintain a steady, sheared, horizontally uniform environment with a three-force balance in the planetary boundary layer (PBL) and a two-force balance above it. Steady environments are maintained while ignoring the thermal-wind balance that permits large shear above the PBL. The Taylor–Proudman theorem indicates that wind profiles above the PBL must be unidirectional for balanced environments. In principle, supercell models that do not accommodate thermal advection should not support balanced steady environments with veering horizontally uniform winds. Recent methods add a permanent, pervasive, horizontal external force that varies only with height. By adding two more degrees of freedom, this force circumvents the Taylor–Proudman theorem and enables a static, horizontally uniform environment for any wind profile. It succeeds by adding spurious energy in lieu of flow toward low pressure to offset frictional loss of kinetic energy. However, the artificial force has downsides. It decouples the environmental horizontal equation of motion from the hydrostatic equation and the thermodynamics from the dynamics. It cancels environmental friction and the part of the Coriolis force that acts on the environmental wind. Within the storm, its curl can speciously generate significant horizontal vorticity near the ground. Inaccuracies arise in circulations around material circuits because of modifications by the artificial force and resulting miscalculations of parcel trajectories. Doubt is cast on conclusions about tornadogenesis drawn from recent simulations that contain an invented force.

Significance Statement

Before entering a tornado, air parcels spin predominantly about a horizontal axis because of torques exerted by buoyancy and frictional forces. The relative importance of these torques in tornado formation is undecided. Because in situ data collected in severe storms are sparse, observations are insufficient for identifying origins of spin. Scientists resort instead to diagnosing detailed results provided by computer simulations of storms that develop in tornado-favorable environments. To simplify physical interpretation, the environment is fixed in some simulations by use of a substantial ubiquitous and permanent artificial force. I demonstrate that this strategem leads to suspect conclusions about tornado formation. Issues arise because the invented force loosens flow constraints, alters parcel trajectories, performs spurious work, and generates horizontal spin falsely.

Davies-Jones’s status: Emeritus.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Robert Davies-Jones, bobdj1066@yahoo.com

Abstract

This paper examines methods used in supercell models to maintain a steady, sheared, horizontally uniform environment with a three-force balance in the planetary boundary layer (PBL) and a two-force balance above it. Steady environments are maintained while ignoring the thermal-wind balance that permits large shear above the PBL. The Taylor–Proudman theorem indicates that wind profiles above the PBL must be unidirectional for balanced environments. In principle, supercell models that do not accommodate thermal advection should not support balanced steady environments with veering horizontally uniform winds. Recent methods add a permanent, pervasive, horizontal external force that varies only with height. By adding two more degrees of freedom, this force circumvents the Taylor–Proudman theorem and enables a static, horizontally uniform environment for any wind profile. It succeeds by adding spurious energy in lieu of flow toward low pressure to offset frictional loss of kinetic energy. However, the artificial force has downsides. It decouples the environmental horizontal equation of motion from the hydrostatic equation and the thermodynamics from the dynamics. It cancels environmental friction and the part of the Coriolis force that acts on the environmental wind. Within the storm, its curl can speciously generate significant horizontal vorticity near the ground. Inaccuracies arise in circulations around material circuits because of modifications by the artificial force and resulting miscalculations of parcel trajectories. Doubt is cast on conclusions about tornadogenesis drawn from recent simulations that contain an invented force.

Significance Statement

Before entering a tornado, air parcels spin predominantly about a horizontal axis because of torques exerted by buoyancy and frictional forces. The relative importance of these torques in tornado formation is undecided. Because in situ data collected in severe storms are sparse, observations are insufficient for identifying origins of spin. Scientists resort instead to diagnosing detailed results provided by computer simulations of storms that develop in tornado-favorable environments. To simplify physical interpretation, the environment is fixed in some simulations by use of a substantial ubiquitous and permanent artificial force. I demonstrate that this strategem leads to suspect conclusions about tornado formation. Issues arise because the invented force loosens flow constraints, alters parcel trajectories, performs spurious work, and generates horizontal spin falsely.

Davies-Jones’s status: Emeritus.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Robert Davies-Jones, bobdj1066@yahoo.com
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