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Entrainment in a Simulated Supercell Thunderstorm, Part III: The Influence of Decreased Environmental Humidity and General Effects Upon Precipitation Efficiency

Enoch JoPacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

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Sonia Lasher-TrappUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois

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Abstract

Entrainment is a key process that can modulate the intensity of supercells, and a better understanding of its impact could help improve forecasts of thunderstorms and the precipitation they produce. In Part III of this series, the three distinct mechanisms of entrainment identified during the mature stage of idealized supercell thunderstorms in Part I (overturning “ribbons” of horizontal vorticity, “disorganized turbulent eddies”, and the “storm-relative airstream”) are examined as the absolute humidity of the environment is decreased. The existence of these mechanisms in a more realistic simulated storm environment is also established. Entrainment is calculated as fluxes of air across the storm core surface; passive fluid tracers help determine the resulting dilution of the storm updraft. Model microphysical rates are used to examine the direct impacts of entrainment on hydrometeors within the storm updraft as well as precipitation that falls to the ground. Results show that as mixed-layer humidity decreases, the “ribbons” and turbulent eddy mechanisms decrease in intensity, but their effects on precipitation production change little. With decreasing humidity in the 3 to 4 km AGL layer, the storm-relative airstream entrains less humid low-level air into the storm core, decreasing the vertical mass flux, and therefore the precipitation produced by the storm. When the humidity in the mid-to-upper troposphere (4 to 20 km AGL) is decreased, precipitation is significantly reduced, but not due to the effects of the entrained air. Rather, enhanced evaporation and sublimation of falling precipitation decreases the overall precipitation efficiency of the storm.

Corresponding author address: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington Email: enoch.jo@pnnl.gov

Abstract

Entrainment is a key process that can modulate the intensity of supercells, and a better understanding of its impact could help improve forecasts of thunderstorms and the precipitation they produce. In Part III of this series, the three distinct mechanisms of entrainment identified during the mature stage of idealized supercell thunderstorms in Part I (overturning “ribbons” of horizontal vorticity, “disorganized turbulent eddies”, and the “storm-relative airstream”) are examined as the absolute humidity of the environment is decreased. The existence of these mechanisms in a more realistic simulated storm environment is also established. Entrainment is calculated as fluxes of air across the storm core surface; passive fluid tracers help determine the resulting dilution of the storm updraft. Model microphysical rates are used to examine the direct impacts of entrainment on hydrometeors within the storm updraft as well as precipitation that falls to the ground. Results show that as mixed-layer humidity decreases, the “ribbons” and turbulent eddy mechanisms decrease in intensity, but their effects on precipitation production change little. With decreasing humidity in the 3 to 4 km AGL layer, the storm-relative airstream entrains less humid low-level air into the storm core, decreasing the vertical mass flux, and therefore the precipitation produced by the storm. When the humidity in the mid-to-upper troposphere (4 to 20 km AGL) is decreased, precipitation is significantly reduced, but not due to the effects of the entrained air. Rather, enhanced evaporation and sublimation of falling precipitation decreases the overall precipitation efficiency of the storm.

Corresponding author address: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington Email: enoch.jo@pnnl.gov
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