Evolution of a Long-Track Violent Tornado within a Simulated Supercell

Leigh Orf Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

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Robert Wilhelmson University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois

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Bruce Lee High Impact Weather Research and Consulting, LLC, Deep River, Minnesota

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Catherine Finley Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri

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Adam Houston University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Abstract

Tornadoes are among nature’s most destructive forces. The most violent, long-lived tornadoes form within supercell thunderstorms. Tornadoes ranked EF4 and EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale that exhibit long paths are the least common but most damaging and deadly type of tornado. In this article we describe an ultra-high-resolution (30-m gridpoint spacing) simulation of a supercell that produces a long-track tornado that exhibits instantaneous near-surface storm-relative winds reaching as high as 143 m s−1. The computational framework that enables this work is described, including the Blue Waters supercomputer, the CM1 cloud model, a data management framework built around the HDF5 scientific data format, and the VisIt and Vapor visualization tools. We find that tornadogenesis occurs in concert with processes not clearly seen in previous supercell simulations, including the consolidation of numerous vortices and vorticity patches along the storm’s forward-flank downdraft boundary and the intensification of a feature we call a streamwise vorticity current (SVC), a current of horizontal vorticity that is tilted upward into the storm’s low-level mesocyclone. The SVC is found throughout the genesis and much of the maintenance phase of the tornado, where it appears to help drive the storm’s vigorous low-level updraft. We compare stages of the storm’s maintenance phase to observations. We find that tornado decay occurs rapidly throughout the depth of the tornado and is associated with a weakening of the SVC and the development of a strong rainy downdraft that encircles the tornado, which has moved rearward into the storm’s cold pool.

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR E-MAIL: Leigh Orf, leigh.orf@ssec.wisc.edu

A supplement to this article is available online (10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00073.2)

Abstract

Tornadoes are among nature’s most destructive forces. The most violent, long-lived tornadoes form within supercell thunderstorms. Tornadoes ranked EF4 and EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale that exhibit long paths are the least common but most damaging and deadly type of tornado. In this article we describe an ultra-high-resolution (30-m gridpoint spacing) simulation of a supercell that produces a long-track tornado that exhibits instantaneous near-surface storm-relative winds reaching as high as 143 m s−1. The computational framework that enables this work is described, including the Blue Waters supercomputer, the CM1 cloud model, a data management framework built around the HDF5 scientific data format, and the VisIt and Vapor visualization tools. We find that tornadogenesis occurs in concert with processes not clearly seen in previous supercell simulations, including the consolidation of numerous vortices and vorticity patches along the storm’s forward-flank downdraft boundary and the intensification of a feature we call a streamwise vorticity current (SVC), a current of horizontal vorticity that is tilted upward into the storm’s low-level mesocyclone. The SVC is found throughout the genesis and much of the maintenance phase of the tornado, where it appears to help drive the storm’s vigorous low-level updraft. We compare stages of the storm’s maintenance phase to observations. We find that tornado decay occurs rapidly throughout the depth of the tornado and is associated with a weakening of the SVC and the development of a strong rainy downdraft that encircles the tornado, which has moved rearward into the storm’s cold pool.

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR E-MAIL: Leigh Orf, leigh.orf@ssec.wisc.edu

A supplement to this article is available online (10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00073.2)

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