A Numerical Investigation of the Severe Thunderstorm Gust Front

Kenneth E. Mitchell Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802

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John B. Hovermale Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802

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Abstract

The structure of the thunderstorm gust front is investigated by a nonhydrostatic, two-dimensional (xz/) numerical model. In the model, which is dry, the production of negatively buoyant air by evaporation is parameterized via an externally imposed, local-cooling function. This parameterization sustains a steady cold downdraft, which drives the surface outflow and associated gust front.

It is shown that two dominant factors influencing gust front structure in the vertical plane are the solenoidal field coincident with the front and surface friction, modeled by means of a simple bulk aerodynamic drag formulation. The circulation theorem is invoked to illustrate how solenoidal accelerations oppose the deceleration by surface friction. After the onset of a downdraft in the model, these opposing tendencies soon reach a balance. Thus, following a brief transient stage, the model gust front exhibits a persistent configuration as it propagates rapidly forward. The essential features of this configuration are examined and compared with both tower observations of gust fronts and laboratory models of gravity currents.

Abstract

The structure of the thunderstorm gust front is investigated by a nonhydrostatic, two-dimensional (xz/) numerical model. In the model, which is dry, the production of negatively buoyant air by evaporation is parameterized via an externally imposed, local-cooling function. This parameterization sustains a steady cold downdraft, which drives the surface outflow and associated gust front.

It is shown that two dominant factors influencing gust front structure in the vertical plane are the solenoidal field coincident with the front and surface friction, modeled by means of a simple bulk aerodynamic drag formulation. The circulation theorem is invoked to illustrate how solenoidal accelerations oppose the deceleration by surface friction. After the onset of a downdraft in the model, these opposing tendencies soon reach a balance. Thus, following a brief transient stage, the model gust front exhibits a persistent configuration as it propagates rapidly forward. The essential features of this configuration are examined and compared with both tower observations of gust fronts and laboratory models of gravity currents.

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