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Doppler Radar Observations of Substorm-Scale Vortices in a Supercell

Howard B. BluesteinSchool of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Stephen G. GaddySchool of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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David C. DowellSchool of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Andrew L. PazmanyMicrowave Remote Sensing Laboratory, Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts

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John C. GallowayMicrowave Remote Sensing Laboratory, Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts

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Robert E. McIntoshMicrowave Remote Sensing Laboratory, Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts

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Herbert SteinGarrettsville, Ohio

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Abstract

Counterrotating 500-m-scale vortices in the boundary layer are documented in the right-moving member of a splitting supercell thunderstorm in northeastern Oklahoma on 17 May 1995 during the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment. A description is given of these vortices based upon data collected at close range by a mobile, 3-mm wavelength (95 GHz), pulsed Doppler radar. The vortices are related to a storm-scale, pseudo-dual-Doppler analysis of airborne data collected by the Electra Doppler radar (ELDORA) using the fore–aft scanning technique and to a boresighted video of the cloud features with which the vortices were associated. The behavior of the storm is also documented from an analysis of WSR-88D Doppler radar data.

The counterrotating vortices, which were associated with nearly mirror image hook echoes in reflectivity, were separated by 1 km. The cyclonic member was associated with a cyclonically swirling cloud base. The vortices were located along the edge of a rear-flank downdraft gust front, southeast of a kink in the gust front boundary, a location previously found to be a secondary region for tornado formation. The kink was coincident with a notch in the radar echo reflectivity. A gust front located north of the kink, along the edge of the forward-flank downdraft, was characterized mainly by convergence and density current–like flow, while the rear-flank downdraft boundary was characterized mainly by cyclonic vorticity.

Previously documented vortices along gust fronts have had the same sense of rotation as the others in the group and are thought to have been associated with shearing instabilities. The symmetry of the two vortices suggests that they may have been formed through the tilting of ambient horizontal vorticity. Although the vortices did not develop into tornadoes, it is speculated that similar vortices could be the seeds from which some tornadoes form.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Howard B. Bluestein, School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, 100 E. Boyd, Rm. 1310, Norman, OK 73019-0470.

Email: hblue@ou.edu

Abstract

Counterrotating 500-m-scale vortices in the boundary layer are documented in the right-moving member of a splitting supercell thunderstorm in northeastern Oklahoma on 17 May 1995 during the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment. A description is given of these vortices based upon data collected at close range by a mobile, 3-mm wavelength (95 GHz), pulsed Doppler radar. The vortices are related to a storm-scale, pseudo-dual-Doppler analysis of airborne data collected by the Electra Doppler radar (ELDORA) using the fore–aft scanning technique and to a boresighted video of the cloud features with which the vortices were associated. The behavior of the storm is also documented from an analysis of WSR-88D Doppler radar data.

The counterrotating vortices, which were associated with nearly mirror image hook echoes in reflectivity, were separated by 1 km. The cyclonic member was associated with a cyclonically swirling cloud base. The vortices were located along the edge of a rear-flank downdraft gust front, southeast of a kink in the gust front boundary, a location previously found to be a secondary region for tornado formation. The kink was coincident with a notch in the radar echo reflectivity. A gust front located north of the kink, along the edge of the forward-flank downdraft, was characterized mainly by convergence and density current–like flow, while the rear-flank downdraft boundary was characterized mainly by cyclonic vorticity.

Previously documented vortices along gust fronts have had the same sense of rotation as the others in the group and are thought to have been associated with shearing instabilities. The symmetry of the two vortices suggests that they may have been formed through the tilting of ambient horizontal vorticity. Although the vortices did not develop into tornadoes, it is speculated that similar vortices could be the seeds from which some tornadoes form.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Howard B. Bluestein, School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, 100 E. Boyd, Rm. 1310, Norman, OK 73019-0470.

Email: hblue@ou.edu

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