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Impacts of Increasing Low-Level Shear on Supercells during the Early Evening Transition

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  • 1 North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
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Abstract

The dynamical response of simulated supercells to temporally increasing lower-tropospheric vertical wind shear is investigated using idealized simulations. These simulations are based upon observed soundings from two cases that underwent an early evening transition during the Second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2). Mature supercells were simulated in observed afternoon environments with moderate vertical wind shear and then compared to simulated supercells experiencing observed evening increases in lower-tropospheric shear. The primary effect of the increase in low-level shear is to establish larger values of vertical vorticity at lower altitudes in the storm’s updraft. In turn, this leads to a nonlinear increase in the updraft strength due to the enhanced dynamic pressure minimum associated with larger vorticity in the storm’s mesocyclone. This is particularly important at low levels, where it increases the storm's ability to lift cool surface air (including outflow). Trajectories launched in developing vortices show that, despite comparable buoyant accelerations, parcels experience greater vertical velocity and stretching of vertical vorticity due to increased dynamic accelerations when the low-level shear is increased. Thus, even as low-level stability gradually increases in the early evening, the supercells’ low-level updraft intensity and surface vorticity production can increase. These results are consistent with climatological observations of a supercell’s likelihood of tornadogenesis during the early evening hours.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-14-00328.s1.

Corresponding author address: Brice E. Coffer, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 8208, Raleigh, NC 27695-8208. E-mail: becoffer@ncsu.edu

Abstract

The dynamical response of simulated supercells to temporally increasing lower-tropospheric vertical wind shear is investigated using idealized simulations. These simulations are based upon observed soundings from two cases that underwent an early evening transition during the Second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2). Mature supercells were simulated in observed afternoon environments with moderate vertical wind shear and then compared to simulated supercells experiencing observed evening increases in lower-tropospheric shear. The primary effect of the increase in low-level shear is to establish larger values of vertical vorticity at lower altitudes in the storm’s updraft. In turn, this leads to a nonlinear increase in the updraft strength due to the enhanced dynamic pressure minimum associated with larger vorticity in the storm’s mesocyclone. This is particularly important at low levels, where it increases the storm's ability to lift cool surface air (including outflow). Trajectories launched in developing vortices show that, despite comparable buoyant accelerations, parcels experience greater vertical velocity and stretching of vertical vorticity due to increased dynamic accelerations when the low-level shear is increased. Thus, even as low-level stability gradually increases in the early evening, the supercells’ low-level updraft intensity and surface vorticity production can increase. These results are consistent with climatological observations of a supercell’s likelihood of tornadogenesis during the early evening hours.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-14-00328.s1.

Corresponding author address: Brice E. Coffer, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 8208, Raleigh, NC 27695-8208. E-mail: becoffer@ncsu.edu

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