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Production of Near-Surface Vertical Vorticity by Idealized Downdrafts

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  • 1 Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • | 2 Department of Geosciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas
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Abstract

This study uses an idealized heat sink to examine the possible roles of the wind profile in modulating the production of surface vertical vorticity by a downdraft. The basic vorticity evolution in these idealized simulations is consistent with previous work: the process is primarily baroclinic and produces near-ground vertical vorticity within the outflow. Sensitivity experiments affirm that the only fundamental requirement for downdrafts to produce surface vertical vorticity is the existence of ambient downdraft-relative flow. Vertical vorticity production increases monotonically as the low-level downdraft-relative flow increases from zero up through intermediate values (in these experiments, 10–15 m s−1), followed by a monotonic decrease for greater values. This sensitivity has to do with the degree of cooling acquired by parcels as they pass through the idealized heat sink as well as the degree to which horizontal vorticity vectors subsequently attain an orientation that is normal to isosurfaces of vertical velocity. Although the addition of vertical wind shear is not directly helpful to surface vertical vorticity production in these simulations, increased realism of outflow structure is attained in hodographs with ambient streamwise vorticity. Furthermore, the necessary condition of flow through a region of downdraft forcing would in nature probably require the existence of ambient vertical shear. Therefore, shear in the lower troposphere has a possibly important indirect role in modulating the initial production of near-ground rotation.

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

Abstract

This study uses an idealized heat sink to examine the possible roles of the wind profile in modulating the production of surface vertical vorticity by a downdraft. The basic vorticity evolution in these idealized simulations is consistent with previous work: the process is primarily baroclinic and produces near-ground vertical vorticity within the outflow. Sensitivity experiments affirm that the only fundamental requirement for downdrafts to produce surface vertical vorticity is the existence of ambient downdraft-relative flow. Vertical vorticity production increases monotonically as the low-level downdraft-relative flow increases from zero up through intermediate values (in these experiments, 10–15 m s−1), followed by a monotonic decrease for greater values. This sensitivity has to do with the degree of cooling acquired by parcels as they pass through the idealized heat sink as well as the degree to which horizontal vorticity vectors subsequently attain an orientation that is normal to isosurfaces of vertical velocity. Although the addition of vertical wind shear is not directly helpful to surface vertical vorticity production in these simulations, increased realism of outflow structure is attained in hodographs with ambient streamwise vorticity. Furthermore, the necessary condition of flow through a region of downdraft forcing would in nature probably require the existence of ambient vertical shear. Therefore, shear in the lower troposphere has a possibly important indirect role in modulating the initial production of near-ground rotation.

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