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The Structure, Evolution, and Dynamics of a Nocturnal Convective System Simulated Using the WRF-ARW Model

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  • 1 University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

Previous studies have documented a nocturnal maximum in thunderstorm frequency during the summer across the central United States. Forecast skill for these systems remains relatively low and the explanation for this nocturnal maximum is still an area of active debate. This study utilized the WRF-ARW Model to simulate a nocturnal mesoscale convective system that occurred over the southern Great Plains on 3–4 June 2013. A low-level jet transported a narrow corridor of air above the nocturnal boundary layer with convective instability that exceeded what was observed in the daytime boundary layer. The storm was elevated and associated with bores that assisted in the maintenance of the system. Three-dimensional variations in the system’s structure were found along the cold pool, which were examined using convective system dynamics and wave theory. Shallow lifting occurred on the southern flank of the storm. Conversely, the southeastern flank had deep lifting, with favorable integrated vertical shear over the layer of maximum CAPE. The bore assisted in transporting high-CAPE air toward its LFC, and the additional lifting by the density current allowed for deep convection to occur. The bore was not coupled to the convective system and it slowly pulled away, while the convection remained in phase with the density current. These results provide a possible explanation for how convection is maintained at night in the presence of a low-level jet and a stable boundary layer, and emphasize the importance of the three-dimensionality of these systems.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Benjamin Blake, bblake@ou.edu

Abstract

Previous studies have documented a nocturnal maximum in thunderstorm frequency during the summer across the central United States. Forecast skill for these systems remains relatively low and the explanation for this nocturnal maximum is still an area of active debate. This study utilized the WRF-ARW Model to simulate a nocturnal mesoscale convective system that occurred over the southern Great Plains on 3–4 June 2013. A low-level jet transported a narrow corridor of air above the nocturnal boundary layer with convective instability that exceeded what was observed in the daytime boundary layer. The storm was elevated and associated with bores that assisted in the maintenance of the system. Three-dimensional variations in the system’s structure were found along the cold pool, which were examined using convective system dynamics and wave theory. Shallow lifting occurred on the southern flank of the storm. Conversely, the southeastern flank had deep lifting, with favorable integrated vertical shear over the layer of maximum CAPE. The bore assisted in transporting high-CAPE air toward its LFC, and the additional lifting by the density current allowed for deep convection to occur. The bore was not coupled to the convective system and it slowly pulled away, while the convection remained in phase with the density current. These results provide a possible explanation for how convection is maintained at night in the presence of a low-level jet and a stable boundary layer, and emphasize the importance of the three-dimensionality of these systems.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Benjamin Blake, bblake@ou.edu
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