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Severe Convective Wind Environments

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  • 1 Air Force Weather Agency, Offutt AFB, Nebraska
  • | 2 Department of Geosciences, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
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Abstract

Nontornadic thunderstorm winds from long-lived, widespread convective windstorms can have a tremendous impact on human lives and property. To examine environments that support damaging wind producing convection, sounding parameters from Rapid Update Cycle model analyses (at 3-hourly intervals) from 2003 were compared with 7055 reports of damaging winds and 377 081 occurrences of lightning. Ground-relative wind velocity was the most effective at discriminating between damaging and nondamaging wind convective environments. Steep surface-based lapse rates (a traditional damaging wind parameter) generally did not discriminate between damaging and nondamaging wind convective environments. Other parameters, such as convective available potential energy, humidity aloft, and lapse rates aloft were moderately discriminating. This paper presents a composite damaging wind algorithm in which the two most discriminatory parameters were combined, yielding more skill than any individual parameter. Damaging wind environments are then examined further through a selection of cases that highlight common severe wind ingredients and failure modes. A primary result is that, even in seemingly favorable environments, when the winds at the top of the inflow layer were either parallel to the convective line or blowing from warm to cold over a front, damaging winds were less likely. In the former case, it appears that the downdraft winds and the cold pool’s gust-front-normal flow are not additive. In the latter case, it appears that convection becomes elevated and does not produce downdrafts that reach the surface. Combining the most discriminatory severe wind parameters with knowledge of these severe wind failure modes may help to improve the situational awareness of forecasters.

* Current affiliation: Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

Corresponding author address: Evan L. Kuchera, AFWA, 106 Peacekeeper Dr., STE 2N3, Offutt AFB, NE 68113-4039. Email: evan.kuchera@afwa.af.mil

Abstract

Nontornadic thunderstorm winds from long-lived, widespread convective windstorms can have a tremendous impact on human lives and property. To examine environments that support damaging wind producing convection, sounding parameters from Rapid Update Cycle model analyses (at 3-hourly intervals) from 2003 were compared with 7055 reports of damaging winds and 377 081 occurrences of lightning. Ground-relative wind velocity was the most effective at discriminating between damaging and nondamaging wind convective environments. Steep surface-based lapse rates (a traditional damaging wind parameter) generally did not discriminate between damaging and nondamaging wind convective environments. Other parameters, such as convective available potential energy, humidity aloft, and lapse rates aloft were moderately discriminating. This paper presents a composite damaging wind algorithm in which the two most discriminatory parameters were combined, yielding more skill than any individual parameter. Damaging wind environments are then examined further through a selection of cases that highlight common severe wind ingredients and failure modes. A primary result is that, even in seemingly favorable environments, when the winds at the top of the inflow layer were either parallel to the convective line or blowing from warm to cold over a front, damaging winds were less likely. In the former case, it appears that the downdraft winds and the cold pool’s gust-front-normal flow are not additive. In the latter case, it appears that convection becomes elevated and does not produce downdrafts that reach the surface. Combining the most discriminatory severe wind parameters with knowledge of these severe wind failure modes may help to improve the situational awareness of forecasters.

* Current affiliation: Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

Corresponding author address: Evan L. Kuchera, AFWA, 106 Peacekeeper Dr., STE 2N3, Offutt AFB, NE 68113-4039. Email: evan.kuchera@afwa.af.mil

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