Examining relationships between environmental conditions and supercell motion in time

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  • 1 Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, Norman, OK
  • 2 NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
  • 3 Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, Norman, OK
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Abstract

Although environmental controls on bulk supercell potential and hazards have been studied extensively, relationships between environmental conditions and temporal changes to storm morphology remain less explored. These relationships are examined in this study using a compilation of sounding data collected during field campaigns from 1994–2019 in the vicinity of 216 supercells. Environmental parameters are calculated from the soundings and related to storm-track characteristics like initial cell motion and the time of the right turn (i.e., the time elapsed between the cell initiation and the first time when the supercell obtains a quasi-steady motion that is directed clockwise from its initial motion.). We do not find any significant associations between environmental parameters and the time of the right turn. Somewhat surprisingly, no relationship is found between storm-relative environmental helicity and the time elapsed between cell initiation and the onset of deviant motion. Initial cell motion is best approximated by the direction of the 0–6-km mean wind at two-thirds the speed. This is a result of advection and propagation in the 0–4- and 0–2-km layers, respectively. Unsurprisingly, Bunkers-right storm motion is a good estimate of post-turn motion, but storms that exhibit a post-turn motion left of Bunkers-right are less likely to be tornadic. These findings are relevant for real-time forecasting efforts in predicting the path and tornado potential of supercells up to hours in advance.

Corresponding author address: Matthew Flournoy, 2230 National Weather Center, Norman, OK 73072. Email: matthew.flournoy@noaa.gov

Abstract

Although environmental controls on bulk supercell potential and hazards have been studied extensively, relationships between environmental conditions and temporal changes to storm morphology remain less explored. These relationships are examined in this study using a compilation of sounding data collected during field campaigns from 1994–2019 in the vicinity of 216 supercells. Environmental parameters are calculated from the soundings and related to storm-track characteristics like initial cell motion and the time of the right turn (i.e., the time elapsed between the cell initiation and the first time when the supercell obtains a quasi-steady motion that is directed clockwise from its initial motion.). We do not find any significant associations between environmental parameters and the time of the right turn. Somewhat surprisingly, no relationship is found between storm-relative environmental helicity and the time elapsed between cell initiation and the onset of deviant motion. Initial cell motion is best approximated by the direction of the 0–6-km mean wind at two-thirds the speed. This is a result of advection and propagation in the 0–4- and 0–2-km layers, respectively. Unsurprisingly, Bunkers-right storm motion is a good estimate of post-turn motion, but storms that exhibit a post-turn motion left of Bunkers-right are less likely to be tornadic. These findings are relevant for real-time forecasting efforts in predicting the path and tornado potential of supercells up to hours in advance.

Corresponding author address: Matthew Flournoy, 2230 National Weather Center, Norman, OK 73072. Email: matthew.flournoy@noaa.gov
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