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Jake P. Mulholland, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Robert J. Trapp, and John M. Peters

Abstract

Orographic deep convection (DC) initiation and rapid evolution from supercells to mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are common near the Sierras de Córdoba, Argentina, which was the focal point of the Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, and Mesoscale/Microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO) field campaign. This study used an idealized numerical model with elongated north–south terrain similar to that of the Sierras de Córdoba to address how variations in terrain height affected the environment and convective morphology. Simulations used a thermodynamic profile from a RELAMPAGO event that featured both supercell and MCS storm modes. Results revealed that DC initiated earlier in simulations with higher terrain, owing both to stronger upslope flows and standing mountain waves. All simulations resulted in supercell formation, with higher-terrain supercells initiating closer to the terrain peak and moving slower off the terrain. Higher-terrain simulations displayed increases in both low-level and deep-layer wind shear along the eastern slopes of the terrain that were related to the enhanced upslope flows, supporting stronger and wider supercell updrafts/downdrafts and a wider swath of heavy rainfall. Deeper and stronger cold pools from these wider and stronger higher-terrain supercells led to surging outflow that reduced convective available potential energy accessible to deep convective updrafts, resulting in quicker supercell demise off the terrain. Lower-terrain supercells moved quickly off the terrain, merged with weaker convective cells, and resulted in a quasi-organized MCS. These results demonstrate that terrain-induced flow modification may lead to substantial local variations in convective morphology.

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Matthew R. Kumjian, Rachel Gutierrez, Joshua S. Soderholm, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Paula Maldonado, Lorena Medina Luna, James Marquis, Kevin A. Bowley, Milagros Alvarez Imaz, and Paola Salio

Abstract

On 8 February 2018, a supercell storm produced gargantuan (>15 cm or >6 in. in maximum dimension) hail as it moved over the heavily populated city of Villa Carlos Paz in Córdoba Province, Argentina. Observations of gargantuan hail are quite rare, but the large population density here yielded numerous witnesses and social media pictures and videos from this event that document multiple large hailstones. The storm was also sampled by the newly installed operational polarimetric C-band radar in Córdoba. During the RELAMPAGO campaign, the authors interviewed local residents about their accounts of the storm and uncovered additional social media video and photographs revealing extremely large hail at multiple locations in town. This article documents the case, including the meteorological conditions supporting the storm (with the aid of a high-resolution WRF simulation), the storm’s observed radar signatures, and three noteworthy hailstones observed by residents. These hailstones include a freezer-preserved 4.48-in. (11.38 cm) maximum dimension stone that was scanned with a 3D infrared laser scanner, a 7.1-in. (18 cm) maximum dimension stone, and a hailstone photogrammetrically estimated to be between 7.4 and 9.3 in. (18.8–23.7 cm) in maximum dimension, which is close to or exceeds the world record for maximum dimension. Such a well-observed case is an important step forward in understanding environments and storms that produce gargantuan hail, and ultimately how to anticipate and detect such extreme events.

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Timothy J. Lang, Eldo E. Ávila, Richard J. Blakeslee, Jeff Burchfield, Matthew Wingo, Phillip M. Bitzer, Lawrence D. Carey, Wiebke Deierling, Steven J. Goodman, Bruno Lisboa Medina, Gregory Melo, and Rodolfo G. Pereyra

Abstract

During November 2018–April 2019, an 11-station very high frequency (VHF) Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) was deployed to Córdoba Province, Argentina. The purpose of the LMA was validation of the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), but the deployment was coordinated with two field campaigns. The LMA observed 2.9 million flashes (≥ five sources) during 163 days, and level-1 (VHF locations), level-2 (flashes classified), and level-3 (gridded products) datasets have been made public. The network’s performance allows scientifically useful analysis within 100 km when at least seven stations were active. Careful analysis beyond 100 km is also possible. The LMA dataset includes many examples of intense storms with extremely high flash rates (>1 s−1), electrical discharges in overshooting tops (OTs), as well as anomalously charged thunderstorms with low-altitude lightning. The modal flash altitude was 10 km, but many flashes occurred at very high altitude (15–20 km). There were also anomalous and stratiform flashes near 5–7 km in altitude. Most flashes were small (<50 km2 area). Comparisons with GLM on 14 and 20 December 2018 indicated that GLM most successfully detected larger flashes (i.e., more than 100 VHF sources), with detection efficiency (DE) up to 90%. However, GLM DE was reduced for flashes that were smaller or that occurred lower in the cloud (e.g., near 6-km altitude). GLM DE also was reduced during a period of OT electrical discharges. Overall, GLM DE was a strong function of thunderstorm evolution and the dominant characteristics of the lightning it produced.

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Robert J. Trapp, Karen A. Kosiba, James N. Marquis, Matthew R. Kumjian, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Joshua Wurman, Paola Salio, Maxwell A. Grover, Paul Robinson, and Deanna A. Hence

Abstract

On 10 November 2018, during the RELAMPAGO field campaign in Argentina, South America, a thunderstorm with supercell characteristics was observed by an array of mobile observing instruments, including three Doppler on Wheels radars. In contrast to the archetypal supercell described in the Glossary of Meteorology, the updraft rotation in this storm was rather short lived (~25 min), causing some initial doubt as to whether this indeed was a supercell. However, retrieved 3D winds from dual-Doppler radar scans were used to document a high spatial correspondence between midlevel vertical velocity and vertical vorticity in this storm, thus providing evidence to support the supercell categorization. Additional data collected within the RELAMPAGO domain revealed other storms with this behavior, which appears to be attributable in part to effects of the local terrain. Specifically, the IOP4 supercell and other short-duration supercell cases presented had storm motions that were nearly perpendicular to the long axis of the Sierras de Córdoba Mountains; a long-duration supercell case, on the other hand, had a storm motion nearly parallel to these mountains. Sounding observations as well as model simulations indicate that a mountain-perpendicular storm motion results in a relatively short storm residence time within the narrow zone of terrain-enhanced vertical wind shear. Such a motion and short residence time would limit the upward tilting, by the left-moving supercell updraft, of the storm-relative, antistreamwise horizontal vorticity associated with anabatic flow near complex terrain.

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Hernán Bechis, Paola Salio, and Juan José Ruiz

Abstract

Drylines have been identified as relevant synoptic-scale phenomena that frequently occur in several regions around the world. Despite previous works and the experience of local forecasters that recognizes the occurrence of drylines in Argentina and suggests its possible association with convection initiation, knowledge about the mechanisms leading to the genesis of these features is poor. This paper presents the first synoptic climatology of these drylines as well as a first approach to the understanding of the processes leading to their formation. The climatology is based on an automated algorithm for dryline identification applied to reanalysis data. We found that drylines are more frequent between the northern Patagonia plateau and the central Argentinean plains. A composite analysis is performed to analyze the processes leading to the formation of synoptic-scale drylines within this region. It was found that these drylines form in the confluence between a warm and moist air mass driven by a northwesterly flow and drier air flowing east over the northern Patagonia plateau. The dry air originates on top of the Pacific maritime boundary layer and experiences lee subsidence after crossing the Andes range creating an area of dry and warm air that is advected to the east by the westerly synoptic-scale flow, and transported downward during the day due to strong boundary layer turbulence. At the same time, surface heating over the plateau leads to substantial warming of the originally colder dry air behind the dryline, thus reversing the horizontal temperature gradient across the dryline.

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Jake P. Mulholland, Stephen W. Nesbitt, and Robert J. Trapp

Abstract

Satellite- and ground-based radar observations have shown that the northern half of Argentina, South America, is a region susceptible to rapid upscale growth of deep moist convection into larger organized mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). In particular, the complex terrain of the Sierras de Córdoba is hypothesized to be vital to this upscale-growth process. A canonical orographic supercell-to-MCS transition case study was analyzed to determine the influence that complex terrain had on processes governing upscale convective growth. High-resolution numerical modeling experiments were conducted in which the terrain height of the Sierras de Córdoba was systematically modified by raising or lowering the elevation of terrain above 1000 m. The alteration of the terrain lead to both direct and indirect effects on storm morphology. A direct effect included terrain blocking of cold pools, whereas indirect effects included terrain-induced variations in pertinent storm environmental parameters (e.g., vertical wind shear, convective available potential energy). When the terrain was raised, low-level and deep-layer vertical wind shear increased, mixed-layer convective available potential energy decreased, deep moist convection initiated earlier, and cold pools were blocked and generally became stronger and deeper. The reverse occurred when the terrain was lowered, resulting in a weaker supercell that did not grow upscale into an MCS. The control simulation supercell displayed the deepest cold pool and correspondingly fastest transition from supercell to MCS, potentially revealing that the unique terrain configuration of the Sierras de Córdoba was supportive of the observed rapid upscale convective growth of this orographic supercell.

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Zachary S. Bruick, Kristen L. Rasmussen, and Daniel J. Cecil

Abstract

Hailstorms in subtropical South America are known to be some of the most frequent anywhere in the world, causing significant damage to the local agricultural economy every year. Convection in this region tends to be orographically forced, with moisture supplied from the Amazon rain forest by the South American low-level jet. Previous climatologies of hailstorms in this region have been limited to localized and sparse observational networks. Because of the lack of sufficient ground-based radar coverage, objective radar-derived hail climatologies have also not been produced for this region. As a result, this study uses a 16-yr dataset of TRMM Precipitation Radar and Microwave Imager observations to identify possible hailstorms remotely, using 37-GHz brightness temperature as a hail proxy. By combining satellite instruments and ERA-Interim reanalysis data, this study produces the first objective study of hailstorms in this region. Hailstorms in subtropical South America have an extended diurnal cycle, often occurring in the overnight hours. In addition, they tend to be multicellular in nature, rather than discrete. High-probability hailstorms (≥50% probability of containing hail) tend to be deeper by 1–2 km and horizontally larger by greater than 15 000 km2 than storms having a low probability of containing hail (<25% probability of containing hail). Hailstorms are supported synoptically by strong upper- and lower-level jets, anomalously warm and moist low levels, and enhanced instability. The findings of this study will support the forecasting of these severe storms and mitigation of their damage within this region.

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Zachary S. Bruick, Kristen L. Rasmussen, Angela K. Rowe, and Lynn A. McMurdie

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is known to have teleconnections to atmospheric circulations and weather patterns around the world. Previous studies have examined connections between ENSO and rainfall in tropical South America, but little work has been done connecting ENSO phases with convection in subtropical South America. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) has provided novel observations of convection in this region, including that convection in the lee of the Andes Mountains is among the deepest and most intense in the world with frequent upscale growth into mesoscale convective systems. A 16-yr dataset from the TRMM PR is used to analyze deep and wide convection in combination with ERA-Interim reanalysis storm composites. Results from the study show that deep and wide convection occurs in all phases of ENSO, with only some modest variations in frequency between ENSO phases. However, the most statistically significant differences between ENSO phases occur in the three-dimensional storm structure. Deep and wide convection during El Niño tends to be taller and contain stronger convection, while La Niña storms contain stronger stratiform echoes. The synoptic and thermodynamic conditions supporting the deeper storms during El Niño is related to increased convective available potential energy, a strengthening of the South American low-level jet (SALLJ), and a stronger upper-level jet stream, often with the equatorward-entrance region of the jet stream directly over the convective storm locations. These enhanced synoptic and thermodynamic conditions provide insight into how the structure of some of the most intense convection on Earth varies with phases of ENSO.

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Jake P. Mulholland, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Robert J. Trapp, Kristen L. Rasmussen, and Paola V. Salio

Abstract

Satellite observations have revealed that some of the world’s most intense deep convective storms occur near the Sierras de Córdoba, Argentina, South America. A C-band, dual-polarization Doppler weather radar recently installed in the city of Córdoba in 2015 is now providing a high-resolution radar perspective of this intense convection. Radar data from two austral spring and summer seasons (2015–17) are used to document the convective life cycle, while reanalysis data are utilized to construct storm environments across this region. Most of the storms in the region are multicellular and initiate most frequently during the early afternoon and late evening hours near and just east of the Sierras de Córdoba. Annually, the peak occurrence of these storms is during the austral summer months of December, January, and February. These Córdoba radar-based statistics are shown to be comparable to statistics derived from Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Precipitation Radar data. While generally similar to storm environments in the United States, storm environments in central Argentina tend to be characterized by larger CAPE and weaker low-level vertical wind shear. One of the more intriguing results is the relatively fast transition from first storms to larger mesoscale convective systems, compared with locations in the central United States.

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