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Jeremiah O. Piersante, Kristen L. Rasmussen, Russ S. Schumacher, Angela K. Rowe, and Lynn A. McMurdie

Abstract

Subtropical South America (SSA) east of the Andes Mountains is a global hotspot for mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Wide convective cores (WCCs) are typically embedded within mature MCSs, contribute over 40% of SSA’s warm-season rainfall, and are often associated with severe weather. Prior analysis of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) data identified WCCs in SSA and associated synoptic conditions during austral summer. As WCCs also occur during the austral spring, this study uses the 16-yr TRMM PR and ERA5 datasets to compare anomalies in environmental conditions between austral spring (SON) and summer (DJF) for the largest and smallest WCCs in SSA. During both seasons, large WCCs are associated with an anomalous midlevel trough that slowly crosses the Andes Mountains and a northerly South American low-level jet (SALLJ) over SSA, though the SON trough and SALLJ anomalies are stronger and located farther northeastward than in DJF. A synoptic pattern evolution resembling large WCC environments is illustrated through a multiday case during the RELAMPAGO field campaign (10–13 November 2018). Unique high-temporal-resolution soundings showed strong midlevel vertical wind shear associated with this event, induced by the juxtaposition of the northerly SALLJ and southerly near-surface flow. It is hypothesized that the Andes help create a quasi-stationary trough–ridge pattern such that favorable synoptic conditions for deep convection persist for multiple days. For the smallest WCCs, anomalously weaker synoptic-scale forcing was present compared to the largest events, especially for DJF, pointing to future work exploring MCS formation under weaker synoptic conditions.

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James N. Marquis, Adam C. Varble, Paul Robinson, T. Connor. Nelson, and Katja Friedrich

Abstract

Data from scanning radars, radiosondes, and vertical profilers deployed during three field campaigns are analyzed to study interactions between cloud-scale updrafts associated with initiating deep moist convection and the surrounding environment. Three cases are analyzed in which the radar networks permitted dual-Doppler wind retrievals in clear air preceding and during the onset of surface precipitation. These observations capture the evolution of: i) the mesoscale and boundary layer flow, and ii) low-level updrafts associated with deep moist convection initiation (CI) events yielding sustained or short-lived precipitating storms.

The elimination of convective inhibition did not distinguish between sustained and unsustained CI events, though the vertical distribution of convective available potential energy may have played a role. The clearest signal differentiating the initiation of sustained versus unsustained precipitating deep convection was the depth of the low-level horizontal wind convergence associated with the mesoscale flow feature triggering CI, a sharp surface wind shift boundary or orographic upslope flow. The depth of the boundary layer relative to the height of the LFC failed to be a consistent indicator of CI potential. Widths of the earliest detectable low-level updrafts associated with sustained precipitating deep convection were ~3-5 km, larger than updrafts associated with surrounding boundary layer turbulence (~1-3-km wide). It is hypothesized that updrafts of this larger size are important for initiating cells to survive the destructive effects of buoyancy dilution via entrainment.

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Russ S. Schumacher, Deanna A. Hence, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Robert J. Trapp, Karen A. Kosiba, Joshua Wurman, Paola Salio, Martin Rugna, Adam C. Varble, and Nathan R. Kelly

Abstract

During the Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, and Mesoscale/Microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations-Cloud, Aerosol, and Complex Terrain Interactions (RELAMPAGO-CACTI) field experiments in 2018–19, an unprecedented number of balloon-borne soundings were collected in Argentina. Radiosondes were launched from both fixed and mobile platforms, yielding 2712 soundings during the period 15 October 2018–30 April 2019. Approximately 20% of these soundings were collected by highly mobile platforms, strategically positioned for each intensive observing period, and launching approximately once per hour. The combination of fixed and mobile soundings capture both the overall conditions characterizing the RELAMPAGO-CACTI campaign, as well as the detailed evolution of environments supporting the initiation and upscale growth of deep convective storms, including some that produced hazardous hail and heavy rainfall. Episodes of frequent convection were characterized by sufficient quantities of moisture and instability for deep convection, along with deep-layer vertical wind shear supportive of organized or rotating storms. A total of 11 soundings showed most unstable convective available potential energy (MUCAPE) exceeding 6000 J kg−1, comparable to the extreme instability observed in other parts of the world with intense deep convection. Parameters used to diagnose severe-storm potential showed that conditions were often favorable for supercells and severe hail, but not for tornadoes, primarily because of insufficient low-level wind shear. High-frequency soundings also revealed the structure and evolution of the boundary layer leading up to convection initiation, convectively generated cold pools, the South American low-level jet (SALLJ), and elevated nocturnal convection. This sounding dataset will enable improved understanding and prediction of convective storms and their surroundings in subtropical South America, as well as comparisons with other heavily studied regions such as the central United States that have not previously been possible.

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T. Connor Nelson, James Marquis, Adam Varble, and Katja Friedrich

Abstract

The Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, and Mesoscale/Microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO) and Cloud, Aerosol, and Complex Terrain Interactions (CACTI) projects deployed a high-spatiotemporal-resolution radiosonde network to examine environments supporting deep convection in the complex terrain of central Argentina. This study aims to characterize atmospheric profiles most representative of the near-cloud environment (in time and space) to identify the mesoscale ingredients affecting storm initiation and growth. Spatiotemporal autocorrelation analysis of the soundings reveals that there is considerable environmental heterogeneity, with boundary layer thermodynamic and kinematic fields becoming statistically uncorrelated on scales of 1–2 h and 30 km. Using this as guidance, we examine a variety of environmental parameters derived from soundings collected within close proximity (30 km in space and 30 min in time) of 44 events over 9 days where the atmosphere either: 1) supported the initiation of sustained precipitating convection, 2) yielded weak and short-lived precipitating convection, or 3) produced no precipitating convection in disagreement with numerical forecasts from convection-allowing models (i.e., Null events). There are large statistical differences between the Null event environments and those supporting any convective precipitation. Null event profiles contained larger convective available potential energy, but had low free-tropospheric relative humidity, higher freezing levels, and evidence of limited horizontal convergence near the terrain at low levels that likely suppressed deep convective growth. We also present evidence from the radiosonde and satellite measurements that flow–terrain interactions may yield gravity wave activity that affects CI outcome.

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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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