Abstract

An observed turbulence encounter that occurred outside a mesoscale convective system over the central United States on 3 June 2005 is investigated using observations and high-resolution numerical modeling. Here, the mechanisms associated with the observed moderate-to-severe turbulence during the evolution of this convective system are examined. Comparison between aircraft-observed eddy dissipation rate data with satellite and radar shows that a majority of turbulence reports are located on the south side and outside of a nocturnal mesoscale convective system (MCS), relatively large distances from the active convective regions. Simulations show that divergent storm-induced upper-level outflow reduces the environmental flow on the south side of the MCS, while on the north and northwest side it enhances the environmental flow. This upper-level storm outflow enhances the vertical shear near the flight levels and contributes to mesoscale reductions in Richardson number to values that support turbulence. In addition to the role of the MCS-induced outflow, high-resolution simulations (1.1-km horizontal grid spacing) show that turbulence is largely associated with a large-amplitude gravity wave generated by the convective system, which propagates away from it. As the wave propagates in the region with enhanced vertical shear caused by the storm-induced upper-level outflow, it amplifies, overturns, and breaks down into turbulence. The location of the simulated turbulence relative to the storm agrees with the observations and the analysis herein provides insight into the key processes underlying this event.

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