Abstract

The stalling and rapid destruction of a potential vorticity (PV) anomaly in the upper troposphere–lower stratosphere (UTLS) by convectively detrained inertially unstable air is described. On 20 August 2018, 10–15 in. (~0.3–0.4 m) of rain fell on western Dane County, Wisconsin, primarily during 0100–0300 UTC 21 August (1900–2100 CDT 20 August), leading to extreme local flooding. Dynamical aspects are investigated using the University of Wisconsin Nonhydrostratic Modeling System (UWNMS). Results are compared with available radiosonde, radar, total rainfall estimates, satellite infrared, and high-resolution European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) operational analyses. Using ECMWF analyses, the formation of the UTLS PV anomaly is traced to its origin a week earlier in a PV streamer over the west coast of North America. The rainfall maximum over southern Wisconsin was associated with this PV anomaly, whereby convection forming in the warm-upglide sector rotated cyclonically into the region. The quasi-stationarity of this rainfall feature was aided by a broad northeastward surge of inertially unstable convective outflow air into southeastern Wisconsin, which coincided with stalling of the eastward progression of the PV anomaly and its diversion into southern Wisconsin, extending heavy rainfall for several hours. Cessation of rainfall coincided with dilution of the PV maximum in less than an hour (2100–2200 CDT), associated with the arrival of negative PV in the upper troposphere. The region of negative PV was created when convection over Illinois transported air with low wind speed into northeastward shear. This feature is diagnosed using the convective momentum transport hypothesis.

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