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Johannes M. L. Dahl
and
Jannick Fischer

Abstract

The authors investigate the origin of prefrontal, warm-season convergence lines over western Europe using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model. These lines form east of the cold front in the warm sector of an extratropical cyclone, and they are frequently the focus for convective development. It is shown that these lines are related to a low-level thermal ridge that accompanies the base of an elevated mixed layer (EML) plume generated over the Iberian Peninsula and northern Africa. Using Q-vector diagnostics, including the components that describe scalar and rotational quasigeostrophic frontogenesis, it is shown that the convergence line is associated with the rearrangement of the isentropes especially at the western periphery of the EML plume. The ascending branch of the resulting ageostrophic circulation coincides with the surface velocity convergence. The modeling results are supported by a 3-yr composite analysis of cold fronts with and without preceding convergence lines using NCEP–NCAR Reanalysis-1 data.

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Andrew Vande Guchte
and
Johannes M. L. Dahl

Abstract

Parcel trajectory analysis has become commonplace in the study of simulated severe convection, particularly that which deals with the development and maintenance of near-ground vertical vorticity. However, there are a number of unsolved problems with analyzing simulated trajectories that exist near the ground. One of these unsolved problems is how to deal with parcels that pass beneath the lowest scalar model level. Using the CM1 model, which uses a Lorenz grid, the sensitivity of parcel characteristics such as location or potential temperature to the choice of common extrapolation methods is documented. Using potential temperature as an example, it is explained why unphysical tendencies of scalar variables along trajectories may arise once parcels descend beneath the lowest scalar model level. Given the poorly constrained flow (and scalar) fields beneath the lowest scalar model level, errors such as those documented here appear unavoidable when using free-slip boundary conditions.

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Christian H. Boyer
and
Johannes M. L. Dahl

Abstract

Despite their structural differences, supercells and quasi-linear convective systems (QLCS) are both capable of producing severe weather, including tornadoes. Previous research has highlighted multiple potential mechanisms by which horizontal vorticity may be reoriented into the vertical at low levels, but it is not clear in which situation what mechanism dominates. In this study, we use the CM1 model to simulate three different storm modes, each of which developed relatively large near-surface vertical vorticity. Using forward-integrated parcel trajectories, we analyze vorticity budgets and demonstrate that there seems to be a common mechanism for maintaining the near-surface vortices across storm structures. The parcels do not acquire vertical vorticity until they reach the base of the vortices. The vertical vorticity results from vigorous upward tilting of horizontal vorticity and simultaneous vertical stretching. While the parcels analyzed in our simulations do have a history of descent, they do not acquire appreciable vertical vorticity during their descent. Rather, during the analysis period relatively large horizontal vorticity develops as a result of horizontal stretching, and therefore this vorticity can be effectively tilted into the vertical.

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Johannes M. L. Dahl
,
Hartmut Höller
, and
Ulrich Schumann

Abstract

In this study a straightforward theoretical approach to determining the flash rate in thunderstorms is presented. A two-plate capacitor represents the basic dipole charge structure of a thunderstorm, which is charged by the generator current and discharged by lightning. If the geometry of the capacitor plates, the generator-current density, and the lightning charge are known, and if charging and discharging are in equilibrium, then the flash rate is uniquely determined.

To diagnose the flash rate of real-world thunderstorms using this framework, estimates of the required relationships between the predictor variables and observable cloud properties are provided. With these estimates, the flash rate can be parameterized.

In previous approaches, the lightning rate has been set linearly proportional to the electrification rate (such as the storm’s generator power or generator current), which implies a constant amount of neutralization by lightning discharges (such as lightning energy or lightning charge). This leads to inconsistencies between these approaches. Within the new framework proposed here, the discharge strength is allowed to vary with storm geometry, which remedies the physical inconsistencies of the previous approaches.

The new parameterization is compared with observations using polarimetric radar data and measurements from the lightning detection network, LINET. The flash rates of a broad spectrum of discrete thunderstorm cells are accurately diagnosed by the new approach, while the flash rates of mesoscale convective systems are overestimated.

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Johannes M. L. Dahl
,
Hartmut Höller
, and
Ulrich Schumann

Abstract

In Part I of this two-part paper a new method of predicting the total lightning flash rate in thunderstorms was introduced. In this paper, the implementation of this method into the convection-permitting Consortium for Small Scale Modeling (COSMO) model is presented.

The new approach is based on a simple theoretical model that consists of a dipole charge structure, which is maintained by a generator current and discharged by lightning and, to a small extent, by a leakage current. This approach yields a set of four predictor variables, which are not amenable to direct observations and consequently need to be parameterized (Part I).

Using an algorithm that identifies thunderstorm cells and their properties, this approach is applied to determine the flash frequency of every thunderstorm cell in the model domain. With this information, the number of flashes that are accumulated by each cell and during the interval between the activation of the lightning scheme can be calculated.

These flashes are then randomly distributed in time and beneath each cell. The output contains the longitude, the latitude, and the time of occurrence of each simulated discharge.

Simulations of real-world scenarios are presented, which are compared to measurements with the lightning detection network, LINET. These comparisons are done on the cloud scale as well as in a mesoscale region composing southern Germany (two cases each). The flash rates of individual cumulonimbus clouds at the extreme ends of the intensity spectrum are realistically simulated. The simulated overall lightning activity over southern Germany is dominated by spatiotemporal displacements of the modeled convective clouds, although the scheme generally reproduces realistic patterns such as coherent lightning swaths.

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Johannes M. L. Dahl
,
Matthew D. Parker
, and
Louis J. Wicker

Abstract

This study addresses the sensitivity of backward trajectories within simulated near-surface mesocyclones to the spatiotemporal resolution of the velocity field. These backward trajectories are compared to forward trajectories computed during run time within the numerical model. It is found that the population of backward trajectories becomes increasingly contaminated with “inflow trajectories” that owe their existence to spatiotemporal interpolation errors in time-varying and strongly curved, confluent flow. These erroneous inflow parcels may mistakenly be interpreted as a possible source of air for the near-surface vortex. It is hypothesized that, unlike forward trajectories, backward trajectories are especially susceptible to errors near the strongly confluent intensifying vortex. Although the results are based on model output, dual-Doppler analysis fields may be equally affected by such errors.

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Alex Schueth
,
Christopher Weiss
, and
Johannes M. L. Dahl

Abstract

The forward-flank convergence boundary (FFCB) in supercells has been well documented in many observational and modeling studies. It is theorized that the FFCB is a focal point for the baroclinic generation of vorticity. This vorticity is generally horizontal and streamwise in nature, which can then be tilted and converted to midlevel (3–6 km AGL) vertical vorticity. Previous modeling studies of supercells often show horizontal streamwise vorticity present behind the FFCB, with higher-resolution simulations resolving larger magnitudes of horizontal vorticity. Recently, studies have shown a particularly strong realization of this vorticity called the streamwise vorticity current (SVC). In this study, a tornadic supercell is simulated with the Bryan Cloud Model at 125-m horizontal grid spacing, and a coherent SVC is shown to be present. Simulated range–height indicator (RHI) data show the strongest horizontal vorticity is located on the periphery of a steady-state Kelvin–Helmholtz billow in the FFCB head. Additionally, a similar structure is found in two separate observed cases with the Texas Tech University Ka-band (TTUKa) mobile radar RHIs. Analyzing vorticity budgets for parcels in the vicinity of the FFCB head in the simulation, stretching of vorticity is the primary contributor to the strong streamwise vorticity, while baroclinic generation of vorticity plays a smaller role.

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Johannes M. L. Dahl
,
Matthew D. Parker
, and
Louis J. Wicker

Abstract

The authors use a high-resolution supercell simulation to investigate the source of near-ground vertical vorticity by decomposing the vorticity vector into barotropic and nonbarotropic parts. This way, the roles of ambient and storm-generated vorticity can be isolated. A new Lagrangian technique is employed in which material fluid volume elements are tracked to analyze the rearrangement of ambient vortex-line segments. This contribution is interpreted as barotropic vorticity. The storm-generated vorticity is treated as the residual between the known total vorticity and the barotropic vorticity.

In the simulation the development of near-ground vertical vorticity is an outflow phenomenon. There are distinct “rivers” of cyclonic shear vorticity originating from the base of downdrafts that feed into the developing near-ground vortex. The origin of these rivers of vertical vorticity is primarily horizontal baroclinic production, which is maximized in the lowest few hundred meters AGL. Subsequently, this horizontal vorticity is tilted upward while the parcels are still descending. The barotropic vorticity remains mostly streamwise along the analyzed trajectories and does not acquire a large vertical component as the parcels reach the ground. Thus, the ambient vorticity that is imported into the storm contributes only a small fraction of the total near-ground vertical vorticity.

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Brice E. Coffer
,
Matthew D. Parker
,
Johannes M. L. Dahl
,
Louis J. Wicker
, and
Adam J. Clark

Abstract

Despite an increased understanding of the environments that favor tornado formation, a high false-alarm rate for tornado warnings still exists, suggesting that tornado formation could be a volatile process that is largely internal to each storm. To assess this, an ensemble of 30 supercell simulations was constructed based on small variations to the nontornadic and tornadic environmental profiles composited from the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2). All simulations produce distinct supercells despite occurring in similar environments. Both the tornadic and nontornadic ensemble members possess ample subtornadic surface vertical vorticity; the determinative factor is whether this vorticity can be converged and stretched by the low-level updraft. Each of the 15 members in the tornadic VORTEX2 ensemble produces a long-track, intense tornado. Although there are notable differences in the precipitation and near-surface buoyancy fields, each storm features strong dynamic lifting of surface air with vertical vorticity. This lifting is due to a steady low-level mesocyclone, which is linked to the ingestion of predominately streamwise environmental vorticity. In contrast, each nontornadic VORTEX2 simulation features a supercell with a disorganized low-level mesocyclone, due to crosswise vorticity in the lowest few hundred meters in the nontornadic environment. This generally leads to insufficient dynamic lifting and stretching to accomplish tornadogenesis. Even so, 40% of the nontornadic VORTEX2 ensemble members become weakly tornadic. This implies that chaotic within-storm details can still play a role and, occasionally, lead to marginally tornadic vortices in suboptimal storms.

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