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Joshua Wurman, Karen Kosiba, Paul Markowski, Yvette Richardson, David Dowell, and Paul Robinson

Abstract

Finescale single- and dual-Doppler observations are used to diagnose the three-dimensional structure of the wind field surrounding a tornado that occurred near the town of Orleans, Nebraska, on 22 May 2004. The evolution of the vorticity and divergence fields and other structures near the tornado are documented in the lowest kilometer. Changes in tornado intensity are compared to the position of the tornado relative to primary and secondary gust fronts. Circulation on scales of a few kilometers surrounding the tornado remains relatively constant during the analysis period, which spans the intensifying and mature periods of the tornado’s life cycle. Stretching of vertical vorticity and tilting of horizontal vorticity are diagnosed, but the latter is near or below the threshold of detectability in this analysis during the observation period in the analyzed domain. Low-level circulation within 500 m of the tornado increased several minutes before vortex-relative and ground-relative near-surface wind speeds in the tornado increased, raising the possibility that such trends in circulation may be useful in forecasting tornado intensification.

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James Marquis, Yvette Richardson, Paul Markowski, Joshua Wurman, Karen Kosiba, and Paul Robinson

Abstract

Storm-scale and mesocyclone-scale processes occurring contemporaneously with a tornado in the Goshen County, Wyoming, supercell observed on 5 June 2009 during the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2) are examined using ensemble analyses produced by assimilating mobile radar and in situ observations into a high-resolution convection-resolving model. This paper focuses on understanding the evolution of the vertical structure of the storm, the outflow buoyancy, and processes affecting the vertical vorticity and circulation within the mesocyclone that correspond to changes in observed tornado intensity.

Tornadogenesis occurs when the low-level mesocyclone is least negatively buoyant relative to the environment, possesses its largest circulation, and is collocated with the largest azimuthally averaged convergence during the analysis period. The average buoyancy, circulation, and convergence within the near-surface mesocyclone (on spatial scales resolved by the model) all decrease as the tornado intensifies and matures. The tornado and its parent low-level mesocyclone both dissipate surrounded by a weakening rear-flank downdraft. The decreasing buoyancy of parcels within the low-level mesocyclone may partly be responsible for the weakening of the updraft surrounding the tornado and decoupling of the mid- and low-level circulation. Although the supply of horizontal vorticity generated in the forward flank of the storm increases throughout the life cycle of the tornado, it is presumably less easily tilted and stretched on the mesocyclone-scale during tornado maturity owing to the disruption of the low-level updraft/downdraft structure. Changes in radar-measured tornado intensity lag those of ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) mesocyclone vorticity and circulation.

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Karen Kosiba, Joshua Wurman, Yvette Richardson, Paul Markowski, Paul Robinson, and James Marquis

Abstract

The genesis of a strong and long-lived tornado observed during the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2) in Goshen County, Wyoming, on 5 June 2009 is studied. Mobile radar, mobile mesonet, rawinsonde, and photographic data are used to produce an integrated analysis of the evolution of the wind, precipitation, and thermodynamic fields in the parent supercell to deduce the processes that resulted in tornadogenesis. Several minutes prior to tornadogenesis, the rear-flank downdraft intensifies, and a secondary rear-flank downdraft forms and cyclonically wraps around the developing tornado. Kinematic and thermodynamic analyses suggest that horizontal vorticity created in the forward flank and hook echo is tilted and then stretched near the developing tornado. Tilting and stretching are enhanced in the developing low-level circulation as the secondary rear-flank downdraft develops, intensifies, and wraps around the circulation center. Shortly thereafter, the tornado forms. Tornadogenesis does not proceed steadily. Strengthening, weakening, and renewed intensification of the tornado are documented in photographic, reflectivity, Doppler velocity, and dual-Doppler fields and are associated with, and shortly follow, changes in the secondary rear-flank downdraft, convergence, location of the vortex relative to the updraft/downdraft couplet, tilting and stretching near and in the developing tornado, and the evolution of total circulation.

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Karen A. Kosiba, Joshua Wurman, Kevin Knupp, Kyle Pennington, and Paul Robinson

Abstract

During the Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS) field campaign, 12 long-lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) snowband events were sampled. Misovortices occurred in 11 of these events, with characteristic diameters of ~800 m, differential velocities of ~11 m s−1, and spacing between vortices of ~3 km. A detailed observational analysis of one such snowband provided further insight on the processes governing misovortex genesis and evolution, adding to the growing body of knowledge of these intense snowband features. On 15–16 December 2013, a misovortex-producing snowband was exceptionally well sampled by ground-based OWLeS instrumentation, which allowed for integrated finescale dual-Doppler and surface thermodynamic analyses. Similar to other studies, horizontal shearing instability (HSI), coupled with stretching, was shown to be the primary genesis mechanism. The HSI location was influenced by snowband-generated boundaries and location of the Arctic front relative to the band. Surface temperature observations, available for the first time, indicated that the misovortices formed along a baroclinic zone. Enhanced mixing, higher radar reflectivity, and increased precipitation rate accompanied the vortices. As the snowband came ashore, OWLeS participants indicated an increase in snowfall and white out conditions with the passage of the snowband. A sharp, small-scale pressure drop, coupled with winds of ~16 m s−1, marked the passage of a misovortex and may be typical of snowband misovortices.

Open access
Jake P. Mulholland, Jeffrey Frame, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Scott M. Steiger, Karen A. Kosiba, and Joshua Wurman

Abstract

Recent lake-effect snow field projects in the eastern Great Lakes region have revealed the presence of misovortices with diameters between 40 and 4000 m along cyclonic horizontal shear zones within long-lake-axis-parallel bands. One particular band in which an abundance of misovortices developed occurred on 7 January 2014. The leading hypothesis for lake-effect misovortexgenesis is the release of horizontal shearing instability (HSI). An analysis of three-dimensional dual-Doppler wind syntheses reveals that two criteria for HSI are satisfied along the horizontal shear zone, strongly suggesting that HSI was the likely cause of the misovortices in this case. Furthermore, the general lack of anticyclonic–cyclonic vortex couplets throughout the event reveal that tilting of horizontal vorticity into the vertical is of less importance compared to the release of HSI and subsequent strengthening via vortex stretching. A WRF simulation depicts misovortices along the horizontal shear zone within the simulated band. The simulated vortices display remarkable similarities to the observed vortices in terms of intensity, depth, spacing, and size. The simulated vortices persist over the eastern end of the lake; however, once the vortices move inland, they quickly dissipate. HSI criteria are also calculated from the WRF simulation and are satisfied along the shear zone. Competing hypotheses of misovortexgenesis are presented, with results indicating that the release of HSI is the likely mechanism of vortex formation.

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Matthew R. Kumjian, Yvette P. Richardson, Traeger Meyer, Karen A. Kosiba, and Joshua Wurman

Abstract

Two of the “Doppler on Wheels” facility radars (DOW6 and DOW7) have been upgraded to dual-polarization capabilities and operate at two closely spaced X-band frequencies. For particles with sizes that are large relative to the wavelength, resonance scattering effects may lead to differences in the backscattered radiation between these two frequencies. This study investigates the utility of dual-frequency, dual-polarization DOW radars for hail detection and sizing. T-matrix scattering calculations at the two X-band DOW7 frequencies reveal that dual-frequency differences in the radar reflectivity factors at horizontal polarization (Δλ Z H) and differential reflectivities (Δλ Z DR) exist for hailstones, whereas negligible differences exist for raindrops. These differences are enhanced for wet or melting hailstones. Further, these dual-frequency differences may be positive or negative, thereby defining four distinct quadrants in the Δλ Z H–Δλ Z DR parameter space that occur for narrow bands of hail sizes. DOW7 data from two hail-bearing storms are analyzed: one produced only small hail, and the other produced severe hail up to ~3.8 cm in diameter. The analysis reveals dual-frequency signals that are consistent with the scattering calculations for those sizes, including consistent changes in the signatures below the melting layer in the first storm as hailstones acquire more liquid meltwater and a shift in the Δλ Z H–Δλ Z DR parameter space over time as the second storm grew upscale and hail sizes decreased. Implications for further applications and suggestions about closely spaced dual-frequency observations at other wavelengths are discussed.

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Casey B. Griffin, Christopher C. Weiss, Anthony E. Reinhart, Jeffrey C. Snyder, Howard B. Bluestein, Joshua Wurman, and Karen A. Kosiba

Abstract

During the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2) field campaign, mobile radars observed a previously undocumented feature: the low-reflectivity ribbon (LRR). The LRR was characterized by reduced reflectivity Z H and differential reflectivity Z DR through a narrow region extending from the intersection of the hook and forward-flank regions of supercells. This study synthesizes kinematic and polarimetric radar observations with in situ measurements taken by the “StickNet” observing network. StickNet data have been used to establish that the LRR is associated with a localized minimum in pseudoequivalent potential temperature Pronounced drops in are observed by nine separate probes in three different supercell thunderstorms. Both single- and dual-Doppler analyses are used to examine the two- and three-dimensional structures of the winds within the LRR, revealing that the LRR is associated with cyclonic vertical vorticity aloft. Polarimetric radar observations are used to study the hydrometeor characteristics and the processes that cause those hydrometers to be present. Special consideration is given to the analysis of the vertical distribution of traditional and polarimetric variables, as well as the evolution of the kinematic fields retrieved by dual-Doppler analysis. The combination of thermodynamic, kinematic, and inferred microphysical observations supports a hypothesis that the LRR comprises sparse, large hail.

Open access
Alicia M. Klees, Yvette P. Richardson, Paul M. Markowski, Christopher Weiss, Joshua M. Wurman, and Karen K. Kosiba

Abstract

On 10 June 2010, the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2) armada collected a rare set of observations of a nontornadic and a tornadic supercell evolving in close proximity to each other. The storms and their environments were analyzed using single- and dual-Doppler radar, mobile mesonet, deployable surface mesonet, and mobile sounding data, with the goal of understanding why one supercell produced no tornadoes while the other produced at least two. Outflow temperature deficits were similar for the two storms, both within the normal range for weakly tornadic supercells but somewhat cold relative to significantly tornadic supercells. The storms formed in a complex environment, with slightly higher storm-relative helicity near the tornadic supercell. The environment evolved significantly in time, with large thermodynamic changes and increases in storm-relative helicity, leading to conditions much more favorable for tornadogenesis. After a few hours, a new storm developed between the supercells, likely leading to the demise of the nontornadic supercell before it was able to experience the enhanced environmental conditions. Two tornadoes developed within the single mesocyclone of the other supercell. After the dissipation of the second tornado, rapid rearward motion of low- to midlevel circulations may have inhibited further tornado production in this storm.

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Paul Markowski, Yvette Richardson, James Marquis, Robert Davies-Jones, Joshua Wurman, Karen Kosiba, Paul Robinson, Erik Rasmussen, and David Dowell

Abstract

The dynamical processes responsible for the intensification of low-level rotation prior to tornadogenesis are investigated in the Goshen County, Wyoming, supercell of 5 June 2009 intercepted by the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2). The circulation of material circuits that converge upon the low-level mesocyclone is principally acquired along the southern periphery of the forward-flank precipitation region, which is a corridor characterized by a horizontal buoyancy gradient; thus, much of the circulation appears to have been baroclinically generated. The descending reflectivity core (DRC) documented in Part I of this paper has an important modulating influence on the circulation of the material circuits. A circuit that converges upon the low-level mesocyclone center prior to the DRC’s arrival at low levels (approximately the arrival of the 55-dBZ reflectivity isosurface in this case) loses some of its previously acquired circulation during the final few minutes of its approach. In contrast, a circuit that approaches the low-level mesocyclone center after the DRC arrives at low levels does not experience the same adversity.

An analysis of the evolution of angular momentum within a circular control disk centered on the low-level mesocyclone reveals that the area-averaged angular momentum in the nearby surroundings of the low-level mesocyclone increases while the mesocyclone is occluding and warm-sector air is being displaced from the near surroundings. The occlusion process reduces the overall negative vertical flux of angular momentum into the control disk and enables the area-averaged angular momentum to continue increasing even though the positive radial influx of angular momentum is decreasing in time.

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Paul Markowski, Yvette Richardson, James Marquis, Joshua Wurman, Karen Kosiba, Paul Robinson, David Dowell, Erik Rasmussen, and Robert Davies-Jones

Abstract

The authors analyze the pretornadic phase (2100–2148 UTC; tornadogenesis began at 2152 UTC) of the Goshen County, Wyoming, supercell of 5 June 2009 intercepted by the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2). The analysis relies on radar data from the Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) in Cheyenne, Wyoming (KCYS), and a pair of Doppler-on-Wheels (DOW) radars, mobile mesonet observations, and mobile sounding observations.

The storm resembles supercells that have been observed in the past. For example, it develops a couplet of counter-rotating vortices that straddle the hook echo within the rear-flank outflow and are joined by arching vortex lines, with the cyclonic vortex becoming increasingly dominant in the time leading up to tornadogenesis. The outflow in the hook echo region, where sampled, has relatively small virtual potential temperature θυ deficits during this stage of evolution. A few kilometers upstream (north) of the location of maximum vertical vorticity, θυ is no more than 3 K colder than the warmest θυ readings in the inflow of the storm. Forward trajectories originating in the outflow within and around the low-level mesocyclone rise rapidly, implying that the upward-directed perturbation pressure gradient force exceeds the negative buoyancy.

Low-level rotation intensifies in the 2142–2148 UTC period. The intensification is preceded by the formation of a descending reflectivity core (DRC), similar to others that have been documented in some supercells recently. The DRC is associated with a rapid increase in the vertical vorticity and circulation of the low-level mesocyclone.

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