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Robert Davies-Jones
and
Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

Fine-resolution computer models of supercell storms generate realistic tornadic vortices. Like real tornadoes, the origins of these virtual vortices are mysterious. To diagnose the origin of a tornado, typically a near-ground material circuit is drawn around it. This circuit is then traced back in time using backward trajectories. The rate of change of the circulation around the circuit is equal to the total force circulation. This circulation theorem is used to deduce the origins of the tornado’s large vorticity. However, there is a well-known problem with this approach; with staggered grids, parcel trajectories become uncertain as they dip into the layer next to the ground where horizontal wind cannot be interpolated. To circumvent this dilemma, we obtain a generalized circulation theorem that pertains to any circuit. We apply this theorem either to moving circuits that are constrained to simple surfaces or to a “hybrid” circuit defined next. Let A be the horizontal surface at one grid spacing off the ground. Above A the circuit moves as a material circuit. Horizontal curve segments that move in A with the horizontal wind replace segments of the material circuit that dip below A. The circulation equation for the modified circuit includes the force circulation of the inertial force that is required to keep the curve segments horizontal. This term is easily evaluated on A. Use of planar or circular circuits facilitates explanation of some simple flows. The hybrid-circuit method significantly improves the accuracy of the circulation budget in an idealized supercell simulation.

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Luke J. LeBel
and
Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

The initiation of thunderstorms in environments characterized by strong wind shear presents a forecast challenge because of the complexities of the interactions between growing cumulus clouds and wind shear. Thunderstorms that develop in such environments are often capable of producing high-impact hazards, highlighting the importance of convection initiation in sheared environments. Although recent research has greatly improved understanding of the structure and evolution of rising thermals in unsheared environments, there remains uncertainty in how wind shear influences the convection initiation process. Two large-eddy simulations (75-m horizontal grid spacing) were performed to study this problem. Convection initiation attempts are forced in the simulations through prescribed surface heat fluxes (the initial boundary layers are statistically horizontally homogeneous and quasi–steady state but contain turbulent eddies as a result of random initial temperature perturbations). The only difference between the two simulations is the presence or absence of wind shear above 2 km. Important differences in the entrainment patterns are present between sheared and unsheared growing cumulus clouds. As found in previous research, the overturning circulation associated with rising thermals drives dynamic entrainment in the unsheared clouds. However, in sheared clouds, wake entrainment resulting from the tilting of environmental vorticity is an important dynamic entrainment pathway. This result has implications for both the structure of sheared growing cumulus clouds and for convection initiation in sheared environments.

Significance Statement

Forecasts of thunderstorm hazards such as tornadoes, hail, and strong winds, require the accurate prediction of when and where thunderstorms form. Unfortunately, predicting thunderstorm formation is not easy, as there are a lot of different factors to consider. One such factor is environmental vertical wind shear, which describes how winds change speed and direction with height. The purpose of this study is to better understand how wind shear impacts developing clouds. Our results demonstrate a specific mechanism, called “wake entrainment,” through which wind shear can weaken developing clouds and potentially prevent them from becoming strong thunderstorms entirely. Understanding this mechanism may be useful for thunderstorm prediction in environments characterized by wind shear.

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Christopher J. Nowotarski
and
Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

This study investigates the changes that simulated supercell thunderstorms impart on their surroundings. Supercells are simulated in a strongly sheared convective boundary layer comprising horizontal roll vortices. In sensitivity tests, the effects of cloud shading on the near-storm environment are explored through the removal of cloud ice, water, and hydrometeor effects on parameterized radiation. All of the simulated supercells increase the low-level shear in their proximal environment; however, this effect is more pronounced when cloud shading is included. Shading stabilizes the boundary layer beneath the cirrus anvil, diminishes boundary layer rolls and their attendant thermodynamic perturbations, and reduces the intensity of resolved turbulent mixing in the convective boundary layer. Anvil shading also acts to reduce the buoyancy of inflow air and the horizontal buoyancy gradient along the forward-flank outflow boundary.

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Abdullah Kahraman
and
Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

A climatology of tornadoes in Turkey is presented using records from a wide variety of sources (e.g., the Turkish State Meteorological Service, European Severe Weather Database, newspaper archives, Internet searches, etc.). The climatology includes the annual, diurnal, geographical, and intensity distributions of both mesocyclonic and nonmesocyclonic tornadoes. From 1818 to 2013, 385 tornado cases were obtained. The tornadoes range from F0 to F3, with F1 being the most frequently reported or inferred intensity. Mesocyclonic tornadoes are most likely in May and June, and a secondary maximum in frequency is present in October and November. Nonmesocyclonic tornadoes (waterspouts) are most common in the winter along the (southern) Mediterranean coast and in the fall along the Black Sea (northern) coast. Tornadoes (both mesocyclonic and nonmesocyclonic) are most likely in the afternoon and early evening hours.

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Paul M. Markowski
and
George H. Bryan

Abstract

In idealized simulations of convective storms, which are almost always run as large-eddy simulations (LES), the planetary boundary layers (PBLs) are typically laminar (i.e., they lack turbulent eddies). When compared with turbulent simulations, theory, or simulations with PBL schemes, the typically laminar LES used in the severe-storms community produce unrealistic near-surface vertical wind profiles containing excessive vertical wind shear when the lower boundary condition is nonfree slip. Such simulations are potentially problematic given the recent interest within the severe storms community in the influence of friction on vorticity generation within tornadic storms. Simulations run as LES that include surface friction but lack well-resolved turbulent eddies thus probably overestimate friction’s effects on storms.

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Aaron Wang
,
Ying Pan
, and
Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

This work explores the influence of weighted essentially nonoscillatory (WENO) schemes on Cloud Model 1 (CM1) large-eddy simulations (LES) of a quasi-steady, horizontally homogeneous, fully developed, neutral atmospheric boundary layer (ABL). An advantage of applying WENO schemes to scalar advection in compressible models is the elimination of acoustic waves and associated oscillations of domain-total vertical velocity. Applying WENO schemes to momentum advection in addition to scalar advection yields no further advantage but has an adverse effect on resolved turbulence within LES. As a tool designed to reduce numerically generated spurious oscillations, WENO schemes also suppress physically realistic instability development in turbulence-resolving simulations. Thus, applying WENO schemes to momentum advection reduces vortex stretching, suppresses the energy cascade, reduces shear-production of resolved Reynolds stress, and eventually amplifies the differences between the surface-layer mean wind profiles in the LES and the mean wind profiles expected in accordance with the filtered law of the wall (LOTW). The role of WENO schemes in adversely influencing surface-layer turbulence has inspired a concept of anti-WENO (AWENO) schemes to enhance instability development in regions where energy-containing turbulent motions are inadequately resolved by LES grids. The success in reproducing the filtered LOTW via AWENO schemes suggests that improving advection schemes is a critical component toward faithfully simulating near-surface turbulence and dealing with other “terra incognita” problems.

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Abdullah Kahraman
,
Mikdat Kadioglu
, and
Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

Severe convective storms occasionally result in loss of life and property in Turkey, a country not known for its severe convective weather. However, relatively little is known about the characteristics of Turkish severe weather environments. This paper documents these characteristics using European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) reanalysis data on tornado and severe hail days in Turkey from 1979 to 2013. Severe storm environments are characterized by larger convective available potential energy (CAPE) in Turkey compared to the rest of Europe, but the CAPE values are less than those in typical U.S. severe storm environments. Severe hail is associated with large CAPE and vertical wind shear. Nonmesocyclonic tornadoes are associated with less CAPE compared with the other forms of severe weather. Deep-layer vertical wind shear is slightly weaker in Turkish supercell environments than in U.S. supercell environments, and Turkish tornadic supercell environments are characterized by much weaker low-level shear than in the United States and Europe, at least in the ECMWF reanalysis data. Composite parameters such as the supercell composite parameter (SCP) and energy–helicity index (EHI) can discriminate between very large hail and large hail environments.

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Charles A. Doswell III
and
Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

Basic concepts of buoyancy are reviewed and considered first in light of simple parcel theory and then in a more complete form. It is shown that parcel theory is generally developed in terms of the density (temperature) difference between an ascending parcel and an “environment” surrounding that parcel. That is, buoyancy is often understood as a relative quantity that apparently depends on the choice of a base-state environmental profile. However, parcel theory is most appropriately understood as a probe of the static stability of a sounding to finite vertical displacements of hypothetical parcels within the sounding rather than as a useful model of deep convection.

The thermal buoyancy force, as measured by the temperature difference between a parcel and the base state, and vertical perturbation pressure gradient force together must remain independent of the base state. The vertical perturbation pressure gradient force can be decomposed to include a term due to thermal buoyancy and another due to the properties of motion in the flow. Some thought experiments are presented to illustrate the ambiguous relevance of the base state.

It is concluded that buoyancy is not a relative quantity in that it cannot be dependent on the choice of an essentially arbitrary reference state. Buoyancy is the static part of an unbalanced vertical pressure gradient force and, as such, is determined locally, not relative to some arbitrary base state outside of a parcel. This has direct application to the diagnosis of buoyancy from numerical simulations—done properly, such a diagnosis must include not only the thermal buoyancy term but also the perturbation pressure gradient force due to buoyancy.

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Paul M. Markowski
,
Jerry M. Straka
, and
Erik N. Rasmussen

Abstract

Despite the long-surmised importance of the hook echo and rear-flank downdraft (RFD) in tornadogenesis, only a paucity of direct observations have been obtained at the surface within hook echoes and RFDs. In this paper, in situ surface observations within hook echoes and RFDs are analyzed. These “mobile mesonet” data have unprecedented horizontal spatial resolution and were obtained from the Verifications of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX) and additional field experiments conducted since the conclusion of VORTEX. The surface thermodynamic characteristics of hook echoes and RFDs associated with tornadic and nontornadic supercells are investigated to address whether certain types of hook echoes and RFDs are favorable (or unfavorable) for tornadogenesis.

Tornadogenesis is more likely and tornado intensity and longevity increase as the surface buoyancy, potential buoyancy (as measured by the convective available potential energy), and equivalent potential temperature in the RFD increase, and as the convective inhibition associated with RFD parcels at the surface decreases. It is hypothesized that evaporative cooling and entrainment of midlevel potentially cold air may play smaller roles in the development of RFDs associated with tornadic supercells compared to nontornadic supercells. Furthermore, baroclinity at the surface within the hook echo is not a necessary condition for tornadogenesis. It also will be shown that environments characterized by high boundary layer relative humidity (and low cloud base) may be more conducive to RFDs associated with relatively high buoyancy than environments characterized by low boundary layer relative humidity (and high cloud base).

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Paul M. Markowski
,
Jerry M. Straka
, and
Erik N. Rasmussen

Abstract

Idealized numerical simulations are conducted in which an axisymmetric, moist, rotating updraft free of rain is initiated, after which a downdraft is imposed by precipitation loading. The experiments are designed to emulate a supercell updraft that has rotation aloft initially, followed by the formation of a downdraft and descent of a rain curtain on the rear flank. In the idealized simulations, the rain curtain and downdraft are annular, rather than hook-shaped, as is typically observed. The downdraft transports angular momentum, which is initially a maximum aloft and zero at the surface, toward the ground. Once reaching the ground, the circulation-rich air is converged beneath the updraft and a tornado develops. The intensity and longevity of the tornado depend on the thermodynamic characteristics of the angular momentum-transporting downdraft, which are sensitive to the ambient low-level relative humidity and precipitation character of the rain curtain. For large low-level relative humidity and a rain curtain having a relatively small precipitation concentration, the imposed downdraft is warmer than when the low-level relative humidity is small and the precipitation concentration of the rain curtain is large. The simulated tornadoes are stronger and longer-lived when the imposed downdrafts are relatively warm compared to when the downdrafts are relatively cold, owing to a larger amount of convergence of circulation-rich downdraft air. The results may explain some recent observations of the tendency for supercells to be tornadic when their rear-flank downdrafts are associated with relatively small temperature deficits.

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