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Erik N. Rasmussen
,
Scott Richardson
,
Jerry M. Straka
,
Paul M. Markowski
, and
David O. Blanchard

Abstract

On 2 June 1995, the large-scale environment of eastern New Mexico and western Texas was generally favorable for the occurrence of supercells because of the presence of strong deep shear and storm-relative helicity, as well as sufficient convective available potential energy (CAPE). Indeed, many supercells occurred, but the only storms to produce tornadoes were those supercells that crossed, or developed and persisted on the immediate cool side of a particular outflow boundary generated by earlier convection. Surface conditions, vertical vorticity, and horizontal vorticity near this boundary are documented using conventional and special observations from the VORTEX field program. It is shown that the boundary was locally rich in horizontal vorticity, had somewhat enhanced vertical vorticity, and enhanced CAPE. Theoretical arguments indicate that the observed horizontal vorticity (around 1 × 10−2 s−1), largely parallel to the boundary, can be readily produced with the type of buoyancy contrast observed. It is hypothesized that such local enhancement of horizontal vorticity often is required for the occurrence of significant (e.g., F2 or stronger) tornadoes, even in large-scale environments that appear conducive to tornado occurrence without the aid of local influences.

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Alexandre O. Fierro
,
Lance M. Leslie
,
Edward R. Mansell
, and
Jerry M. Straka

Abstract

A cloud scale model with a 12-class bulk microphysics scheme, including 10 ice phases and a 3D lightning parameterization, was used to investigate the electrical properties of a well-documented tropical squall line from the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE). Consistent with observations, the simulated maximum updraft speeds across the squall line seldom exceeded 10 m s−1, which was expected given the relatively shallow 30-dBZ echo tops that rarely extended above the top of the mixed-phase layer (−20°C isotherm). Enhanced warm rain processes caused most of the liquid water to precipitate near the gust front at lower levels (below 4 km AGL), which accounted for the small amounts of graupel and cloud water content present in the mixed-phase region and, consequently, for generally weak charging and electrification.

Most of the charge present in the squall line was generated within a few storm cells just behind the leading edge of the gust front that had sufficiently strong updraft speeds near the melting level to produce moderate values of graupel mixing ratio (>0.5 g kg−1). In contrast, the trailing stratiform region at the back of the line, which was mainly composed of ice crystals and snow particles, contained only weak net charge densities (<0.03 nC m−3). The spatial collocation of regions characterized by charge densities exceeding 0.01 nC m−3 and noninductive (NI) charging rates greater than 0.1 pC m−3 s−1 in this stratiform region suggests that NI charging is a plausible source for the majority of this charge, which was confined to discrete regions having small amounts of graupel (approximately 0.1–0.3 g kg−1) and cloud water content (CWC; ∼0.1 g m−3).

The simulated weak updraft speeds and shallow echo tops resulted in a system exhibiting little overall total lightning activity. Although the 5-min average intracloud (IC) flash rate rarely exceeded 10 flashes per minute and only 3 negative cloud-to-ground (−CG) lightning flashes were produced during the entire 4 h and 30 min of simulation, this still was more electrical activity than observed. This tendency for the model to generate more lightning flashes than observed remained when the inductive charging mechanism was turned off, which reduced the total amount of simulated flashes by about 43%. The three CG flashes and the great majority of the IC flashes occurred within the strongest cells located in the mature zone, which exhibited a normal tripole charge structure.

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Kristin M. Kuhlman
,
Conrad L. Ziegler
,
Edward R. Mansell
,
Donald R. MacGorman
, and
Jerry M. Straka

Abstract

A three-dimensional dynamic cloud model incorporating airflow dynamics, microphysics, and thunderstorm electrification mechanisms is used to simulate the first 3 h of the 29 June 2000 supercell from the Severe Thunderstorm Electrification and Precipitation Study (STEPS). The 29 June storm produced large flash rates, predominately positive cloud-to-ground lightning, large hail, and an F1 tornado. Four different simulations of the storm are made, each one using a different noninductive (NI) charging parameterization. The charge structure, and thus lightning polarity, of the simulated storm is sensitive to the treatment of cloud water dependence in the different NI charging schemes. The results from the simulations are compared with observations from STEPS, including balloon-borne electric field meter soundings and flash locations from the Lightning Mapping Array. For two of the parameterizations, the observed “inverted” tripolar charge structure is well approximated by the model. The polarity of the ground flashes is opposite that of the lowest charge region of the inverted tripole in both the observed storm and the simulations. Total flash rate is well correlated with graupel volume, updraft volume, and updraft mass flux. However, there is little correlation between total flash rate and maximum updraft speed. Based on the correlations found in both the observed and simulated storm, the total flash rate appears to be most representative of overall storm intensity.

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Conrad L. Ziegler
,
Erik N. Rasmussen
,
Tom R. Shepherd
,
Andrew I. Watson
, and
Jerry M. Straka

Abstract

This paper reports the results of an analysis of airflow evolution in the tornadic Newcastle–Graham, Texas, storm complex of 29 May 1994. A series of seven pseudo-dual-Doppler analyses from 2242 to 2315 are performed from tail radar observations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration P-3 aircraft. Subjective analyses of quasi-horizontal single-Doppler radar observations provide a detailed look at structure and evolution of the hook echo and the low-level Newcastle mesocyclone. Special emphasis is placed on the evolution of low-level [i.e., below 1 km above ground level (AGL)] rotation of the parent mesoscale circulation of the Newcastle tornado and the origins of mesoscale rotation preceding tornadogenesis. The structure and evolution of the Newcastle and Graham mesocyclones are compared and contrasted.

The airborne Doppler analyses reveal that the tornadic Newcastle cell had supercell characteristics and that the Newcastle storm circulation could be classified as a mesocyclone based on commonly accepted criteria of circulation amplitude, spatial scale, and persistence. The Newcastle mesocyclone initially developed downward from midlevels (i.e., 2–5 km AGL), then transitioned into a subsequent period of rapid low-level stretching intensification and upward growth just prior to the development of an F3 tornado. Single-radar analysis reveals the stretching contraction and intensification of the Newcastle mesocyclone and an embedded tornado cyclone prior to and after tornadogenesis. In contrast, the nontornadic Graham mesocyclone ultimately became rain-filled and transitioned from moderate stretching growth to negative stretching after the development of a central downdraft in low levels, possibly contributing to tornadogenesis failure. Using a hybrid, two-supercell schematic diagram to depict the Newcastle–Graham storm complex, it was concluded that the Newcastle tornado occurred at the traditionally accepted location of a supercell tornado at the point of the warm sector occlusion in the westernmost cell.

Computed trajectories based on a Lagrangian solution of the vertical vorticity equation suggested that the midlevel Newcastle mesocyclone was formed by a sequence of tilting of ambient horizontal vorticity followed by stretching intensification in the rotating updrafts. The air parcels that entered the low-level Newcastle mesocyclone initially possessed vertical vorticity of order 10−3 s−1, which was subsequently concentrated by stretching upon entering the Newcastle updraft to form the low-level mesocyclone. Though the vorticity dynamical origin of the weak ambient rotation could not be identified, the spatial origins of low-level trajectories that entered the Newcastle mesocyclone were determined to be from a broad area of low-level rainy easterly outflow from the Graham storm. The present findings were compared and contrasted with results of an earlier study of the Newcastle storm.

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Alexandre O. Fierro
,
Matthew S. Gilmore
,
Edward R. Mansell
,
Louis J. Wicker
, and
Jerry M. Straka

Abstract

A nonhydrostatic cloud model with electrification and lightning processes was utilized to investigate how simulated supercell thunderstorms respond when they move into environments favorable for storm intensification. One model simulation was initialized with an idealized horizontally varying environment, characteristic of that observed across an outflow boundary in the west Texas Panhandle on 2 June 1995 with larger convective available potential energy (CAPE) and wind shear on the boundary’s cool side. That simulation was compared with a control simulation initialized without the boundary. The simulated right-moving supercell rapidly increased in updraft strength and volume, low-level rotation, radar reflectivity, and 40-dBZ echo-top height as it crossed the boundary, whereas the supercell that did not cross the boundary failed to intensify. For the same kinematic and microphysical evolution and the same inductive charging parameterization, four noninductive (NI) charging parameterizations were tested. In all four cases, there was a general tendency for the charge regions to be lofted higher within the updraft after crossing the boundary. Once the precipitation regions between the main storm and a secondary storm started merging farther on the cool side of the boundary, a gradual deepening and strengthening of the lowest charge regions occurred with relatively large increases in hail and graupel volume, charging rates, charge volume, charge density, and intracloud and cloud-to-ground (CG) flash rates. The negative charge present on graupel within the downdraft appeared to have a common origin via strong NI charging within the midlevel updraft in all four NI cases. Positive channels were more consistent in coming closer to the ground with time compared to negative channels within this graupel and hail-filled downdraft (four of four cases). Those NI schemes that also set up a positive dipole (three of four cases) or inverted tripole (two of four cases) above the downdraft had downward-propagating positive channels that reached ground as positive CG (+CG) flashes. The best overall performance relative to the 2 June 1995 CG lightning observations occurred within one of the rime-accretion-rate-based schemes and the Gardiner scheme as parameterized by Ziegler.

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Matthew L. Loney
,
Dušan S. Zrnić
,
Jerry M. Straka
, and
Alexander V. Ryzhkov

Abstract

Compelling in situ and polarimetric radar observations from a severe Oklahoma supercell storm are presented. The in situ observations are from an aircraft that entered the storm above the main inflow region, sampling the embryo curtain, main updraft, its western fringe (very close to the center of mesocyclonic circulation), and the hail cascade region. At the same time, the Cimarron polarimetric radar observed enhanced signatures in specific differential phase K dp and differential reflectivity Z dr straddling the main updraft and extending several kilometers above the melting layer. The distance of the storm from the radar balances the novelty of this dataset, however, which is on the order of 100 km. The authors therefore rely heavily on the in situ data, including calculation of polarimetric variables, on comparisons with other in situ datasets, and on accepted conceptual models of hail growth in supercell storms to clarify hydrometeor processes in light of the intriguing polarimetric signatures near the updraft. The relation of enhanced K dp to the main updraft, to the Z dr “column,” and to precipitation is discussed. Strong evidence points to melting ice particles (>3 mm) below the aircraft height as the origin of the K dp column in the region where an abundant number of small (<2 mm) drops are also observed. To support the notion that these drops are shed by melting and perhaps wet growth, results of calculations on aircraft data are discussed. Resolution issues are invoked, leading to possible reconciliation of radar measurements with in situ observations.

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Alexandre O. Fierro
,
Joanne Simpson
,
Margaret A. LeMone
,
Jerry M. Straka
, and
Bradley F. Smull

Abstract

An airflow trajectory analysis was carried out based on an idealized numerical simulation of the nocturnal 9 February 1993 equatorial oceanic squall line observed over the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE) ship array. This simulation employed a nonhydrostatic numerical cloud model, which features a sophisticated 12-class bulk microphysics scheme. A second convective system that developed immediately south of the ship array a few hours later under similar environmental conditions was the subject of intensive airborne quad-Doppler radar observations, allowing observed airflow trajectories to be meaningfully compared to those from the model simulation. The results serve to refine the so-called hot tower hypothesis, which postulated the notion of undiluted ascent of boundary layer air to the high troposphere, which has for the first time been tested through coordinated comparisons with both model output and detailed observations.

For parcels originating ahead (north) of the system near or below cloud base in the boundary layer (BL), the model showed that a majority (>62%) of these trajectories were able to surmount the 10-km level in their lifetime, with about 5% exceeding 14-km altitude, which was near the modeled cloud top (15.5 km). These trajectories revealed that during ascent, most air parcels first experienced a quick decrease of equivalent potential temperature (θe ) below 5-km MSL as a result of entrainment of lower ambient θe air. Above the freezing level, ascending parcels experienced an increase in θe with height attributable to latent heat release from ice processes consistent with previous hypotheses. Analogous trajectories derived from the evolving observed airflow during the mature stage of the airborne radar–observed system identified far fewer (∼5%) near-BL parcels reaching heights above 10 km than shown by the corresponding simulation. This is attributed to both the idealized nature of the simulation and to the limitations inherent to the radar observations of near-surface convergence in the subcloud layer.

This study shows that latent heat released above the freezing level can compensate for buoyancy reduction by mixing at lower levels, thus enabling air originating in the boundary layer to contribute to the maintenance of both local buoyancy and the large-scale Hadley cell despite acknowledged dilution by mixing along updraft trajectories. A tropical “hot tower” should thus be redefined as any deep convective cloud with a base in the boundary layer and reaching near the upper-tropospheric outflow layer.

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Alexandre O. Fierro
,
Edward J. Zipser
,
Margaret A. LeMone
,
Jerry M. Straka
, and
Joanne (Malkus) Simpson

Abstract

This paper addresses questions resulting from the authors’ earlier simulation of the 9 February 1993 Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Research Experiment (TOGA COARE) squall line, which used updraft trajectories to illustrate how updrafts deposit significant moist static energy (in terms of equivalent potential temperature θe ) in the upper troposphere, despite dilution and a θe minimum in the midtroposphere. The major conclusion drawn from this earlier work was that the “hot towers” that Riehl and Malkus showed as necessary to maintain the Hadley circulation need not be undilute. It was not possible, however, to document how the energy (or θe ) increased above the midtroposphere. To address this relevant scientific question, a high-resolution (300 m) simulation was carried out using a standard 3-ICE microphysics scheme (Lin–Farley–Orville).

Detailed along-trajectory information also allows more accurate examination of the forces affecting each parcel’s vertical velocity W, their displacement, and the processes impacting θe , with focus on parcels reaching the upper troposphere. Below 1 km, pressure gradient acceleration forces parcels upward against negative buoyancy acceleration associated with the sum of (positive) virtual temperature excess and (negative) condensate loading. Above 1 km, the situation reverses, with the buoyancy (and thermal buoyancy) acceleration becoming positive and nearly balancing a negative pressure gradient acceleration, slightly larger in magnitude, leading to a W minimum at midlevels. The W maximum above 8 km and concomitant θ e increase between 6 and 8 km are both due to release of latent heat resulting from the enthalpy of freezing of raindrops and riming onto graupel from 5 to 6.5 km and water vapor deposition onto small ice crystals and graupel pellets above that, between 7 and 10 km.

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Conrad L. Ziegler
,
Edward R. Mansell
,
Jerry M. Straka
,
Donald R. MacGorman
, and
Donald W. Burgess

Abstract

This study reports on the dynamical evolution of simulated, long-lived right-moving supercell storms in a high-CAPE, strongly sheared mesoscale environment, which initiate in a weakly capped region and subsequently move into a cold boundary layer (BL) and inversion region before dissipating. The storm simulations realistically approximate the main morphological features and evolution of the 22 May 1981 Binger, Oklahoma, supercell storm by employing time-varying inflow lateral boundary conditions for the storm-relative moving grid, which in turn are prescribed from a parent, fixed steady-state mesoscale analysis to approximate the observed inversion region to the east of the dryline on that day. A series of full life cycle storm simulations have been performed in which the magnitude of boundary layer coldness and the convective inhibition are varied to examine the ability of the storm to regenerate and sustain its main updraft as it moves into environments with increasing convective stability. The analysis of the simulations employs an empirical expression for the theoretical speed of the right-forward-flank outflow boundary relative to the ambient, low-level storm inflow that is consistent with simulated cold-pool boundary movement. The theoretical outflow boundary speed in the direction opposite to the ambient flow increases with an increasing cold-pool temperature deficit relative to the ambient BL temperature, and it decreases as ambient wind speed increases. The right-moving, classic (CL) phase of the simulated supercells is supported by increasing precipitation content and a stronger cold pool, which increases the right-moving cold-pool boundary speed against the constant ambient BL winds. The subsequent decrease of the ambient BL temperature with eastward storm movement decreases the cold-pool temperature deficit and reduces the outflow boundary speed against the ambient winds, progressing through a state of stagnation to an ultimate retrogression of the outflow boundary in the direction of the ambient flow. Onset of a transient, left-moving low-precipitation (LP) phase is initiated as the storm redevelops on the retrograding outflow boundary. The left-moving LP storm induces compensating downward motions in the inversion layer that desiccates the inflow, elevates the cloudy updraft parcel level of free convection (LFC), and leads to the final storm decay. The results demonstrate that inversion-region simulations support isolated, long-lived supercells. Both the degree of stratification and the coldness of the ambient BL regulate the cold-pool intensity and the strength and capacity of the outflow boundary to lift BL air through the LFC and thus regenerate convection, resulting in variation of supercell duration in the inversion region of approximately 1–2 h. In contrast, horizontally homogeneous conditions lacking an inversion region result in the development of secondary convection from the initial isolated supercell, followed by rapid upscale growth after 3 h to form a long-lived mesoscale convective system.

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Erik N. Rasmussen
,
Jerry M. Straka
,
Matthew S. Gilmore
, and
Robert Davies-Jones

Abstract

This paper develops a definition of a supercell reflectivity feature called the descending reflectivity core (DRC). This is a reflectivity maximum pendant from the rear side of an echo overhang above a supercell weak-echo region. Examples of supercells with and without DRCs are presented from two days during the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX), as well as one day with tornadic high-precipitation supercell storms in central Kansas. It was found that in all cases, tornado formation was preceded by the descent of a DRC. However, the sample reported herein is much too small to allow conclusions regarding the overall frequency of DRC occurrence in supercells, or the frequency with which DRCs precede tornado formation. Although further research needs to be done to establish climatological frequencies, the apparent relationship observed between DRCs and impending tornado formation in several supercells is important enough to warrant publication of preliminary findings.

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