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Joshua Wurman and Karen Kosiba

Abstract

Strong hurricanes cause severe, but highly variable, wind damage to homes and community infrastructure. It has been speculated, but not previously shown, that damage variability is caused by tornadoes or other small-scale phenomena. Here, the authors present the first mapping and tracking of persistent tornado-scale vortices (TSVs) in the eyewall and the first documentation of the likely role of eyewall mesovortices (MVs) and TSVs in enhancing surface winds and damage. Unprecedented finescale observations in the eyewall of Hurricane Harvey (2017) were obtained by a Doppler on Wheels (DOW) radar deployed inside the eye. These observations reveal several persistent eyewall MVs revolving about the eye, as well as superimposed subkilometer-scale TSVs. Wind field perturbations associated with TSVs and MVs are less than those typical in supercell tornadoes, but since they are embedded in strong background eyewall flow, they are likely responsible for the enhancement of surface wind gusts and significant damage, including destroyed buildings and lofted vehicles. Potential climate change may result in more frequent intense and/or rapidly intensifying hurricanes; thus, understanding and forecasting the causes of hurricane wind damage is a high priority.

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Karen A. Kosiba and Joshua Wurman

Abstract

Two Doppler on Wheels (DOW) mobile radars collected fine-spatial-scale dual-Doppler data in the right-front quadrant and eye of Hurricane Frances (2004) as it made landfall near Stuart, Florida. A 5.7-km dual-Doppler baseline established a dual-Doppler domain south and east of Fort Pierce, Florida, encompassing a 5.5 km × 5.5 km horizontal area, with a grid spacing of 20 m, allowing for the resolution of subkilometer-scale horizontal structures and associated kinematics. Three-dimensional vector wind analyses of the boundary layer revealed the presence of linear coherent structures with a characteristic wavelength of 400–500 m near the surface that increased in size and became more cellular in shape with increasing height. Average horizontal perturbation winds were proportional to average total horizontal winds. Within the eye of the hurricane, the features lost linear coherency despite a high mean wind speed, possibly due to changes in stability. A slight decrease in the characteristic wavelength of boundary layer structures was documented as the winds cross the barrier islands east of Fort Pierce. Vertical flux of horizontal momentum caused by individual vortical structures was substantially higher than values employed in turbulence parameterization schemes, but the domain-wide average flux was substantially lower than that in individual structures, likely due to the transient nature of the most intense portions of the structures. Analysis of the turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) yielded values comparable to those reported in previous observational studies over the open ocean. However, there was substantial variability in TKE within the dual-Doppler domain, emphasizing the challenge in obtaining representative samples using non-3D measurements such as dropsondes.

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Karen Kosiba, Joshua Wurman, Forrest J. Masters, and Paul Robinson

Abstract

Data collected from a Doppler on Wheels (DOW) mobile radar deployed in Port Arthur, Texas, near the point of landfall of Hurricane Rita (2005) and from two Florida Coastal Monitoring Program 10-m weather stations (FCMP-WSs) are used to characterize wind field variability, including hurricane boundary layer (HBL) streaks/rolls, during the hurricane's passage. DOW data, validated against nearby weather station data, are combined with surface roughness fields derived from land-use mapping to produce fine spatial scale, two-dimensional maps of the 10 m above ground level (AGL) open-terrain exposure and exposure-influenced winds over Port Arthur. The DOW collected ~3000 low-elevation radar sweeps at 12-s intervals for >10 h during the passage of the hurricane. This study focuses on the 2–3-h period when the western eyewall passed over Port Arthur. Finescale HBL wind streaks are observed to have length scales of O(300 m), smaller than previously identified in other HBL studies. The HBL streaks are tracked as they pass over an FCMP-WS located in flat, open terrain and another FCMP-WS located near a subdivision. DOW data collected over the FCMP-WS are reduced to anemometer height, using roughness lengths calculated from DOW and FCMP-WS data. Variations in the radar-observed winds directly over the FCMP-WS are very well correlated, both in their timing and magnitude, with wind gusts observed by the weather stations, revealing directly for the first time the surface manifestation of these wind streaks that are observed frequently by radar >100 m AGL. This allows for the generation of spatially filled maps of small-scale wind fluctuations over Port Arthur during the hurricane eyewall's passage using DOW-measured winds.

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James Marquis, Yvette Richardson, Paul Markowski, David Dowell, Joshua Wurman, Karen Kosiba, Paul Robinson, and Glen Romine

Abstract

High-resolution Doppler radar velocities and in situ surface observations collected in a tornadic supercell on 5 June 2009 during the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2) are assimilated into a simulated convective storm using an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF). A series of EnKF experiments using a 1-km horizontal model grid spacing demonstrates the sensitivity of the cold pool and kinematic structure of the storm to the assimilation of these observations and to different model microphysics parameterizations. An experiment is performed using a finer grid spacing (500 m) and the most optimal data assimilation and model configurations from the sensitivity tests to produce a realistically evolving storm. Analyses from this experiment are verified against dual-Doppler and in situ observations and are evaluated for their potential to confidently evaluate mesocyclone-scale processes in the storm using trajectory analysis and calculations of Lagrangian vorticity budgets. In Part II of this study, these analyses will be further evaluated to learn the roles that mesocyclone-scale processes play in tornado formation, maintenance, and decay. The coldness of the simulated low-level outflow is generally insensitive to the choice of certain microphysical parameterizations, likely owing to the vast quantity of kinematic and in situ thermodynamic observations assimilated. The three-dimensional EnKF wind fields and parcel trajectories resemble those retrieved from dual-Doppler observations within the storm, suggesting that realistic four-dimensional mesocyclone-scale processes are captured. However, potential errors are found in trajectories and Lagrangian three-dimensional vorticity budget calculations performed within the mesocyclone that may be due to the coarse (2 min) temporal resolution of the analyses. Therefore, caution must be exercised when interpreting trajectories in this area of the storm.

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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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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