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Joshua Wurman and Karen Kosiba

Abstract

A variety of vortex configurations observed at finescale with Doppler On Wheels (DOW) radars in and near the hook echoes of supercell thunderstorms are described. These include marginal/weak tornadoes, often with no documented condensation funnels, debris rings, or low-reflectivity eyes; multiple-vortex mesocyclones; multiple simultaneous tornadoes; satellite tornadoes; cyclonic–anticyclonic tornado pairs; multiple vortices within other multiple vortices; tornadoes with quasi-concentric multiple wind field maxima; lines of vortices outside tornadoes; and horizontal vortices. The kinematic structures of these different phenomena are documented and compared. The process of multiple vortex circulations evolving from and into tornadoes is documented. DOW observations suggest that there is no clear spatial-scale separation between multiple-vortex tornadoes and larger multiple-vortex circulations.

These different vortex configurations motivate a refined definition of what constitutes a tornado, excluding many multiple, weak, embedded, and tornado-associated vortices.

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Karen A. Kosiba and Joshua Wurman

Abstract

The finescale three-dimensional structure and evolution of the near-surface boundary layer of a tornado (TBL) is mapped for the first time. The multibeam Rapid-Scan Doppler on Wheels (RSDOW) collected data at several vertical levels, as low as 4, 6, 10, 12, 14, and 17 m above ground level (AGL), contemporaneously at 7-s intervals for several minutes in a tornado near Russell, Kansas, on 25 May 2012. Additionally, a mobile mesonet anemometer measured winds at 3.5 m AGL in the core flow region. The radar, anemometer, and ground-based velocity-track display (GBVTD) analyses reveal the peak wind intensity is very near the surface at ~5 m AGL, about 15% higher than at 10 m AGL and 25% higher than at ~40 m AGL. GBVTD analyses resolve a downdraft within the radius of maximum winds (RMW), which decreased in magnitude when varying estimates for debris centrifuging are included. Much of the inflow (from −1 to −7 m s−1) is at or below 10–14 m AGL, much shallower than reported previously. Surface outflow precedes tornado dissipation. Comparisons between large-eddy simulation (LES) predictions of the corner flow swirl ratio Sc and observed tornado intensity changes are consistent.

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Gary M. Lackmann, Brian Ancell, Matthew Bunkers, Ben Kirtman, Karen Kosiba, Amy McGovern, Lynn McMurdie, Zhaoxia Pu, Elizabeth Ritchie, and Henry P. Huntington
Open access