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Kyle C. Wiens, Steven A. Rutledge, and Sarah A. Tessendorf


This second part of a two-part study examines the lightning and charge structure evolution of the 29 June 2000 tornadic supercell observed during the Severe Thunderstorm Electrification and Precipitation Study (STEPS). Data from the National Lightning Detection Network and the New Mexico Tech Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) are used to quantify the total and cloud-to-ground (CG) flash rates. Additionally, the LMA data are used to infer gross charge structure and to determine the origin locations and charge regions involved in the CG flashes. The total flash rate reached nearly 300 min−1 and was well correlated with radar-inferred updraft and graupel echo volumes. Intracloud flashes accounted for 95%–100% of the total lightning activity during any given minute. Nearly 90% of the CG flashes delivered a positive charge to ground (+CGs). The charge structure during the first 20 min of this storm consisted of a midlevel negative charge overlying lower positive charge with no evidence of an upper positive charge. The charge structure in the later (severe) phase was more complex but maintained what could be roughly described as an inverted tripole, dominated by a deep midlevel (5–9 km MSL) region of positive charge. The storm produced only two CG flashes (both positive) in the first 2 h of lightning activity, both of which occurred during a brief surge in updraft and hail production. Frequent +CG flashes began nearly coincident with dramatic increases in storm updraft, hail production, total flash rate, and the formation of an F1 tornado. The +CG flashes tended to cluster in or just downwind of the heaviest precipitation, which usually contained hail. The +CG flashes all originated between 5 and 9 km MSL, centered at 6.8 km (−10°C), and tapped LMA-inferred positive charge both in the precipitation core and (more often) in weaker reflectivity extending downwind. All but one of the −CG flashes originated from >9 km MSL and tended to strike near the precipitation core.

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Sarah A. Tessendorf, L. Jay Miller, Kyle C. Wiens, and Steven A. Rutledge


This is a two-part study that addresses the kinematic, microphysical, and electrical aspects of a severe storm that occurred in western Kansas on 29 June 2000 observed during the Severe Thunderstorm Electrification and Precipitation Study (STEPS) field campaign. In this first part, polarimetric and Doppler radar data are used along with a simple particle growth model to examine the evolution of the kinematic and microphysical properties of the storm from its earliest developing phase through its mature and dissipating phases. During its severe stage, the storm exhibited frequent positive cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, very large (∼5 cm) hail, and a tornado.

Doppler-derived winds, radar reflectivity, and hydrometeor classifications from the polarimetric data over a nearly 4-h period are presented. It is shown that updraft velocity and vertical vorticity had to reach magnitudes of at least 10 m s−1 and 10−2 s−1 and occupy major portions of the storm before it could produce most of the observed severe storm characteristics. Furthermore, the establishment of cyclonic horizontal flow around the right flank of the updraft core was essential for hail production. Most of the largest hail grew from near millimeter-sized particles that originated in the mid- to upper-level stagnation region that resulted from obstacle-like flow of environmental air around the divergent outflow from the upper part of the updraft. These recycling embryonic particles descended around the right flank of the updraft core and reentered the updraft, intermingling with other smaller particles that had grown from cloud base along the main low-level updraft stream.

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