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Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

Nearly 50 years of observations of hook echoes and their associated rear-flank downdrafts (RFDs) are reviewed. Relevant theoretical and numerical simulation results also are discussed. For over 20 years, the hook echo and RFD have been hypothesized to be critical in the tornadogenesis process. Yet direct observations within hook echoes and RFDs have been relatively scarce. Furthermore, the role of the hook echo and RFD in tornadogenesis remains poorly understood. Despite many strong similarities between simulated and observed storms, some possibly important observations within hook echoes and RFDs have not been reproduced in three-dimensional numerical models.

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Richard P. James
and
Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

A three-dimensional cloud model was used to investigate the sensitivity of deep convective storms to dry air above the cloud base. In simulations of both quasi-linear convective systems and supercells, dry air aloft was found to reduce the intensity of the convection, as measured by updraft mass flux and total condensation and rainfall. In high-CAPE line-type simulations, the downdraft mass flux and cold pool strength were enhanced at the rear of the trailing stratiform region in a drier environment. However, the downdraft and cold pool strengths were unchanged in the convective region, and were also unchanged or reduced in simulations of supercells and of line-type systems at lower CAPE. This result contrasts with previous interpretations of the role of dry air aloft in the development of severe low-level outflow winds.

The buoyancy-sorting framework is used to interpret the influence of environmental humidity on the updraft entrainment process and the observed strong dependence on the environmental CAPE. The reduction in convective vigor caused by dry air is relatively inconsequential at very high CAPE, but low-CAPE convection requires a humid environment in order to grow by entrainment.

The simulated responses of the downdraft and cold pool intensities to dry air aloft reflected the changes in diabatic cooling rates within the downdraft formation regions. When dry air was present, the decline in hydrometeor mass exerted a negative tendency on the diabatic cooling rates and acted to offset the favorable effects of dry air for cooling by evaporation. Thus, with the exception of the rearward portions of the high-CAPE line-type simulations, dry air was unable to strengthen the downdrafts and cold pool.

A review of the literature demonstrates that observational evidence does not unambiguously support the concept that dry air aloft favors downdraft and outflow strength. It is also shown that the use of warm rain microphysics in previous modeling studies may have reinforced the tendency to overemphasize the role of dry air aloft.

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Christopher J. Shabbott
and
Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

In the long-standing conceptual model of a supercell thunderstorm, the forward-flank downdraft (FFD) and its associated negative buoyancy originate from precipitation loading and the latent chilling of air due to the melting and evaporation of precipitation. The horizontal buoyancy gradient within the outflow of the FFD has been identified as an important source of low-level, streamwise vorticity in three-dimensional numerical simulations of supercells. These simulations have demonstrated that the formation of low-level mesocyclones is critically dependent on the baroclinic generation of horizontal vorticity within the FFD outflow.

Despite the implied dynamical importance of the FFD outflow in the evolution of supercell thunderstorms, only a very limited number of thermodynamic observations have been obtained within FFD outflow. The range of thermodynamic conditions within FFD outflow is not well known, nor is it known whether any systematic relationship exists between the thermodynamic characteristics of FFD outflow and the intensity of low-level mesocyclones and/or tornadogenesis. In this paper, in situ observations obtained at the ground by a mobile mesonet within FFD outflow are used to investigate whether any relationship exists between the thermodynamic characteristics of the outflow and low-level mesocyclogenesis and/or tornadogenesis. The data were obtained within both tornadic and nontornadic supercells (12 cases total) during the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX) from 1994 to 1995, and in smaller field campaigns during the 1997–99 period.

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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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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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