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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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Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

Two long-lived tornadic supercells were sampled by an automobile-borne observing system on 3 May 1999. The “mobile mesonet” observed relatively warm and moist air, weak baroclinity, and small pressure excess at the surface within the rear-flank downdrafts of the storms. Furthermore, the downdraft air parcels, which have been shown to enter the tornado in past observational and modeling studies, were associated with substantial convective available potential energy and small convective inhibition. The detection of only small equivalent potential temperature deficits (1–4 K) within the downdrafts may imply that the downdrafts were driven primarily by nonhydrostatic pressure gradients and/or precipitation drag, rather than by the entrainment of potentially cold environmental air at midlevels.

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Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

Idealized simulations are used to investigate the contributions of frictionally generated horizontal vorticity to the development of near-surface vertical vorticity in supercell storms. Of interest is the relative importance of barotropic vorticity (vorticity present in the prestorm environment), baroclinic vorticity (vorticity that is principally generated by horizontal buoyancy gradients), and viscous vorticity (vorticity that originates from the subgrid-scale turbulence parameterization, wherein the effects of surface drag reside), all of which can be advected, tilted, and stretched. Equations for the three partial vorticities are integrated in parallel with the model. The partial vorticity calculations are complemented by analyses of circulation following material circuits, which are often able to be carried out further in time because they are less susceptible to explosive error growth.

Near-surface mesocyclones that develop prior to cold-pool formation (this only happens when the environmental vorticity is crosswise near the surface) are dominated by only barotropic vertical vorticity when the lower boundary is free slip, but both barotropic and viscous vertical vorticity when surface drag is included. Baroclinic vertical vorticity grows large once a cold pool is established, regardless of the lower boundary condition and, in fact, dominates at the time the vortices are most intense in all but one simulation (a simulation dominated early by a barotropic mode of vortex genesis that may not be relevant to real convective storms).

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Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

A simulation of a supercell storm produced for a prior study on tornado predictability is reanalyzed for the purpose of examining the fine-scale details of tornadogenesis. It is found that the formation of a tornado-like vortex in the simulation differs from how such vortices have been understood to form in previous numerical simulations. The main difference between the present simulation and past ones is the inclusion of a turbulent boundary layer in the storm’s environment in the present case, whereas prior simulations have used a laminar boundary layer. The turbulent environment contains significant near-surface vertical vorticity (ζ > 0.03 s−1 at z = 7.5 m), organized in the form of longitudinal streaks aligned with the southerly ground-relative winds. The ζ streaks are associated with corrugations in the vertical plane in the predominantly horizontal, westward-pointing environmental vortex lines; the vortex-line corrugations are produced by the vertical drafts associated with coherent turbulent structures aligned with the aforementioned southerly ground-relative winds (longitudinal coherent structures in the surface layer such as these are well known to the boundary layer and turbulence communities). The ζ streaks serve as focal points for tornadogenesis, and may actually facilitate tornadogenesis, given how near-surface ζ in the environment can rapidly amplify when subjected to the strong, persistent convergence beneath a supercell updraft.

Significance Statement

In high-resolution computer simulations of supercell storms that include a more realistic, turbulent environment, the means by which tornado-like vortices form differs from the mechanism identified in prior simulations using a less realistic, laminar environment. One possibility is that prior simulations develop intense vortices for the wrong reasons. Another possibility could be that tornadoes form in a wide range of ways in the real atmosphere, even within supercell storms that appear to be similar, and increasingly realistic computer simulations are finally now capturing that diversity.

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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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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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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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Andrew J. Oberthaler
and
Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

Numerical simulations are used to investigate how the attenuation of solar radiation by the intervening cumulonimbus cloud, particularly its large anvil, affects the structure, intensity, and evolution of quasi-linear convective systems and the sensitivity of the effects of this “anvil shading” to the ambient wind profile. Shading of the pre-gust-front inflow environment (as opposed to shading of the cold pool) has the most important impact on the convective systems. The magnitude of the low-level cooling, associated baroclinicity, and stabilization of the pre-gust-front environment due to anvil shading generally increases as the duration of the shading increases. Thus, for a given leading anvil length, a slow-moving convective system tends to be affected more by anvil shading than does a fast-moving convective system. Differences in the forward speeds of the convective systems simulated in this study are largely attributable to differences in the mean environmental wind speed over the depth of the troposphere.

Anvil shading reduces the buoyancy realized by the air parcels that ascend through the updrafts. As a result, anvil shading contributes to weaker updrafts relative to control simulations in which clouds are transparent to solar radiation. Anvil shading also affects the convective systems by modifying the low-level (nominally 0–2.5 km AGL) vertical wind shear in the pre-gust-front environment. The shear modifications affect the slope of the updraft region and system-relative rear-to-front flow, and the sign of the modifications is sensitive to the ground-relative vertical wind profile in the far-field environment. The vertical wind shear changes are brought about by baroclinic vorticity generation associated with the horizontal buoyancy gradient that develops in the shaded boundary layer (which makes the pre-gust-front, low-level vertical wind shear less westerly) and by a reduction of the vertical mixing of momentum due to the near-surface (nominally 0–300 m AGL) stabilization that accompanies the shading-induced cooling. The reduced mixing makes the pre-gust-front, low-level vertical shear more (less) westerly if the ambient, near-surface wind and wind shear are westerly (easterly).

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