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Richard Rotunno

Abstract

A three-dimensional numerical simulation is presented for the asymmetric vortex motion which occurs in a Ward-type vortex chamber. The initial state is taken to be one of axisymmetric irrotational flow where the flow enters through the sides at the bottom and exits through the top of the chamber. As tangential velocity is added to the inflowing fluid, the structure of the flow in the meridional plane is modified from a ‘one-celled’ flow(updraft everywhere) to a ‘two-celled’ flow (updraft surrounding a central downdraft). Asymmetric vortices develop in the location of maximum vorticity of the ‘two-celled’ vortex which, it is shown, must be in the gradient between the updraft and the downdraft (but in updraft). Structural features of these asymmetric vortices, such as the tilt with height and propagation rate, are examined. Although the laboratory model upon which the present numerical calculations are based lacks the ability to simulate some important aspects of atmospheric flow, several significant features are shown to resemble the structure of observed tornadoes and mesocyclones.

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Richard Rotunno

Abstract

Given that the earth's atmosphere may be idealized as a rotating, stratified fluid characterized by the Coriolis parameter f and the Brunt–V¨is¨l¨ frequency N, and that the diurnal cycle of heating and cooling of the land relative to the sea acts as a stationary, oscillatory source of energy of frequency ω (=2π day−1), it follows from the linear theory of motion that where f > ω the atmospheric response is confined to within a distance Nh(f−2 – ω −2)−1/2 of the coastline, where h is the vertical scale of the heating. When f < ω, the atmospheric response is in the form of internal-inertial waves which extend to “Infinity” along ray paths extending upward and outward from the coast. Near the ground, the horizontal extent of the sea breeze is given by the horizontal wale of the dominant wave mode, Nh2f−2)−1/2.

Although these concepts are familiar from the linear theory of motion in a rotating, stratified fluid, their relevance with respect to the interpretation of linear models of the land and sea breeze has not been emphasized in the literature. Hence, a critical historical review of extant linear models of the land and sea breeze is presented, and from these varied linear models, a simple model. which allows the above-described conclusions to be reached, is decocted.

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Richard Rotunno

Abstract

Fine-resolution calculations using an axisymmetric numerical model of the flow within a Ward-type vortex chamber are discussed. Particular attention is paid to the vortex-ground interaction. Variations in the swirl ratio S from zero to unity lead to radically different vortex structure in the “corner” region (i.e., near r = z = 0). For S Lt; 1, a concentrated vortex forms in the upper chamber but not in the corner. At moderate S, we observe vortex breakdown, large-amplitude inertial waves, and very intense swirling motion in the corner. When S = 1, the central downdraft penetrates to the lower surface and the vortex breakdown occurs within the boundary layer. These results are consistent with experimental observations and suggest the explanation of a number of observed facets of tornadoes.

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Richard Rotunno

Abstract

The influence of weak mean vertical wind shear upon the trapeze instability of Orlanski (1973) is investigated. It is found that the shear limits the growth of unstable waves unless they are propagating at nearly right angles to the mean wind vector, or in other words, the equi-phase lines are parallel to the mean wind direction.

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Richard Rotunno

Abstract

An axisymmetric numerical model has been developed to simulate Ward's (1972) laboratory experiments. It was shown by Davies-Jones (1976) that this experiment is more geophysically relevant than all previous experiments in that Ward's experiment exhibits both dynamical and geometrical similarity to actual tornadoes.

Major results are 1) the core size versus inflow angle relationship agrees very nearly with Ward's measurements, 2) the numerical and laboratory surface pressure patterns are in agreement, and 3) it is demonstrated that the core radius is independent of the Reynolds number at high Reynolds number (Ward's data also exhibit this behavior).

Based on this axisymmetric model some speculation concerning the nature of the asymmetric multiple vortex phenomenon is made. Furthermore, the numerical model allows the examination of the interior flow field. As a consequence, an explanation is offered in Section 6 for the double-walled structure sometimes observed in natural vortices.

The experiments with no-slip boundary conditions reveal a very complicated flow structure in the vicinity of r = z = 0. The computed flow field is strongly reminiscent of that described by Benjamin (1962).

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Richard Rotunno

Abstract

In a previous paper a formula was derived for the maximum potential intensity of the tangential wind in a tropical cyclone called PI+. The formula, PI+2 = EPI2 + αrmwmηm , where EPI is the maximum potential intensity of the gradient wind and αrmwmηm represents the supergradient winds. The latter term is the product of the radius rm , the vertical velocity wm , the azimuthal vorticity ηm at the radius and height of the maximum tangential wind (rm , zm ), and the (nearly constant) α. Examination of a series of simulations of idealized tropical cyclones indicate an increasing contribution from the supergradient-wind term to PI+ as the radius of maximum wind increases. In the present paper, the physical content of the supergradient-wind term is developed showing how it is directly related to tropical cyclone boundary layer dynamics. It is found that r m w m η m u min 2 z m ( r m ) / l υ ( z m ) r m , where −u min is the maximum boundary layer radial inflow velocity and lυ (z) is the vertical mixing length.

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Richard Rotunno
and
Joseph Klemp

Abstract

We examine the rotation and propagation of the supercell-like convection produced by our three-dimensional cloud model. The rotation in the supercell is studied in terms of the conservation of equivalent potential vorticity and V. Bjerknes' first circulation theorem; neither of these have been used previously in this connection, and we find that they significantly contribute to the current level of understanding in this area. Using these we amplify the findings of our previous work in which we found that the source of midlevel rotation is the horizontally oriented vorticity associated with the environmental shear, while the low-level rotation derives from the baroclinic generation of horizontally oriented vorticity along the low-level cold-air boundary. We further demonstrate that these same processes that amplify the low-level rotation also produce the distinctive cloud feature known as the “wall cloud.”

We find that the thunderstorm propagates rightward primarily because of the favorable dynamic vertical pressure gradient that, owing to storm rotation, is always present on the right flank of the updraft. Simulations without precipitation physics demonstrate that this rightward propagation occurs even in the absence of a cold outflow and gust front near the surface.

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Richard Rotunno
and
Maurizio Fantini

Abstract

We investigate B. Farrell's hypothesis that the development of a surface cyclone with the passage of an upper trough, as observed by S. Pettessen and coworkers, may be understood in terms of an initial-value problem on the Eady model. We consider the response of the Eady model to perturbations whose horizontal wavelengths are short enough to ensure their stability, and whose perturbation potential vorticity is zero. We depart from Farrell with the latter condition as it eliminates the continuous spectrum and allows the evolution of the perturbation to be understood solely in terms of the two normal modes of the Eady model—one with maximum amplitude at the upper lid, which propagates eastward with respect to the midlevel flow, and one westward propagating, with maximum amplitude at the lower surface. Imagine an initial upper-level disturbance with no surface perturbation; this is represented by the two Eady modes in combination such that the initial surface perturbation pressure is zero. As the flow evolves out of this initial condition, a pressure disturbance appears at the surface as the two modes propagate past one another. That is, a surface cyclone forms, deepens, and then weakens, as the upper trough passes. This amplification of the surface trough is not due to mere geometrical interference, but rather is the consequence of an energy-exchanging interplay between waves and mean flow. This distinction is emphasized by comparison with a model in which a superficially similar phenomenon occurs, but without such an interplay.

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Yu Du
and
Richard Rotunno

Abstract

A simple analytical model including both diurnal thermal forcing over sloping terrain (the “Holton” mechanism) and diurnally varying boundary layer friction (the “Blackadar” mechanism) is developed to account for the observed amplitude and phase of the low-level jet (LLJ) over the Great Plains and to understand better the role of each mechanism. The present model indicates that, for the pure Holton mechanism (time-independent friction coefficient), the maximum southerly wind speed occurs (depending on the assumed friction coefficient) between sunset and midnight local standard time, which is earlier than the observed after-midnight maximum. For the pure Blackadar mechanism (time-independent thermal forcing), the present model shows that generally occurs later (closer to sunrise) than observed and has a strong latitudinal dependence. For both mechanisms combined, the present model indicates that occurs near to the observed time, which lies between the time obtained in the pure Holton mechanism and the time obtained in the pure Blackadar mechanism; furthermore, is larger (and closer to that observed) than in each one considered individually. The amplitude and phase of the LLJ as a function of latitude can be obtained by the combined model by allowing for the observed latitude-dependent mean and diurnally varying thermal forcing.

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Juerg Schmidli
and
Richard Rotunno

Abstract

The physical mechanisms leading to the formation of diurnal along-valley winds are investigated over idealized three-dimensional topography. The topography used in this study consists of a valley with a horizontal floor enclosed by two isolated mountain ridges on a horizontal plain. A diagnostic equation for the along-valley pressure gradient is developed and used in combination with numerical model simulations to clarify the relative role of various forcing mechanisms such as the valley volume effect, subsidence heating, and surface sensible heat flux effects. The full diurnal cycle is simulated using comprehensive model physics including radiation transfer, land surface processes, and dynamic surface–atmosphere interactions. The authors find that the basic assumption of the valley volume argument of no heat exchange with the free atmosphere seldom holds. Typically, advective and turbulent heat transport reduce the heating of the valley during the day and the cooling of the valley during the night. In addition, dynamically induced valley–plain contrasts in the surface sensible heat flux can play an important role. Nevertheless, the present analysis confirms the importance of the valley volume effect for the formation of the diurnal along-valley winds but also clarifies the role of subsidence heating and the limitations of the valley volume effect argument. In summary, the analysis brings together different ideas of the valley wind into a unified picture.

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