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Michael M. French, Howard B. Bluestein, Louis J. Wicker, David C. Dowell, and Matthew R. Kramar

Abstract

On 16 May 2003, two ground-based, mobile, Doppler radars scanned a potentially tornadic supercell in the Texas Panhandle intermittently from ∼0200 to 0330 UTC. The storm likely was tornadic, but because it was dark, visual confirmation of any tornadoes was not possible. A damage survey was completed after the storm moved through the area. The final conclusion of the damage survey prior to this analysis was that there were two tornadoes near Shamrock, Texas: one that formed prior to 0300 UTC and one that formed at or after 0300 UTC. High-resolution, mobile, Doppler radar data of the supercell were compared with the damage survey information at different times. The location of the first tornado damage path was not consistent with the locations of the low-level circulations in the supercell identified through the mobile, Doppler radar data. The damage within the first path, which consisted mostly of downed trees, may have been caused by straight-line winds in a squall line that moved through the area after the passage of the supercell. The mobile, Doppler radar data did not provide any supporting evidence for the first tornado, but the data did support the existence of the second tornado in Wheeler County on the evening of 15 May 2003. Ground-based, mobile, Doppler radar data may be used as an important tool to help to confirm (or deny) tornado damage reports in situations in which a damage survey cannot be completed or in which the survey does not provide clear evidence as to what phenomenon caused the damage.

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Vanda Grubišić, Stefano Serafin, Lukas Strauss, Samuel J. Haimov, Jeffrey R. French, and Larry D. Oolman

Abstract

Mountain waves and rotors in the lee of the Medicine Bow Mountains in southeastern Wyoming are investigated in a two-part paper. Part I by French et al. delivers a detailed observational account of two rotor events: one displays characteristics of a hydraulic jump and the other displays characteristics of a classic lee-wave rotor. In Part II, presented here, results of high-resolution numerical simulations are conveyed and physical processes involved in the formation and dynamical evolution of these two rotor events are examined.

The simulation results reveal that the origin of the observed rotors lies in boundary layer separation, induced by wave perturbations whose amplitudes reach maxima at or near the mountain top. An undular hydraulic jump that gave rise to a rotor in one of these events was found to be triggered by midtropospheric wave breaking and an ensuing strong downslope windstorm. Lee waves spawning rotors developed under conditions favoring wave energy trapping at low levels in different phases of these two events. The upstream shift of the boundary layer separation zone, documented to occur over a relatively short period of time in both events, is shown to be the manifestation of a transition in flow regimes, from downslope windstorms to trapped lee waves, in response to a rapid change in the upstream environment, related to the passage of a short-wave synoptic disturbance aloft.

The model results also suggest that the secondary obstacles surrounding the Medicine Bow Mountains play a role in the dynamics of wave and rotor events by promoting lee-wave resonance in the complex terrain of southeastern Wyoming.

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Michael M. French, Patrick S. Skinner, Louis J. Wicker, and Howard B. Bluestein

Abstract

Unique observations of the interaction and likely merger of two cyclonic tornadoes are documented. One of the tornadoes involved in the interaction was the enhanced Fujita scale (EF5) El Reno–Piedmont, Oklahoma, tornado from 24 May 2011 and the other was a previously undocumented tornado. Data from three S-band radars: Twin Lakes, Oklahoma (KTLX); Norman, Oklahoma (KOUN); and the multifunction phased-array radar (MPAR), are used to detail the formation of the second tornado, which occurred to the northwest of the original tornado in an area of strong radial convergence. Radar data and isosurfaces of azimuthal shear provide evidence that both tornadoes formed within an elongated area of mesocyclone-scale cyclonic rotation. The path taken by the primary tornado and the formation location of the second tornado are different from previous observations of simultaneous cyclonic tornadoes, which have been most often observed in the cyclic tornadogenesis process. The merger of the two tornadoes occurred during the sampling period of a mobile phased-array radar—the Mobile Weather Radar, 2005 X-Band, Phased Array (MWR-05XP). MWR-05XP electronic scanning in elevation allowed for the merger process to be examined up to 4 km above radar level every 11 s. The tornadic vortex signatures (TVSs) associated with the tornadoes traveled around each other in a counterclockwise direction then merged in a helical manner up through storm midlevels. Upon merging, both the estimated intensity and size of the TVS associated with the resulting tornado increased dramatically. Similarities between the merger observed in this case and in previous cases also are discussed.

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Jeffrey R. French, Samuel J. Haimov, Larry D. Oolman, Vanda Grubišić, Stefano Serafin, and Lukas Strauss

Abstract

Two cases of mountain waves, rotors, and the associated turbulence in the lee of the Medicine Bow Mountains in southeastern Wyoming are investigated in a two-part study using aircraft observations and numerical simulations. In Part I, observations from in situ instruments and high-resolution cloud radar on board the University of Wyoming King Air aircraft are presented and analyzed. Measurements from the radar compose the first direct observations of wave-induced boundary layer separation.

The data from these two events show some striking similarities but also significant differences. In both cases, rotors were observed; yet one looks like a classical lee-wave rotor, while the other resembles an atmospheric hydraulic jump with midtropospheric gravity wave breaking aloft. High-resolution (30 × 30 m2) dual-Doppler syntheses of the two-dimensional velocity fields in the vertical plane beneath the aircraft reveal the boundary layer separation, the scale and structure of the attendant rotors, and downslope windstorms. In the stronger of the two events, near-surface winds upwind of the boundary layer separation reached 35 m s−1, and vertical winds were in excess of 10 m s−1. Moderate to strong turbulence was observed within and downstream of these regions. In both cases, the rotor extended horizontally 5–10 km and vertically 2–2.5 km. Horizontal vorticity within the rotor zone reached 0.2 s−1. Several subrotors from 500 to 1000 m in diameter were identified inside the main rotor in one of the cases.

Part II presents a modeling study and investigates the kinematic structure and the dynamic evolution of these two events.

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Michael M. French, Donald W. Burgess, Edward R. Mansell, and Louis J. Wicker

Abstract

Polarimetric radar observations obtained by the NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory mobile, X-band, dual-polarization radar (NOXP) are used to investigate “hook echo” precipitation properties in several tornadic and nontornadic supercells. Hook echo drop size distributions (DSDs) were estimated using NOXP data obtained from 2009 to 2012, including during the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2). Differences between tornadic and nontornadic hook echo DSDs are explored, and comparisons are made with previous observations of estimated hook echo DSDs made from stationary S- and C-band Doppler radars. Tornadic hook echoes consistently contain radar gates that are characterized by small raindrops; nontornadic hook echoes are mixed between those that have some small-drop gates and those that have almost no small-drop gates. In addition, the spatial distribution of DSDs was estimated using the high-spatial-resolution data afforded by NOXP. A unique polarimetric signature, an area of relatively low values of differential radar reflectivity factor Z DR south and east of the tornado, is observed in many of the tornadic cases. Also, because most data were obtained using 2-min volumetric updates, the evolution of approximated hook echo precipitation properties was studied during parts of the life cycles of three tornadoes. In one case, there is a large decrease in the percentage of large-raindrop gates and an increase in the percentage of small-raindrop gates in the minutes leading up to tornado formation. The percentage of large-drop gates generally increases prior to and during tornado dissipation. Near-storm environmental data are used to put forth possible relationships between bulk hook echo DSDs and tornado production and life cycle.

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R. S. Lieberman, J. France, D. A. Ortland, and S. D. Eckermann

Abstract

Recent studies suggest linkages between anomalously warm temperatures in the winter stratosphere, and the high-latitude summer mesopause. The summer temperature anomaly is manifested in the decline of polar mesospheric clouds. The 2-day wave is a strong-amplitude and transient summer feature that interacts with the background state so as to warm the high-latitude summer mesopause. This wave has been linked to a low-latitude phenomenon called inertial instability, which is organized by breaking planetary waves in the winter stratosphere. Hence, inertial instability has been identified as a possible nexus between the disturbed winter stratosphere, and summer mesopause warming. We investigate a sustained occurrence of inertial instability during 19 July–8 August 2014. During this period, stratospheric winter temperatures warmed by about 10 K, while a steep decline in polar mesospheric clouds was reported between 26 July and 6 August. We present, for the first time, wave driving associated with observed inertial instability. The effect of inertial instability is to export eastward momentum from the winter hemisphere across the equator into the summer hemisphere. Using a primitive equation model, we demonstrate that the wave stresses destabilize the stratopause summer easterly jet. The reconfigured wind profile excites the wavenumber-4 component of the 2-day wave, leading to enhanced warming of the summer mesopause. This work supports previous numerical investigations that identified planetary wave–driven inertial instability as a source of the 2-day wave.

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R. Damiani, J. Zehnder, B. Geerts, J. Demko, S. Haimov, J. Petti, G. S. Poulos, A. Razdan, J. Hu, M. Leuthold, and J. French

The finescale structure and dynamics of cumulus, evolving from shallow to deep convection, and the accompanying changes in the environment and boundary layer over mountainous terrain were the subjects of a field campaign in July–August 2006. Few measurements exist of the transport of boundary layer air into the deep troposphere by the orographic toroidal circulation and orographic convection. The campaign was conducted over the Santa Catalina Mountains in southern Arizona, a natural laboratory to study convection, given the spatially and temporally regular development of cumulus driven by elevated heating and convergent boundary layer flow. Cumuli and their environment were sampled via coordinated observations from the surface, radiosonde balloons, and aircraft, along with airborne radar data and stereophotogrammetry from two angles.

The collected dataset is expected to yield new insights in the boundary layer processes leading to orographic convection, in the cumulus-induced transport of boundary layer air into the troposphere, and in fundamental cumulus dynamics. This article summarizes the motivations, objectives, experimental strategies, preliminary findings, and the potential research paths stirred by the project.

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Michael M. French, Howard B. Bluestein, David C. Dowell, Louis J. Wicker, Matthew R. Kramar, and Andrew L. Pazmany

Abstract

On 15 May 2003, two ground-based, mobile, Doppler radars scanned a supercell that moved through the Texas Panhandle and cyclically produced mesocyclones. The two radars collected data from the storm during a rapid cyclic mesocyclogenesis stage and a more slowly evolving tornadic period. A 3-cm-wavelength radar scanned the supercell continuously for a short time after it was cyclic but close to the time of tornadogenesis. A 5-cm-wavelength radar scanned the supercell the entire time it exhibited cyclic behavior and for an additional 30 min after that. The volumetric data obtained with the 5-cm-wavelength radar allowed for the individual circulations to be analyzed at multiple levels in the supercell. Most of the circulations that eventually dissipated moved rearward with respect to storm motion and were located at distances progressively farther away from the region of rear-flank outflow. The circulations associated with a tornado did not move nearly as far rearward relative to the storm. The mean circulation diameters were approximately 1–4 km and had lifetimes of 10–30 min. Circulation dissipation often, but not always, occurred following decreases in circulation diameter, while changes in maximum radial wind shear were not reliable indicators of circulation dissipation. In one instance, a pair of circulations rotated cyclonically around, and moved toward, each other; the two circulations then combined to form one circulation. Single-Doppler radial velocities from both radars were used to assess the differences between the pretornadic circulations and the tornadic circulations. Storm outflow in the rear flank of the storm increased notably during the time cyclic mesocyclogenesis slowed and tornado formation commenced. Large storm-relative inflow likely advected the pretornadic circulations rearward in the absence of organized outflow. The development of strong outflow in the rear flank probably balanced the strong inflow, allowing the tornadic circulations to stay in areas rich in vertical vorticity generation.

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G. B. Burns, B. A. Tinsley, A. V. Frank-Kamenetsky, O. A. Troshichev, W. J. R. French, and A. R. Klekociuk

Abstract

Local temperature, wind speed, pressure, and solar wind–imposed influences on the vertical electric field observed at Vostok, Antarctica, are evaluated by multivariate analysis. Local meteorology can influence electric field measurements via local conductivity. The results are used to improve monthly diurnal averages of the electric field attributable to changes in the global convective storm contribution to the ionosphere-to-earth potential difference. Statistically significant average influences are found for temperature (−0.47 ± 0.13% V m−1 °C−1) and wind speed [2.1 ± 0.5% V m−1 (m s−1)−1]. Both associations are seasonally variable. After adjusting the electric field values to uniform meteorological conditions typical of the Antarctic plateau winter (−70°C, 4.4 m s−1, and 623 hPa), the sensitivity of the electric field to the solar wind external generator influence is found to be 0.80 ± 0.07 V m−1 kV−1. This compares with the sensitivity of 0.82 V m−1 kV−1 to the convective meteorology generator that is inferred assuming an average ionosphere-to-ground potential difference of 240 kV taken with the annual mean electric field value of 198 V m−1. Monthly means of the Vostok electric field corrected for the influence of both local meteorology and the solar wind show equinoctial (March and September) and July local maxima. The July mean electric field is greater than the December value by approximately 8%, consistent with a Northern Hemisphere summer maximum. The solar wind–imposed potential variations in the overhead ionosphere are evaluated for three models that fit satellite measurements of ionospheric potential changes to solar wind data. Correlations with Vostok electric field variations peak with a 23-min interpolated delay relative to solar wind changes at the magnetopause.

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J. Sun, S. P. Burns, D. Vandemark, M. A. Donelan, L. Mahrt, Timothy L. Crawford, T. H. C. Herbers, G. H. Crescenti, and J. R. French

Abstract

A remote sensing method to measure directional oceanic surface waves by three laser altimeters on the NOAA LongEZ aircraft is investigated. To examine feasibility and sensitivity of the wavelet analysis method to various waves, aircraft motions, and aircraft flight directions relative to wave propagation directions, idealized surface waves are simulated from various idealized aircraft flights. In addition, the wavelet analysis method is also applied to two cases from field measurements, and the results are compared with traditional wave spectra from buoys. Since the wavelet analysis method relies on the “wave slopes” measured through phase differences between the time series of the laser distances between the aircraft and sea surface at spatially separated locations, the resolved directional wavenumber and wave propagation direction are not affected by aircraft motions if the resolved frequencies of the aircraft motion and the wave are not the same. However, the encounter wave frequency, which is directly resolved using the laser measurement from the moving aircraft, is affected by the Doppler shift due to aircraft motion relative to wave propagations. The wavelet analysis method could fail if the aircraft flies in the direction such that the aircraft speed along the wave propagation direction is the same as the wave phase speed (i.e., the aircraft flies along wave crests or troughs) or if two waves with different wavelengths and phase speed have the same encountered wavelength from the aircraft. In addition, the data noise due to laser measurement uncertainty or natural isotropic surface elevation perturbations can also affect the relative phase difference between the laser distance measurements, which in turn affects the accuracy of the resolved wavenumber and wave propagation direction. The smallest waves measured by the lasers depend on laser sampling rate and horizontal distances between the lasers (for the LongEZ this is 2 m). The resolved wave direction and wavenumber at the peak wave from the two field experiments compared well with on-site buoy observations. Overall, the study demonstrates that three spatially separated laser altimeters on moving platforms can be utilized to resolve two-dimensional wave spectra.

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