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John M. Peters, Hugh Morrison, Adam C. Varble, Walter M. Hannah, and Scott E. Giangrande

Abstract

Research has suggested that the structure of deep convection often consists of a series of rising thermals, or “thermal chain,” which contrasts with existing conceptual models that are used to construct cumulus parameterizations. Simplified theoretical expressions for updraft properties obtained in Part I of this study are used to develop a hypothesis explaining why this structure occurs. In this hypothesis, cumulus updraft structure is strongly influenced by organized entrainment below the updraft’s vertical velocity maximum. In a dry environment, this enhanced entrainment can locally reduce condensation rates and increase evaporation, thus eroding buoyancy. For moderate-to-large initial cloud radius R, this breaks up the updraft into a succession of discrete pulses of rising motion (i.e., a thermal chain). For small R, this leads to the structure of a single, isolated rising thermal. In contrast, moist environments are hypothesized to favor plume-like updrafts for moderate-to-large R. In a series of axisymmetric numerical cloud simulations, R and environmental relative humidity (RH) are systematically varied to test this hypothesis. Vertical profiles of fractional entrainment rate, passive tracer concentration, buoyancy, and vertical velocity from these runs agree well with vertical profiles calculated from the theoretical expressions in Part I. Analysis of the simulations supports the hypothesized dependency of updraft structure on R and RH, that is, whether it consists of an isolated thermal, a thermal chain, or a plume, and the role of organized entrainment in driving this dependency. Additional three-dimensional (3D) turbulent cloud simulations are analyzed, and the behavior of these 3D runs is qualitatively consistent with the theoretical expressions and axisymmetric simulations.

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John M. Peters, Erik R. Nielsen, Matthew D. Parker, Stacey M. Hitchcock, and Russ S. Schumacher

Abstract

This article investigates errors in forecasts of the environment near an elevated mesoscale convective system (MCS) in Iowa on 24–25 June 2015 during the Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field campaign. The eastern flank of this MCS produced an outflow boundary (OFB) and moved southeastward along this OFB as a squall line. The western flank of the MCS remained quasi stationary approximately 100 km north of the system’s OFB and produced localized flooding. A total of 16 radiosondes were launched near the MCS’s eastern flank and 4 were launched near the MCS’s western flank.

Convective available potential energy (CAPE) increased and convective inhibition (CIN) decreased substantially in observations during the 4 h prior to the arrival of the squall line. In contrast, the model analyses and forecasts substantially underpredicted CAPE and overpredicted CIN owing to their underrepresentation of moisture. Numerical simulations that placed the MCS at varying distances too far to the northeast were analyzed. MCS displacement error was strongly correlated with models’ underrepresentation of low-level moisture and their associated overrepresentation of the vertical distance between a parcel’s initial height and its level of free convection (, which is correlated with CIN). The overpredicted in models resulted in air parcels requiring unrealistically far northeastward travel in a region of gradual meso-α-scale lift before these parcels initiated convection. These results suggest that erroneous MCS predictions by NWP models may sometimes result from poorly analyzed low-level moisture fields.

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Erik R. Nielsen, Gregory R. Herman, Robert C. Tournay, John M. Peters, and Russ S. Schumacher

Abstract

While both tornadoes and flash floods individually present public hazards, when the two threats are both concurrent and collocated (referred to here as TORFF events), unique concerns arise. This study aims to evaluate the climatological and meteorological characteristics associated with TORFF events over the continental United States. Two separate datasets, one based on overlapping tornado and flash flood warnings and the other based on observations, were used to arrive at estimations of the instances when a TORFF event was deemed imminent and verified to have occurred, respectively. These datasets were then used to discern the geographical and meteorological characteristics of recent TORFF events. During 2008–14, TORFF events were found to be publicly communicated via overlapping warnings an average of 400 times per year, with a maximum frequency occurring in the lower Mississippi River valley. Additionally, 68 verified TORFF events between 2008 and 2013 were identified and subsequently classified based on synoptic characteristics and radar observations. In general, synoptic conditions associated with TORFF events were found to exhibit similar characteristics of typical tornadic environments, but the TORFF environment tended to be moister and have stronger synoptic-scale forcing for ascent. These results indicate that TORFF events occur with appreciable frequency and in complex meteorological scenarios. Furthermore, despite these identified differences, TORFF scenarios are not easily distinguishable from tornadic events that fail to produce collocated flash flooding, and present difficult challenges both from the perspective of forecasting and public communication.

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Erik R. Nielsen, Gregory R. Herman, Robert C. Tournay, John M. Peters, and Russ S. Schumacher
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Hartmut Peters, William E. Johns, Amy S. Bower, and David M. Fratantoni

Abstract

When the salty and heavy water of the Red Sea exits from the Strait of Bab el Mandeb, it continues downslope into the Gulf of Aden mainly along two channels. The 130-km-long “Northern Channel” (NC) is topographically confined and is typically only 5 km wide. In it, the Red Sea plume shows unanticipated patterns of vertical structure, turbulent mixing, and entrainment. Above the seafloor a 25–120-m-thick weakly stratified layer shows little dilution along the channel. Hence this bottom layer undergoes only weak entrainment. In contrast, a 35–285-m-thick interfacial layer shows stronger entrainment and is shown in a companion paper to undergo vigorous turbulent mixing. It is thus the interface that exhibits the bulk of entrainment of the Red Sea plume in the NC. The interfacial layer also carries most of the overall plume transport, increasingly so with downstream distance. The “Southern Channel” (SC) is wider than the NC and is accessed from the latter by a sill about 33 m above the floor of the NC. Entrainment into the bottom layer of the SC is diagnosed to be strong near the entry into the SC such that the near-bottom density and salinity are smaller in the SC than in the NC at the same distance from Bab el Mandeb. In comparison with winter conditions, the authors encountered weaker outflow with shallower equilibration depths during the summer cruise. Bulk Froude numbers computed for the whole plume varied within the range 0.2–1. Local maxima occurred in relatively steep channel sections and coincided with locations of significant entrainment.

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John M. Peters, Christopher J. Nowotarski, Jake P. Mulholland, and Richard L. Thompson

Abstract

The relationship between storm-relative helicity (SRH) and streamwise vorticity ω s is frequently invoked to explain the often robust connections between effective inflow layer (EIL) SRH and various supercell updraft properties. However, the definition of SRH also contains storm-relative (SR) flow, and the separate influences of SR flow and ω s on updraft dynamics are therefore convolved when SRH is used as a diagnostic tool. To clarify this issue, proximity soundings and numerical experiments are used to disentangle the separate influences of EIL SR flow and ω s on supercell updraft characteristics. Our results suggest that the magnitude of EIL ω s has little influence on whether supercellular storm mode occurs. Rather, the transition from nonsupercellular to supercellular storm mode is largely modulated by the magnitude of EIL SR flow. Furthermore, many updraft attributes such as updraft width, maximum vertical velocity, vertical mass flux at all levels, and maximum vertical vorticity at all levels are largely determined by EIL SR flow. For a constant EIL SR flow, storms with large EIL ω s have stronger low-level net rotation and vertical velocities, which affirms previously established connections between ω s and tornadogenesis. EIL ω s also influences storms’ precipitation and cold-pool patterns. Vertical nonlinear dynamic pressure acceleration (NLDPA) is larger at low levels when EIL ω s is large, but differences in NLDPA aloft become uncorrelated with EIL ω s because storms’ midlevel dynamic pressure perturbations are substantially influenced by the tilting of midlevel vorticity. Our results emphasize the importance of considering EIL SR flow in addition to EIL SRH in the research and forecasting of supercell properties.

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Amy S. Bower, William E. Johns, David M. Fratantoni, and Hartmut Peters

Abstract

Hydrographic, direct velocity, and subsurface float observations from the 2001 Red Sea Outflow Experiment (REDSOX) are analyzed to investigate the gravitational and dynamical adjustment of the Red Sea Outflow Water (RSOW) where it is injected into the open ocean in the western Gulf of Aden. During the winter REDSOX cruise, when outflow transport was large, several intermediate-depth salinity maxima (product waters) were formed from various bathymetrically confined branches of the outflow plume, ranging in depth from 400 to 800 m and in potential density from 27.0 to 27.5 σθ, a result of different mixing intensity along each branch. The outflow product waters were not dense enough to sink to the seafloor during either the summer or winter REDSOX cruises, but analysis of previous hydrographic and mooring data and results from a one-dimensional plume model suggest that they may be so during wintertime surges of strong outflow currents, or about 20% of the time during winter. Once vertically equilibrated in the Gulf of Aden, the shallowest RSOW was strongly influenced by mesoscale eddies that swept it farther into the gulf. The deeper RSOW was initially more confined by the walls of the Tadjura Rift, but eventually it escaped from the rift and was advected mainly southward along the continental slope. There was no evidence of a continuous boundary undercurrent of RSOW similar to the Mediterranean Undercurrent in the Gulf of Cadiz. This is explained by considering 1) the variability in outflow transport and 2) several different criteria for separation of a jet at a sharp corner, which indicate that the outflow currents should separate from the boundary where they are injected into the gulf.

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Jake P. Mulholland, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Robert J. Trapp, and John M. Peters

Abstract

Orographic deep convection (DC) initiation and rapid evolution from supercells to mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are common near the Sierras de Córdoba, Argentina, which was the focal point of the Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, and Mesoscale/Microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO) field campaign. This study used an idealized numerical model with elongated north–south terrain similar to that of the Sierras de Córdoba to address how variations in terrain height affected the environment and convective morphology. Simulations used a thermodynamic profile from a RELAMPAGO event that featured both supercell and MCS storm modes. Results revealed that DC initiated earlier in simulations with higher terrain, owing both to stronger upslope flows and standing mountain waves. All simulations resulted in supercell formation, with higher-terrain supercells initiating closer to the terrain peak and moving slower off the terrain. Higher-terrain simulations displayed increases in both low-level and deep-layer wind shear along the eastern slopes of the terrain that were related to the enhanced upslope flows, supporting stronger and wider supercell updrafts/downdrafts and a wider swath of heavy rainfall. Deeper and stronger cold pools from these wider and stronger higher-terrain supercells led to surging outflow that reduced convective available potential energy accessible to deep convective updrafts, resulting in quicker supercell demise off the terrain. Lower-terrain supercells moved quickly off the terrain, merged with weaker convective cells, and resulted in a quasi-organized MCS. These results demonstrate that terrain-induced flow modification may lead to substantial local variations in convective morphology.

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John M. Peters, Hugh Morrison, Christopher J. Nowotarski, Jake P. Mulholland, and Richard L. Thompson

Abstract

In supercell environments, previous authors have shown strong connections between the vertical wind shear magnitude, updraft width, and entrainment. Based on these results, it is hypothesized that the influences of entrainment-driven dilution on buoyancy and maximum updraft vertical velocity w in supercell environments are a predictable function of the vertical wind shear profile. It is also hypothesized that the influences of pressure perturbation forces on maximum updraft w are small because of a nearly complete offset between upward dynamic pressure forces and downward buoyant pressure forces. To address these hypotheses, we derive a formula for the maximum updraft w that incorporates the effects of entrainment-driven dilution on buoyancy but neglects pressure gradient forces. Solutions to this formula are compared with output from previous numerical simulations. This formula substantially improves predictions of maximum updraft w over past CAPE-derived formulas for maximum updraft w, which supports the first hypothesis. Furthermore, integrated vertical accelerations along trajectories show substantial offsets between dynamic and buoyant pressure forces, supporting the second hypothesis. It is argued that the new formula should be used in addition to CAPE-derived measures for w in forecast and research applications when accurate diagnosis of updraft speed is required.

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Hans C. Graber, Eugene A. Terray, Mark A. Donelan, William M. Drennan, John C. Van Leer, and Donald B. Peters

Abstract

This paper describes a new, compact buoy, the Air–Sea Interaction Spar (ASIS), capable of reliably and accurately measuring directional wave spectra, atmospheric surface fluxes, and radiation in the the open ocean. The ASIS buoy is a stable platform and has low flow disturbance characteristics in both atmospheric and oceanic surface boundary layers. The buoy has been deployed for sea trials in the waters off Miami, Florida; in the northeastern region of the Gulf of Mexico; and in the northwestern Mediterranean. The acquired measurements of directional wave spectra, momentum and heat fluxes, and profile data—as well as general meteorological and oceanographic parameters—obtained from the buoy are well suited for enhancing research on air–water interfacial processes, wave dynamics, remote sensing, and gas transfer. In this paper the design is described and the performance of the buoy using field data is characterized.

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