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Robert H. Johns

Abstract

Most observational and numerical modeling investigations into the meteorological factors affecting bow echo development in the United States have concerned long-lived events occurring during the late spring and summer. As a result, the meteorological patterns and parameter values (conceptual models) typically associated with bow echo development are biased toward the larger-scale warm season events. This note discusses the spectrum of meteorological conditions observed with bow echo development and extends the classification of associated meteorological patterns to cool season cases.

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Robert H. Johns and William D. Hirt

Abstract

The derecho, a widespread convectively induced windstorm, is identified and defined in terms of current nomenclature. A comprehensive dataset consisting of 70 derecho cases has been developed from the warm season months of May through August for the 4-year period 1980–1983. Analyses of this dataset reveal that the warm season derecho typically emanates from a mesoscale convective system (MCS) moving along a quasistationary, low-level thermal boundary in an environment characterized by high potential instability and relatively strong midtropospheric winds. In the continental United States these windstorms are most frequent in a zone extending from eastern South Dakota to the Upper Ohio Valley, and typically commence during the afternoon and evening hours. Particular radar and satellite imagery characteristics are associated with the derecho-spawning MCS. Based upon the meteorological parameters and synoptic patterns associated with derecho events, a decision tree has been developed to assist the operational meteorologist in anticipating derecho development.

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Robert H. Johns and Charles A. Doswell III

Abstract

Knowledge of severe local storms has been increasing rapidly in recent years as a result of both observational studies and numerical modeling experiments. This paper reviews that knowledge as it relates to development of new applications for forecasting of severe local storms. Many of these new applications are based on physical understanding of processes taking place on the storm scale and thus allow forecasters to become less dependent on empirical relationships. Refinements in pattern recognition and severe weather climatology continue to be of value to the operational severe local storms forecasters, however.

Current methodology for forecasting severe local storms at the National Severe Storms Forecast Center is described. Operational uses of new forecast applications, new “real-time” data sources (such as wind profilers and Doppler radars), and improved numerical model products are discussed.

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Nicholas D. Metz, David M. Schultz, and Robert H. Johns

Abstract

Extratropical cyclones over the central United States and southern Canada from the years 1982 and 1989 were examined for the presence of two or more (multiple) warm-front-like baroclinic zones, hereafter called MWFL baroclinic zones. Of the 108 cyclones identified during this period, 42% were found to have MWFL baroclinic zones, where a baroclinic zone was defined as a magnitude of the surface temperature gradient of 8°F (4.4°C) 220 km−1 over a length of at least 440 km. The largest frequency of cyclones with MWFL baroclinic zones occurred during April, May, August, and September. Ninety-four percent of all baroclinic zones were coincident with a magnitude of the dewpoint temperature gradient of at least 4°F (2.2°C) 220 km−1, and 81% of all baroclinic zones possessed a wind shift of at least 20°, suggesting that these baroclinic zones were significant airmass and airstream boundaries. Although cyclones with MWFL baroclinic zones formed in a variety of ways, two synoptic patterns dominated. Thirty-eight percent of cyclones with MWFL baroclinic zones formed as a cold or stationary front from a previous cyclonic system was drawn into the circulation of a cyclone center, forming the southern baroclinic zone. Twenty-two percent of cyclones with MWFL baroclinic zones formed as a cold front to the north of the cyclone center was drawn into the circulation of the cyclone, forming the northern baroclinic zone. Other synoptic patterns included outflow boundaries (9%), chinook fronts (4%), return flow from the Gulf of Mexico (4%), and unclassified (22%). Although the frequency of severe weather in cyclones was roughly the same for cyclones with and without MWFL baroclinic zones, the presence of the southern baroclinic zone provided a mechanism to focus the location of severe weather, showing their utility for severe weather forecasting. Despite the potential for severe convective storms along these southern baroclinic zones, 51% were not identified on the National Meteorological Center (now known as the National Centers for Environmental Prediction) surface analyses, indicating the importance of performing real-time surface isotherm analysis.

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Stephen F. Corfidi, Robert H. Johns, and Mark A. Darrow

Abstract

A significant, convectively induced windstorm known as a derecho occurred over parts of Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Colorado on 31 May 1994. The event was unusual in that it occurred not only in an environment of relatively limited moisture, but also one with a thermodynamic profile favorable for dry microbursts in the presence of moderate midtropospheric flow. The development and evolution of the severe wind-producing convective system is described, with emphasis on the synoptic and mesoscale features that may have contributed to its strength and maintenance. A very similar derecho that affected much the same region on 1 June 2002 is more briefly introduced. Questions are raised regarding the unique nature of these events and their potential utility in achieving an increased understanding of the mechanics of derecho-producing convective systems in more moisture-rich environments.

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Ari-Juhani Punkka, Jenni Teittinen, and Robert H. Johns

Abstract

On 5 July 2002, a rapidly propagating bow echo formed over eastern Finland causing severe wind damage in an exceptionally large area. The Ministry of the Interior’s Emergency Response Centers received nearly 400 thunderstorm-related wind damage reports. The 5 July 2002 case is the highest-latitude derecho that has ever been documented. The bow echo developed ahead of a northeastward-moving 500-hPa trough inside of the warm sector of a secondary low and moved north-northwestward on the eastern (warm) side of the quasi-stationary front. The leading edge of the bow echo was oriented perpendicular to the low-level southerly wind shear and the convective system propagated along the 850-hPa equivalent potential temperature ridge with a speed that was close to the maximum wind throughout the troposphere. It is particularly noteworthy that the synoptic pattern was oriented about 90° counterclockwise when compared with the typical synoptic pattern associated with warm season derechos in the United States. This kind of synoptic situation associated along with the derecho mesoscale convective system’s (MCS’s) motion toward the north-northwest has not been mentioned in literature before. The MCS started as a cluster of thunderstorms and became a bow echo a few hours later. The leading edge of the bow echo had a strong reflectivity gradient and the region of stratiform precipitation was behind the strongest echoes. At the most intense stage, a rear-inflow notch was visible both in radar and satellite pictures. It was in good accordance with the location of an area of the most severe damage. Moreover, the storm-relative winds derived from the proximity sounding in the wake of the system showed the existence of rear-to-front flow above 850 hPa. The downdraft air appeared to originate from 4 km ASL, where the relative humidity was less than 50%. This probably led to enhanced evaporative cooling and the intense cold pool, which propagated faster than the mean wind. In the mesoscale, the 5 July 2002 derecho had many similarities to other derecho MCSs that have been described in the literature.

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Katherine L. Horgan, David M. Schultz, John E. Hales Jr., Stephen F. Corfidi, and Robert H. Johns

Abstract

A 5-yr climatology of elevated severe convective storms was constructed for 1983–87 east of the Rocky Mountains. Potential cases were selected by finding severe storm reports on the cold side of surface fronts. Of the 1826 days during the 5-yr period, 1689 (91%) had surface fronts east of the Rockies. Of the 1689 days with surface fronts, 129 (8%) were associated with elevated severe storm cases. Of the 1066 severe storm reports associated with the 129 elevated severe storm cases, 624 (59%) were hail reports, 396 (37%) were wind reports, and 46 (4%) were tornado reports. A maximum of elevated severe storm cases occurred in May with a secondary maximum in September. Elevated severe storm cases vary geographically throughout the year, with a maximum over the south-central United States in winter to a central and eastern U.S. maximum in spring and summer. A diurnal maximum of elevated severe storm cases occurred at 2100 UTC, which coincided with the diurnal maximum of hail reports. The wind reports had a broad maximum during the daytime. Because the forecasting of hail from elevated storms typically does not pose as significant a forecast challenge as severe wind for forecasters and tornadoes from elevated storms are relatively uncommon, this study focuses on the occurrence of severe wind from elevated storms. Elevated severe storm cases that produce only severe wind reports occurred roughly 5 times a year. To examine the environments associated with cases that produced severe winds only, five cases were examined in more detail. Common elements among the five cases included elevated convective available potential energy, weak surface easterlies, and shallow near-surface stable layers (less than 100 hPa thick).

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Matthew S. van den Broeke, David M. Schultz, Robert H. Johns, Jeffry S. Evans, and John E. Hales

Abstract

During 9–11 November 1998 and 9–10 March 2002, two similar convective lines moved across the central and eastern United States. Both convective lines initiated over the southern plains along strong surface-based cold fronts in moderately unstable environments. Both lines were initially associated with cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning, as detected by the National Lightning Detection Network, and both events met the criteria to be classified as derechos, producing swaths of widespread damaging wind. After moving into areas of marginal, if any, instability over the upper Midwest, CG lightning production ceased or nearly ceased, although the damaging winds continued. The 9 March 2002 line experienced a second phase of frequent CG lightning farther east over the mid-Atlantic states. Analysis of these two events shows that the production of CG lightning was sensitive to the occurrence and vertical distribution of instability. Periods with frequent CG lightning were associated with sufficient instability within the lower mixed-phase region of the cloud (i.e., the temperature range approximately between −10° and −20°C), a lifting condensation level warmer than −10°C, and an equilibrium level colder than −20°C. Periods with little or no CG lightning possessed limited, if any, instability in the lower mixed-phase region. The current Storm Prediction Center guidelines for forecasting these convective lines are presented.

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Thomas H. A. Frame, John Methven, Nigel M. Roberts, and Helen A. Titley

Abstract

The statistical properties and skill in predictions of objectively identified and tracked cyclonic features (frontal waves and cyclones) are examined in the 15-day version of the Met Office Global and Regional Ensemble Prediction System (MOGREPS-15). The number density of cyclonic features is found to decline with increasing lead time, with analysis fields containing weak features that are not sustained past the first day of the forecast. This loss of cyclonic features is associated with a decline in area-averaged enstrophy with increasing lead time. Both feature number density and area-averaged enstrophy saturate by around 7 days into the forecast. It is found that the feature number density and area-averaged enstrophy of forecasts produced using model versions that include stochastic energy backscatter saturate at higher values than forecasts produced without stochastic physics. The ability of MOGREPS-15 to predict the locations of cyclonic features of different strengths is evaluated at different spatial scales by examining the Brier skill (relative to the analysis climatology) of strike probability forecasts: the probability that a cyclonic feature center is located within a specified radius. The radius at which skill is maximized increases with lead time from 650 km at 12 h to 950 km at 7 days. The skill is greatest for the most intense features. Forecast skill remains above zero at these scales out to 14 days for the most intense cyclonic features, but only out to 8 days when all features are included irrespective of intensity.

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Alicia C. Wasula, Lance F. Bosart, Russell Schneider, Steven J. Weiss, Robert H. Johns, Geoffrey S. Manikin, and Patrick Welsh

Abstract

The 22–23 February 1998 central Florida tornado outbreak was one of the deadliest and costliest in Florida’s history; a number of long-track tornadoes moved across the Florida peninsula after 0000 UTC 23 February 1998. In the 12–24 h prior to 0000 UTC 23 February, a vigorous upper-level synoptic system was tracking across the southeast United States, and a north–south-oriented convective band located ahead of the cold front was moving eastward across the Gulf of Mexico. Strong vertical wind shear was present in the lowest 1 km, due to a ∼25 m s−1 low-level jet at 925 hPa and south-southeasterly surface flow over the Florida peninsula. Further, CAPE values across the central Florida peninsula exceeded 2500 J kg−1. Upon making landfall on the Florida peninsula, the convective band rapidly intensified and developed into a line of tornadic supercells. This paper examines the relationship between a diabatically induced front across the central Florida peninsula and the rapid development of tornadic supercells in the convective band after 0000 UTC 23 February. Results suggest that persistent strong frontogenesis helped to maintain the front and enhanced ascent in the warm, moist unstable air to the south of the east–west-oriented front on the Florida peninsula, thus allowing the updrafts to rapidly intensify as they made landfall. Further, surface observations from three key locations along the surface front suggest that a mesolow moved eastward along the front just prior to the time when supercells developed. It is hypothesized that the eastward-moving mesolow may have caused the winds in the warm air to the south of the surface front to back to southeasterly and create a favorable low-level wind profile in which supercells could rapidly develop.

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