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Matthew T. Vaughan and Robert G. Fovell


Subgrid-scale turbulence in numerical weather prediction models is typically handled by a PBL parameterization. These schemes attempt to represent turbulent mixing processes occurring below the resolvable scale of the model grid in the vertical direction, and they act upon temperature, moisture, and momentum within the boundary layer. This study varies the PBL mixing strength within 4-km WRF simulations of a 26–29 January 2015 snowstorm to assess the sensitivity of baroclinic cyclones to eddy diffusivity intensity. The bulk critical Richardson number for unstable regimes is varied between 0.0 and 0.25 within the YSU PBL scheme as a way of directly altering the depth and magnitude of subgrid-scale turbulent mixing. Results suggest that varying the bulk critical Richardson number is similar to selecting a different PBL parameterization. Differences in boundary layer moisture availability, arising from reduced entrainment of dry, free tropospheric air, lead to variations in the magnitude of latent heat release above the warm frontal region, producing stronger upper-tropospheric downstream ridging in simulations with less PBL mixing. The more amplified flow pattern impedes the northeastward propagation of the surface cyclone and results in a westward shift of precipitation. In addition, trajectory analysis indicates that ascending parcels in the less-mixing simulations condense more water vapor and terminate at a higher potential temperature level than do ascending parcels in the more-mixing simulations, suggesting stronger latent heat release when PBL mixing is reduced. These results suggest that spread within ensemble forecast systems may be improved by perturbing PBL mixing parameters that are not well constrained.

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Matthew T. Vaughan, Brian H. Tang, and Lance F. Bosart


This study identifies high-impact severe weather events with poor predictive skill over the northeast United States using Storm Prediction Center (SPC) convective outlooks. The objectives are to build a climatology of high-impact, low predictive skill events between 1980 and 2013 and investigate the differences in the synoptic-scale environment and severe weather parameters between severe weather events with low predictive skill and high predictive skill. Event-centered composite analyses, performed using the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Climate Forecast System Reanalysis and the North American Regional Reanalysis, suggest low predictive skill events occur significantly more often in low-shear environments. Additionally, a plurality of low probability of detection (POD), high-impact events occurred in low-shear, high-CAPE environments. Statistical analysis of low-shear, high-CAPE environments suggests high downdraft CAPE (DCAPE) and relatively dry lower levels of the atmosphere are associated with widespread severe weather events. DCAPE and dry boundary layer air may contribute to severe wind gusts through strong negative buoyancy and enhanced evaporative cooling of descending saturated parcels.

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Matthew R. Kumjian, Alexander P. Khain, Nir Benmoshe, Eyal Ilotoviz, Alexander V. Ryzhkov, and Vaughan T. J. Phillips


Polarimetric radar observations of deep convective storms frequently reveal columnar enhancements of differential reflectivity Z DR. Such “Z DR columns” can extend upward more than 3 km above the environmental 0°C level, indicative of supercooled liquid drops being lofted by the updraft. Previous observational and modeling studies of Z DR columns are reviewed. To address remaining questions, the Hebrew University Cloud Model, an advanced spectral bin microphysical model, is coupled with a polarimetric radar operator to simulate the formation and life cycle of Z DR columns in a deep convective continental storm. In doing so, the mechanisms by which Z DR columns are produced are clarified, including the formation of large raindrops in the updraft by recirculation of smaller raindrops formed aloft back into the updraft at low levels. The internal hydrometeor structure of Z DR columns is quantified, revealing the transition from supercooled liquid drops to freezing drops to hail with height in the Z DR column. The life cycle of Z DR columns from early formation, through growth to maturity, to demise is described, showing how hail falling out through the weakening or ascending updraft bubble dominates the reflectivity factor Z H, causing the death of the Z DR column and leaving behind its “ghost” of supercooled drops. In addition, the practical applications of Z DR columns and their evolution are explored. The height of the Z DR column is correlated with updraft strength, and the evolution of Z DR column height is correlated with increases in Z H and hail mass content at the ground after a lag of 10–15 min.

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