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Jeffrey Frame and Paul Markowski

Abstract

Numerical simulations of squall lines traversing sinusoidal mountain ridges are performed using the Advanced Regional Prediction System cloud-resolving model. Precipitation and updraft strength are enhanced through orographic ascent as a squall line approaches a ridge. The simulated squall line then weakens as it descends the ridge because some of the cold pool is blocked by the terrain, resulting in less lift along the gust front and weaker convective cells. The flow within the cold pool accelerates slightly and the depth of the cold air decreases owing to upstream blocking, transitioning the flow in the cold pool head from subcritical to supercritical, then back to subcritical at the bottom of the ridge. A hydraulic jump forms when the flow transitions the second time, enabling the development of a new convective line downwind of the mountain. These new updrafts grow and eventually replace the older updrafts that weakened during descent. This process results in the discrete propagation of a squall line just downstream of a ridge, resulting in the formation of rain shadows downstream from topographic features. Discrete propagation only occurs if a ridge is of sufficient height, however. This replacement process repeats itself if a squall line encounters multiple ridges. The risk of damaging winds from a squall line is greater on the lee side of ridges and on the top of high ridges. These terrain-forced intensity fluctuations increase with mountain height, because the higher terrain permits even less cold air to flow over it. A wider ridge results in a more gradual orographic enhancement and downslope-induced weakening.

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Kevin Gray and Jeffrey Frame

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Despite an increased understanding of environments favorable for tornadic supercells, it is still sometimes unknown why one favorable environment produces many long-tracked tornadic supercells and another seemingly equally favorable environment produces only short-lived supercells. One relatively unexplored environmental parameter that may differ between such environments is the degree of backing or veering of the midlevel shear vector, especially considering that such variations may not be captured by traditional supercell or tornado forecast parameters. We investigate the impact of the 3–6-km shear vector orientation on simulated supercell evolution by systematically varying it across a suite of idealized simulations. We found that the orientation of the 3–6-km shear vector dictates where precipitation loading is maximized in the storms, and thus alters the storm-relative location of downdrafts and outflow surges. When the shear vector is backed, outflow surges generally occur northwest of an updraft, produce greater convergence beneath the updraft, and do not disrupt inflow, meaning that the storm is more likely to persist and produce more tornado-like vortices (TLVs). When the shear vector is veered, outflow surges generally occur north of an updraft, produce less convergence beneath the updraft, and sometimes undercut it with outflow, causing it to tilt at low levels, sometimes leading to storm dissipation. These storms are shorter lived and thus also produce fewer TLVs. Our simulations indicate that the relative orientation of the 3–6-km shear vector may impact supercell longevity and hence the time period over which tornadoes may form.

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Jeffrey Frame and Paul Markowski

Abstract

Numerical simulations of supercell thunderstorms that include parameterized radiative transfer and surface fluxes are performed using the Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS) to investigate the effects of anvil shadows on the near-storm environment. If the simulated storm is nearly stationary, the maximum low-level air temperature deficits within the shadows are about 2 K, which is roughly half the cooling found in some previous observations. It is shown that the extinction of downwelling shortwave radiation by the anvil cloud creates a differential in the flux of downwelling shortwave radiation between the sun and the shade that is at least an order of magnitude greater than the differential of any other term in either the surface radiation or the surface energy budgets. The loss of strong solar heating of the model surface within the shaded regions leads to a reduction of surface temperatures and stabilization of the model surface layer beneath the anvil. The reduction in vertical mixing results in a shallow, strongly vertically sheared layer near the surface and calmer near-surface winds, which are limited to regions in the anvil shadow. This difference in radiative heating is shown not to affect the vertical thermodynamic or wind profiles above the near-surface layer (approximately the lowest 500 m). It is also found that these results are highly sensitive to the magnitude of the near-surface winds. If the initial hodograph is shifted such that the simulated storm acquires a substantial eastward propagation speed, the temperature deficit within the shadow is greatly diminished. This is due to both a weaker surface sensible heat flux and less time during which surface cooling and boundary layer stabilization can occur beneath the anvil.

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Kevin Gray and Jeffrey Frame

Abstract

On 24 August 2016, a tornado outbreak impacted Indiana, Ohio, and Ontario with 26 confirmed tornadoes. Elevated multicellular convection developed into surface-based supercells that produced several tornadoes, particularly near a differential heating boundary. This convective mode transition is of particular interest owing to its relatively rare occurrence. A WRF Model simulation accurately captures the environment and storm evolution during this outbreak. Trajectory analyses indicate that the multicellular updrafts were initially elevated. Since nearly all of the vertical wind shear was confined to the lowest 1 km, significant rotation did not develop via tilting of horizontal vorticity until the storms began ingesting near-surface air. Near-surface vertical wind shear decreased outside of cloud cover owing to vertical mixing, while it was preserved under the anvil, allowing for large values of 0–1-km storm-relative helicity to persist north of a differential heating boundary. Analysis of the perturbation pressure field from the WRF Model output indicates that the development of relatively large nonlinear vertical perturbation pressure gradients coincided with when near-surface air began to enter the updrafts, resulting in upward accelerations in the lowest 2 km, below the level of maximum rotation. In strengthening updrafts, upward-directed buoyancy perturbation pressure accelerations may have offset the downward-directed nonlinear perturbation pressure accelerations above the level of maximum rotation, allowing the updrafts to intensify further.

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Jeffrey Frame and Paul Markowski

Abstract

Numerical simulations of supercell thunderstorms including parameterized radiative transfer and surface fluxes are performed using the Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS) model to investigate how low-level air temperature deficits within anvil shadows affect the simulated storms. The maximum temperature deficits within the modeled cloud shadows are 1.5–2.0 K, which is only about half that previously observed. Within the shadows, the loss of strong solar heating cools and stabilizes the near-surface layer, which suppresses vertical mixing and modifies the near-surface vertical wind shear. In a case of a stationary storm, the enhanced easterly shear present beneath the anvil leads to a thinning of the outflow layer and corresponding acceleration of the rear-flank gust front far ahead of the overlying updraft, weakening the low-level mesocyclone. It is further shown that the direct absorption and emission of radiation by clouds does not significantly affect the simulated supercells. Varying the time of day of model initialization does not prevent the simulated storms from weakening. This behavior is mirrored for storms that slowly move along the major axis of the anvil shadow. If the rear-flank gust front moves into the anvil shadow and the updraft moves normal to the shadow (i.e., northward movement of the updraft), cyclic periods of intensification and decay can result, although this result is likely highly dependent on the storm-relative wind profile. If the gust front does not advance into the shaded region (i.e., southward movement), or if the storm moves rapidly, the storm is relatively unaffected by anvil shading because the rear-flank gust front speed and outflow depth remain relatively unchanged.

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Jeffrey Frame, Paul Markowski, Yvette Richardson, Jerry Straka, and Joshua Wurman

Abstract

Polarimetric and dual-Doppler observations of a supercell observed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) S-band Polarimetric (SPOL) radar, two Doppler-On-Wheels (DOW) radars, and the Greek XPOL radar on 23 May 2002 during the International H2O Project (IHOP) are presented. The polarimetric radar observations began as the storm organized into a supercell and continued for over an hour while the storm was in its mature phase. The hydrometeor distribution within the mature storm was retrieved using a fuzzy logic hydrometeor classification algorithm. The dual-Doppler radar observations began around the time that the polarimetric radar observations concluded, and they covered the end of the mature phase and much of the dissipation phase of the storm. The dual-Doppler wind syntheses are used to evaluate the importance of the forward-flank outflow in augmenting the horizontal vorticity field near the storm above 400 m. In this case, having a relatively weak low-level mesocyclone, the parcel trajectories and the horizontal vorticity field observed within the forward-flank outflow are not what one would likely expect based on prior numerical studies (having generally stronger low-level mesocyclones) that have emphasized an important dynamical role for forward-flank downdrafts in terms of their horizontal vorticity generation. Instead, the observed trajectories could not be traced from the forward-flank outflow toward the storm’s updraft and the horizontal vorticity vectors within the forward-flank outflow generally did not point (westward) toward the storm’s updraft.

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Jake P. Mulholland, Jeffrey Frame, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Scott M. Steiger, Karen A. Kosiba, and Joshua Wurman

Abstract

Recent lake-effect snow field projects in the eastern Great Lakes region have revealed the presence of misovortices with diameters between 40 and 4000 m along cyclonic horizontal shear zones within long-lake-axis-parallel bands. One particular band in which an abundance of misovortices developed occurred on 7 January 2014. The leading hypothesis for lake-effect misovortexgenesis is the release of horizontal shearing instability (HSI). An analysis of three-dimensional dual-Doppler wind syntheses reveals that two criteria for HSI are satisfied along the horizontal shear zone, strongly suggesting that HSI was the likely cause of the misovortices in this case. Furthermore, the general lack of anticyclonic–cyclonic vortex couplets throughout the event reveal that tilting of horizontal vorticity into the vertical is of less importance compared to the release of HSI and subsequent strengthening via vortex stretching. A WRF simulation depicts misovortices along the horizontal shear zone within the simulated band. The simulated vortices display remarkable similarities to the observed vortices in terms of intensity, depth, spacing, and size. The simulated vortices persist over the eastern end of the lake; however, once the vortices move inland, they quickly dissipate. HSI criteria are also calculated from the WRF simulation and are satisfied along the shear zone. Competing hypotheses of misovortexgenesis are presented, with results indicating that the release of HSI is the likely mechanism of vortex formation.

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Scott M. Steiger, Robert Schrom, Alfred Stamm, Daniel Ruth, Keith Jaszka, Timothy Kress, Brett Rathbun, Jeffrey Frame, Joshua Wurman, and Karen Kosiba

Abstract

The eastern Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario) are often affected by intense lake-effect snowfalls. Lake-effect storms that form parallel to the major axes of these lakes can strongly impact communities by depositing more than 100 cm of snowfall in less than 24 h. Long-lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) storms are significantly different in structure and dynamics compared to the much more studied wind-parallel roll storms that typically form over the western Great Lakes. A Doppler on Wheels (DOW) mobile radar sampled several of these storms at fine spatial and temporal resolutions (and close to the surface) during the winter of 2010–11 over and downwind of Lake Ontario to document and improve understanding of how these storms develop. Over 1100 observations of vortices were catalogued within the 16 December 2010 and 4–5 January 2011 events. The majority of these vortices were less than 1 km in diameter with a statistical modal difference in Doppler velocity (delta-V) value across the vortex of 11 m s−1. Vortices developed along boundaries, which formed within the bands, suggesting horizontal shear instability was the main cause. Other features noted in the DOW observations included bounded weak echo regions, anvils, and horizontal vortices, typically on the south side of west–east-oriented LLAP bands. The reflectivity and velocity structure of LLAP bands were found to be much more complex than previously thought, which may impact localized precipitation amounts and errors in forecast location/intensity.

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David A. R. Kristovich, Richard D. Clark, Jeffrey Frame, Bart Geerts, Kevin R. Knupp, Karen A. Kosiba, Neil F. Laird, Nicholas D. Metz, Justin R. Minder, Todd D. Sikora, W. James Steenburgh, Scott M. Steiger, Joshua Wurman, and George S. Young

Abstract

Intense lake-effect snowstorms regularly develop over the eastern Great Lakes, resulting in extreme winter weather conditions with snowfalls sometimes exceeding 1 m. The Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS) field campaign sought to obtain unprecedented observations of these highly complex winter storms.

OWLeS employed an extensive and diverse array of instrumentation, including the University of Wyoming King Air research aircraft, five university-owned upper-air sounding systems, three Center for Severe Weather Research Doppler on Wheels radars, a wind profiler, profiling cloud and precipitation radars, an airborne lidar, mobile mesonets, deployable weather Pods, and snowfall and particle measuring systems. Close collaborations with National Weather Service Forecast Offices during and following OWLeS have provided a direct pathway for results of observational and numerical modeling analyses to improve the prediction of severe lake-effect snowstorm evolution. The roles of atmospheric boundary layer processes over heterogeneous surfaces (water, ice, and land), mixed-phase microphysics within shallow convection, topography, and mesoscale convective structures are being explored.

More than 75 students representing nine institutions participated in a wide variety of data collection efforts, including the operation of radars, radiosonde systems, mobile mesonets, and snow observation equipment in challenging and severe winter weather environments.

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