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Gerald R. North, Louis Howard, David Pollard, and Bruce Wielicki

Abstract

A class of simple climate models including those of the Budyko-Sellers type are formulated from a variational principle. A functional is constructed for the zonally averaged mean annual temperature field such that extrema of the functional occur when the climate satisfies the usual energy-balance equation. Local minima of the functional correspond to stable solutions while saddle points correspond to unstable solutions. The technique can be used to construct approximate solutions from trial functions and to carry out finite-amplitude stability analyses. A spectral example is given in explicit detail.

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Seiji Kato, G. Louis Smith, and Howard W. Barker

Abstract

An algorithm is developed for the gamma-weighted discrete ordinate two-stream approximation that computes profiles of domain-averaged shortwave irradiances for horizontally inhomogeneous cloudy atmospheres. The algorithm assumes that frequency distributions of cloud optical depth at unresolved scales can be represented by a gamma distribution though it neglects net horizontal transport of radiation. This algorithm is an alternative to the one used in earlier studies that adopted the adding method. At present, only overcast cloudy layers are permitted.

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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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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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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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Robin L. Tanamachi, Louis J. Wicker, David C. Dowell, Howard B. Bluestein, Daniel T. Dawson II, and Ming Xue

Abstract

Mobile Doppler radar data, along with observations from a nearby Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D), are assimilated with an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) technique into a nonhydrostatic, compressible numerical weather prediction model to analyze the evolution of the 4 May 2007 Greensburg, Kansas, tornadic supercell. The storm is simulated via assimilation of reflectivity and velocity data in an initially horizontally homogeneous environment whose parameters are believed to be a close approximation to those of the Greensburg supercell inflow sector. Experiments are conducted to test analysis sensitivity to mobile radar data availability and to the mean environmental near-surface wind profile, which was changing rapidly during the simulation period. In all experiments, a supercell with similar location and evolution to the observed storm is analyzed, but the simulated storm’s characteristics differ markedly. The assimilation of mobile Doppler radar data has a much greater impact on the resulting analyses, particularly at low altitudes (≤2 km), than modifications to the near-surface environmental wind profile. Differences in the analyzed updrafts, vortices, cold pool structure, rear-flank gust front structure, and observation-space diagnostics are documented. An analyzed vortex corresponding to the enhanced Fujita scale 5 (EF-5) Greensburg tornado is stronger and deeper in experiments in which mobile (higher resolution) Doppler radar data are included in the assimilation. This difference is linked to stronger analyzed horizontal convergence, which in turn is associated with increased stretching of vertical vorticity. Changing the near-surface wind profile appears to impact primarily the updraft strength, availability of streamwise vorticity for tilting into the vertical, and low-level vortex strength and longevity.

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Joshua Wurman, David Dowell, Yvette Richardson, Paul Markowski, Erik Rasmussen, Donald Burgess, Louis Wicker, and Howard B. Bluestein

The second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2), which had its field phases in May and June of 2009 and 2010, was designed to explore i) the physical processes of tornadogenesis, maintenance, and demise; ii) the relationships among tornadoes, tornadic storms, and the larger-scale environment; iii) numerical weather prediction and forecasting of supercell thunderstorms and tornadoes; and iv) the wind field near the ground in tornadoes. VORTEX2 is by far the largest and most ambitious observational and modeling study of tornadoes and tornadic storms ever undertaken. It employed 13 mobile mesonet–instrumented vehicles, 11 ground-based mobile radars (several of which had dual-polarization capability and two of which were phased-array rapid scan), a mobile Doppler lidar, four mobile balloon sounding systems, 42 deployable in situ observational weather stations, an unmanned aerial system, video and photogrammetric teams, damage survey teams, deployable disdrometers, and other experimental instrumentation as well as extensive modeling studies of tornadic storms. Participants were drawn from more than 15 universities and laboratories and at least five nations, with over 80 students participating in field activities. The VORTEX2 field phases spanned 2 yr in order to increase the probability of intercepting significant tornadoes, which are rare events. The field phase of VORTEX2 collected data in over three dozen tornadic and nontornadic supercell thunderstorms with unprecedented detail and diversity of measurements. Some preliminary data and analyses from the ongoing analysis phase of VORTEX2 are shown.

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Zachary B. Wienhoff, Howard B. Bluestein, Dylan W. Reif, Roger M. Wakimoto, Louis J. Wicker, and James M. Kurdzo

Abstract

On 24 May 2016, a supercell that produced 13 tornadoes near Dodge City, Kansas, was documented by a rapid-scanning, X-band, polarimetric, Doppler radar (RaXPol). The anomalous nature of this storm, particularly the significant deviations in storm motion from the mean flow and number of tornadoes produced, is examined and discussed. RaXPol observed nine tornadoes with peak radar-derived intensities (ΔV max) and durations ranging from weak (~60 m s−1) and short lived (<30 s) to intense (>150 m s−1) and long lived (>25 min). This case builds on previous studies of tornado debris signature (TDS) evolution with continuous near-surface sampling of multiple strong tornadoes. The TDS sizes increased as the tornadoes intensified but lacked direct correspondence to tornado intensity otherwise. The most significant growth of the TDS in both cases was linked to two substantial rear-flank-downdraft surges and subsequent debris ejections, resulting in growth of the TDSs to more than 3 times their original sizes. The TDS was also observed to continue its growth as the tornadoes decayed and lofted debris fell back to the surface. The TDS size and polarimetric composition were also found to correspond closely to the underlying surface cover, which resulted in reductions in Z DR in wheat fields and growth of the TDS in terraced dirt fields as a result of ground scouring. TDS growth with respect to tornado vortex tilt is also discussed.

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Zachary B. Wienhoff, Howard B. Bluestein, Louis J. Wicker, Jeffrey C. Snyder, Alan Shapiro, Corey K. Potvin, Jana B. Houser, and Dylan W. Reif

Abstract

In many instances, synchronization of Doppler radar data among multiple platforms for multiple-Doppler analysis is challenging. This study describes the production of dual-Doppler wind analyses from several case studies using data from a rapid-scanning, X-band, polarimetric, Doppler radar—the RaXPol radar—and data from nearby WSR-88Ds. Of particular interest is mitigating difficulties related to the drastic differences in scanning rates of the two radars. To account for differences in temporal resolution, a variational reflectivity tracking scheme [a spatially variable advection correction technique (SVAC)] has been employed to interpolate (in a Lagrangian sense) the coarser temporal resolution data (WSR-88D) to the times of the RaXPol volume scans. The RaXPol data and temporally interpolated WSR-88D data are then used to create quasi–rapid scan dual-Doppler analyses. This study focuses on the application of the SVAC technique to WSR-88D data to create dual-Doppler analyses of three tornadic supercells: the 19 May 2013 Edmond–Carney and Norman–Shawnee, Oklahoma, storms and the 24 May 2016 Dodge City, Kansas, storm. Results of the dual-Doppler analyses are briefly examined, including observations of the Z DR columns as a proxy for updrafts. Potential improvements to this technique are also discussed.

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