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D. G. Steyn, M. Baldi, and R. M. Hoff

Abstract

A new method is presented for the extraction of mixed layer depth and entrainment zone thickness from lidar, backscatter ratio profiles. The method is based on fitting a four parameter, idealized profile to observed profiles. Optimization of the fit yields values for mixed layer depth and entrainment zone thickness. Since the fitting procedure is based on the entire measured profile, it has a robustness not found in methods based on critical backscatter or backscatter gradient. The method is tested by application to four measured profiles and three synthetic profiles. The sets of profiles include some that are very demanding because of small mixed layer to upper layer backscatter ratio contrasts, or have plumes of high backscatter imbedded in mixed and upper layers. It is shown that the method is robust and simple to implement, even for a sequence of independent profiles.

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G. A. Dalu, R. A. Pielke, M. Baldi, and X. Zeng

Abstract

The authors Present an analytical evaluation of the vertical heat and momentum fluxes associated with mesoscale flow generated by periodic and isolated thermal inhomogeneities within the convective boundary layer (CBL). The influence of larger-scale wind flow is also included.

The results show that, with little or no synoptic wind, the vertical velocity is in phase with the diabatic temperature perturbations and that the mesoscale heat flux is positive and of the same order as the diabatic heat flux within the CBL. Above the CBL, the heat flux is negative and penetrates into the free atmosphere through a depth comparable to the depth of the CBL. In the presence of synoptic flow, the mesoscale perturbation is in the form of propagating waves that penetrate deeply into the free atmosphere. As a result, there is a net downward flux of momentum, which is dissipated within the CBL by turbulence. Furthermore, mixing with the environment of the air particles displaced by the waves results in a net negative mesoscale heat flux, which contributes to the weakening of the stability of the free atmosphere.

Strong synoptic advection can significantly weaken the horizontal temperature gradients in the CBL, thereby weakening the intensity of the mesoscale flow. Turbulent diffusion also weakens the temperature gradients and the intensity of the mesoscale flow at large wavenumbers when the wavelength is comparable to the CBL depth. Finally, when the, synoptic wind is very strong, the mesoscale perturbation is very weak and vertically trapped.

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M. Baldi, G. A. Dalu, and R. A. Pielke Sr.

Abstract

It is shown that landscape variability decreases the temperature in the surface layer when, through mesoscale flow, cool air intrudes over warm patches, lifting warm air and weakening the static stability of the upper part of the planetary boundary layer. This mechanism generates regions of upward vertical motion and a sizable amount of available potential energy and can make the environment of the lower troposphere more favorable to cloud formation. This process is enhanced by light ambient wind through the generation of trapped propagating waves, which penetrate into the midtropospheric levels, transporting upward the thermal perturbations and weakening the static stability around the top of the boundary layer. At moderate ambient wind speeds, the presence of surface roughness changes strengthens the wave activity, further favoring the vertical transport of the thermal perturbations. When the intensity of the ambient wind is larger than 5 m s−1, the vertical velocities induced by the surface roughness changes prevail over those induced by the diabatic flux changes. The analysis is performed using a linear theory in which the mesoscale dynamics are forced by the diurnal diabatic sensible heat flux and by the surface stress. Results are shown as a function of ambient flow intensity and of the wavelength of a sinusoidal landscape variability.

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G. A. Dalu, M. Baldi, R. A. Pielke Sr., and G. Leoncini

Abstract

A theory is presented for the evaluation of the different terms of the pressure gradient force, when mesoscale flow is driven by a sensible heat source in the planetary boundary layer (PBL), or by an elevated confined heat source, such as the release of the latent heat of condensation in a cloud. The nonlinear and linear, and the nonhydrostatic and the hydrostatic pressure gradient contributions are evaluated. The validity of the different approximations is discussed as a function of time and space scales. In addition, the validity of this approach is explored as a function of atmospheric environmental parameters, such as static stability, large-scale flow, and dissipation.

By accessing the relative importance of each contribution, specific solution techniques for mesoscale atmospheric flows can be adopted. For example, when the linear contributions dominate, an exact analytic model could be used, rather than relying on numerical approximation solution techniques. When the hydrostatic contribution dominates, the spatial variation of the vertical temperature profile can be used to uniquely define the horizontal pressure gradient force.

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Michael M. French, Howard B. Bluestein, Ivan PopStefanija, Chad A. Baldi, and Robert T. Bluth

Abstract

A mobile, phased-array Doppler radar, the Mobile Weather Radar, 2005 X-band, Phased Array (MWR-05XP), has been used since 2007 to obtain data in supercells and tornadoes. Rapidly updating, volumetric data of tornadic vortex signatures (TVSs) associated with four tornadoes are used to investigate the time–height evolution of TVS intensity, position, and dissipation up through storm midlevels. Both TVS intensity and position were highly variable in time and height even during tornado mature phases. In one case, a TVS associated with a tornado dissipated aloft and a second TVS formed shortly thereafter while there was one continuous TVS near the ground. In a second case, the TVS associated with a long-lived, violent tornado merged with a second TVS (likely a second cyclonic tornado) causing the original TVS to strengthen. TVS dissipation occurred first at a height of ~1.5 km AGL and then at progressively higher levels in two cases; TVS dissipation occurred last in the lowest 1 km in three cases examined. Possible explanations are provided for the unsteady nature of TVS intensity and a conceptual model is presented for the initial dissipation of TVSs at ~1.5 km AGL.

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Michael M. French, Howard B. Bluestein, Ivan PopStefanija, Chad A. Baldi, and Robert T. Bluth

Abstract

Observations from a hybrid phased-array Doppler radar, the Mobile Weather Radar, 2005 X-band, Phased Array (MWR-05XP), were used to investigate the vertical development of tornadic vortex signatures (TVSs) during supercell tornadogenesis. Data with volumetric update times of ∼10 s, an order of magnitude better than that of most other mobile Doppler radars, were obtained up to storm midlevels during the formation of three tornadoes. It is found that TVSs formed upward with time during tornadogenesis for two cases. In a third case, missing low-level data prevented a complete time–height analysis of TVS development; however, TVS formation occurred first near the ground and then at storm midlevels several minutes later. These results are consistent with the small number of volumetric mobile Doppler radar tornadogenesis cases from the past ∼10 years, but counter to studies prior to that, in which a descending TVS was observed in roughly half of tornado cases utilizing Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) data. A comparative example is used to examine the possible effects relatively long WSR-88D volumetric update times have on determining the mode of tornadogenesis.

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Howard B. Bluestein, Jana B. Houser, Michael M. French, Jeffrey C. Snyder, George D. Emmitt, Ivan PopStefanija, Chad Baldi, and Robert T. Bluth

Abstract

During the Second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2), in the spring of 2010, a mobile and pulsed Doppler lidar system [the Truck-Mounted Wind Observing Lidar Facility (TWOLF)] mounted on a truck along with a mobile, phased-array, X-band Doppler radar system [Mobile Weather Radar–2005 X-band, phased array (MWR-05XP)] was used to complement Doppler velocity coverage in clear air near the radar–lidar facility and to provide high-spatial-resolution vertical cross sections of the Doppler wind field in the clear-air boundary layer near and in supercells. It is thought that the magnitude and direction of vertical shear and possibly the orientation and spacing of rolls in the boundary layer have significant effects on both supercell and tornado behavior; MWR-05XP and TWOLF can provide data that can be used to measure vertical shear and detect rolls. However, there are very few detailed, time-dependent and spatially varying observations throughout the depth of the boundary layer of supercells and tornadoes.

This paper discusses lidar and radar data collected in or near six supercells. Features seen by the lidar included gust fronts, horizontal convective rolls, and small-scale vortices. The lidar proved useful at detecting high-spatial-resolution, clear-air returns at close range, where the radar was incapable of doing so, thus providing a more complete picture of the boundary layer environment ahead of supercells. The lidar was especially useful in areas where there was ground-clutter contamination. When there was precipitation and probably insects, and beyond the range of the lidar, where there was no ground-clutter contamination, the radar was the more useful instrument. Suggestions are made for improving the system and its use in studying the tornado boundary layer.

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