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Paul Markowski
and
Christina Hannon

Abstract

Overdetermined, dual-Doppler wind syntheses are used to document the evolution, structure, and dynamics of vertical vorticity extrema observed in a convective boundary layer during the 12 June 2002 International H2O Project (IHOP) mission. Discrete vertical vorticity extrema having horizontal scales of 1–2 km can be observed continuously for periods exceeding an hour. The evolution of the vorticity field is characterized by complex interactions among vorticity extrema and between the vertical vorticity and vertical velocity fields. The most prominent vorticity maxima have amplitudes of approximately 0.01 s−1 and are associated with retrieved pressure deficits of order 0.1 mb. The vorticity extrema weaken with height and tilt in the presence of vertical wind shear. Advection and propagation both contribute substantially to the motion of the vorticity extrema.

Amplifications of vertical vorticity are closely linked to the intensification of updrafts. Both stretching and tilting can contribute significantly to the vorticity budgets of the air parcels comprising the vorticity extrema, and their relative importance varies with elevation, evolutionary stage, and from one vorticity extremum to another. It is therefore difficult to generalize about the dynamics of the vorticity extrema. It also is difficult to generalize about the helicity of the vorticity maxima and suppression of mixing for similar reasons. The weakening of vertical vorticity extrema is closely tied to the weakening of updrafts. In some cases, downward-directed vertical pressure gradient forces due to vertical gradients of rotation bring about updraft weakening and vorticity demise. An improved understanding of the nature of boundary layer vortices could have large relevance to convection initiation owing to feedbacks between vertical velocity and vorticity.

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Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

Nearly 50 years of observations of hook echoes and their associated rear-flank downdrafts (RFDs) are reviewed. Relevant theoretical and numerical simulation results also are discussed. For over 20 years, the hook echo and RFD have been hypothesized to be critical in the tornadogenesis process. Yet direct observations within hook echoes and RFDs have been relatively scarce. Furthermore, the role of the hook echo and RFD in tornadogenesis remains poorly understood. Despite many strong similarities between simulated and observed storms, some possibly important observations within hook echoes and RFDs have not been reproduced in three-dimensional numerical models.

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Alan Shapiro
and
Paul Markowski

Abstract

Theoretical hydrodynamic models for the behavior of vortices with axially varying rotation rates are presented. The flows are inviscid, axisymmetric, and incompressible. Two flow classes are considered: (i) radially unbounded solid body–type vortices and (ii) vortex cores of finite radius embedded within radially decaying vortex profiles.

For radially unbounded solid body–type vortices with axially varying rotation rates, the von Kármán–Bödewadt similarity principle is applicable and leads to exact nonlinear solutions of the Euler equations. A vortex overlying nonrotating fluid, a vortex overlying a vortex of different strength, and more generally, a vortex with N horizontal layers of different rotation rate are considered. These vortices cannot exist in a steady state because continuity of pressure across the horizontal interface between the vortex layers demands that a secondary (meridional) circulation be generated. These similarity solutions are characterized by radial and azimuthal velocity fields that increase with radius and a vertical velocity field that is independent of radius. These solutions describe nonlinear interactions between the vortex circulations and the vortex-induced secondary circulations, and may play a role in the dynamics of the interior regions of broad mesoscale vortices. Decaying, amplifying, and oscillatory solutions are found for different vertical boundary conditions and axial distributions of vorticity. The oscillatory solutions are characterized by pulsations of vortex strength in lower and upper levels associated with periodic reversals in the sense of the secondary circulation. These solutions provide simple illustrations of the “vortex valve effect,” sometimes used to explain cyclic changes in updraft and rotation strength in tornadic storms.

A linear analysis of the Euler equations is used to describe the short-time behavior of an elevated vortex of finite radius embedded within a radially decaying vortex profile (i.e., elevated Rankine-type vortices). The linear solution describes the formation of a central updraft (as in the similarity solution) and an annular downdraft ringing the periphery of the vortex core (not accounted for in the similarity solution). Downdraft strength is sensitive to both the vortex core aspect ratio and outer vortex decay rate, being stronger and narrower for broader vortices and larger decay rates. It is hypothesized that this dynamically induced downdraft may facilitate the transport of mesocyclone vorticity down to low levels in supercell thunderstorms.

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Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

Idealized simulations are used to investigate the contributions of frictionally generated horizontal vorticity to the development of near-surface vertical vorticity in supercell storms. Of interest is the relative importance of barotropic vorticity (vorticity present in the prestorm environment), baroclinic vorticity (vorticity that is principally generated by horizontal buoyancy gradients), and viscous vorticity (vorticity that originates from the subgrid-scale turbulence parameterization, wherein the effects of surface drag reside), all of which can be advected, tilted, and stretched. Equations for the three partial vorticities are integrated in parallel with the model. The partial vorticity calculations are complemented by analyses of circulation following material circuits, which are often able to be carried out further in time because they are less susceptible to explosive error growth.

Near-surface mesocyclones that develop prior to cold-pool formation (this only happens when the environmental vorticity is crosswise near the surface) are dominated by only barotropic vertical vorticity when the lower boundary is free slip, but both barotropic and viscous vertical vorticity when surface drag is included. Baroclinic vertical vorticity grows large once a cold pool is established, regardless of the lower boundary condition and, in fact, dominates at the time the vortices are most intense in all but one simulation (a simulation dominated early by a barotropic mode of vortex genesis that may not be relevant to real convective storms).

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Paul M. Markowski

Abstract

A simulation of a supercell storm produced for a prior study on tornado predictability is reanalyzed for the purpose of examining the fine-scale details of tornadogenesis. It is found that the formation of a tornado-like vortex in the simulation differs from how such vortices have been understood to form in previous numerical simulations. The main difference between the present simulation and past ones is the inclusion of a turbulent boundary layer in the storm’s environment in the present case, whereas prior simulations have used a laminar boundary layer. The turbulent environment contains significant near-surface vertical vorticity (ζ > 0.03 s−1 at z = 7.5 m), organized in the form of longitudinal streaks aligned with the southerly ground-relative winds. The ζ streaks are associated with corrugations in the vertical plane in the predominantly horizontal, westward-pointing environmental vortex lines; the vortex-line corrugations are produced by the vertical drafts associated with coherent turbulent structures aligned with the aforementioned southerly ground-relative winds (longitudinal coherent structures in the surface layer such as these are well known to the boundary layer and turbulence communities). The ζ streaks serve as focal points for tornadogenesis, and may actually facilitate tornadogenesis, given how near-surface ζ in the environment can rapidly amplify when subjected to the strong, persistent convergence beneath a supercell updraft.

Significance Statement

In high-resolution computer simulations of supercell storms that include a more realistic, turbulent environment, the means by which tornado-like vortices form differs from the mechanism identified in prior simulations using a less realistic, laminar environment. One possibility is that prior simulations develop intense vortices for the wrong reasons. Another possibility could be that tornadoes form in a wide range of ways in the real atmosphere, even within supercell storms that appear to be similar, and increasingly realistic computer simulations are finally now capturing that diversity.

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Joseph Hoch
and
Paul Markowski

Abstract

A climatology of dryline frequency and location is presented based on 30 yr (1973–2002) of April, May, and June surface observations from the Great Plains region of the United States. Drylines having a horizontal specific humidity gradient greater than or equal to 3 × 10−8 m−1 [greater than or equal to 3 g kg−1 (100 km)−1] are found to be present on 32% of the days, with the peak frequency occurring in mid- to late May. The most favored longitude of the generally meridionally oriented drylines is near −101°W at 0000 UTC, although the favored longitude tends to shift westward as the April–June period elapses. There is no robust suggestion of a shift in the annual mean dryline position over the period studied.

Relationships between dryline position and wind and relative humidity data at mandatory levels (e.g., 850, 700, and 500 mb) also are investigated. Dryline longitude increases with increasing westerly momentum aloft. Dryline longitude also increases with decreasing relative humidity at 850 mb, primarily at stations in the western Great Plains region, west of the climatologically favored dryline position near −101°. Dryline position is not as closely associated with either 850-mb relative humidity east of the climatologically favored dryline position or relative humidity in the middle troposphere.

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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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Paul Markowski
and
Yvette Richardson

Abstract

Dual-Doppler wind syntheses from mobile radar observations obtained during the International H2O Project document some of the spatial variability of vertical wind profiles in convective boundary layers. Much of the variability of popular forecasting parameters such as vertical wind shear magnitude and storm-relative helicity is thought to result from pressure and temperature gradients associated with mesoscale boundaries (e.g., drylines, outflow boundaries, fronts). These analyses also reveal substantial heterogeneity even in the absence of obvious mesoscale wind shifts—in regions many might have classified as “horizontally homogeneous” with respect to these parameters in the past. This heterogeneity is closely linked to kinematic perturbations associated with boundary layer convection. When a mean wind is present, the large spatial variability implies significant temporal variability in the vertical wind profiles observed at fixed locations, with the temporal variability increasing with mean wind speed. Significant differences also can arise between true hodographs and “pseudohodographs” obtained from rawinsondes that are advected horizontally as they ascend. Some possible implications of the observed heterogeneity with respect to forecasting and simulating convective storms also are discussed.

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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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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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