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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin

Abstract

Idealized numerical simulations of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) over a range of instabilities and shears were conducted to examine low-frequency gravity waves generated during initial and mature stages of convection. In all simulations, at initial updraft development a first-order wave was generated by heating extending through the depth of the troposphere. Additional first-order wave modes were generated each time the convective updraft reintensified. Each of these waves stabilized the environment in advance of the system. As precipitation descended below cloud base, and as a stratiform precipitation region developed, second-order wave modes were generated by cooling extending from the midlevels to the surface. These waves destabilized the environment ahead of the system but weakened the 0–5 km shear. Third-order wave modes could be generated by midlevel cooling caused by rear inflow intensification; these wave modes cooled the midlevels destabilizing the environment. The developing stage of each MCS was characterized by a cyclical process: developing updraft, generation of n = 1 wave, increase in precipitation, generation of n = 2 wave, and subsequent environmental destabilization reinvigorating the updraft. After rearward expansion of the stratiform region, the MCSs entered their mature stage and the method of updraft reinvigoration shifted to absorbing discrete convective cells produced in advance of each system. Higher-order wave modes destabilized the environment, making it more favorable to development of these cells and maintenance of the MCS. As initial simulation shear or instability increased, the transition from cyclical wave/updraft development to discrete cell/updraft development occurred more quickly.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin

Abstract

The sensitivity of low-frequency gravity waves generated during the development and mature stages of an MCS to variations in the characteristics of the rimed ice parameterization were tested through idealized numerical simulations over a range of environment shears and instabilities. Latent cooling in the simulations with less dense, graupel-like rimed ice was more concentrated aloft near the melting level, while cooling in simulations with denser, hail-like rimed ice extended from the melting level to the surface. However, the cooling profiles still had significant internal variability across different environments and over each simulation’s duration. Initial wave production during the MCS developing stage was fairly similar in the hail and graupel simulations. During the mature stages, graupel simulations showed stronger perturbations in CAPE due to the cooling and associated wave vertical motion being farther aloft; hail simulations showed stronger perturbations in LFC due to cooling and wave vertical motion being concentrated at lower levels. The differences in the cooling profiles were not uniform enough to produce consistently different higher-order wave modes. However, the initiation of discrete cells ahead of the convective line was found to be highly sensitive to the nature of the prior destabilizing wave. Individual events of discrete propagation were suppressed in some of the graupel simulations due to the higher location of both peak cooling and vertical wave motion. Such results underscore the need to fully characterize MCS microphysical heating profiles and their low-frequency gravity waves to understand their structure and development.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin and Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

This study examines observed mesoscale surface pressure, temperature, and wind features of bow echoes. Bow-echo events in the area of the Oklahoma Mesonet are selected for study to take advantage of high-resolution surface data. Thirty-six cases are identified using 2-km-resolution radar reflectivity data over a 4-yr period (2002–05); their surface features are interrogated using the mesonet data. Distinct surface features usually associated with squall lines, the mesohigh and cold pool, are found to also accompany bow echoes. A common surface pattern preceding bowing is identified. Prior to new bowing development, the mesohigh surges ahead of the convective line while the cold pool remains centered behind it. Surface winds shift to a ground-relative outflow pattern upon arrival of the mesohigh surge. Approximately 30 min later, a new bowing segment forms with its apex slightly to the left (with respect to the direction of system motion) of the mesohigh surge. The cold pool follows the convective line as it bows. This process is termed the “pressure surge–new bowing” cycle, and a conceptual model is presented. In one representative case, the surface signature of a gravity wave, identified through spatial and temporal filtering, is tracked. It is presumed to be generated by deep heating within the convective line. The wave moved at nearly 35 m s−1 and has heretofore been undetected in mesoanalysis studies. Two other distinct features, a sharp pressure rise and temperature drop, were also observed at all mesonet stations affected by the system. Possible explanations for these features in terms of a gravity current, gravity wave, or atmospheric bore are explored.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin and Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

Numerical simulations of the 13 March 2003 bow echo over Oklahoma are used to evaluate bow echo development and its relationship with gravity wave generation. Multiple fast-moving (with speeds of 30–35 m s−1) gravity waves are generated in association with fluctuations in the first vertical mode of heating in the convective line. The surface impacts of four such waves are observed in Oklahoma Mesonet data during this case. Observations of surface pressure surges ahead of convective lines prior to the bowing process are reproduced; a slower gravity wave produced in the simulation is responsible for a prebowing pressure surge. This slower gravity wave, moving at approximately 11 m s−1, is generated by an increase in low-level microphysical cooling associated with an increase in rear-to-front flow and low-level downdrafts shortly before bowing. The wave moves ahead of the convective line and is manifested at the surface by a positive pressure surge. The pattern of low-level vertical motion associated with this wave, in conjunction with higher-frequency gravity waves generated by multicellularity of the convective line, increases the immediate presystem CAPE by approximately 250 J kg−1 just ahead of the bowing segment of the convective line. Increased presystem CAPE aids convective updraft strength in that segment despite amplified updraft tilt due to a stronger cold pool and surface-based rear-to-front flow, compared to updraft strength in other, nonbowing segments of the convective line.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin and Conrad L. Ziegler

Abstract

The HAILCAST hail growth model has been integrated into the Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF-ARW) Model to predict hail size at the ground. Significant updates to the physics of the hail growth model are added, including variable hail density for both wet and dry growth regimes, an updraft multiplier that parameterizes advection of the hail embryo across an updraft, temperature-dependent ice collection efficiency, mass growth by vapor deposition or condensation, and an improved liquid water shedding threshold. Sample hail trajectories from three different updrafts are presented showing the effects of these physical updates. The updraft multiplier in particular improves the representation of the hail growth by not requiring a hail embryo to be locked in the center of an updraft until it grows large enough to fall. Five weeks of hail diameter forecasts are verified using a maximum expected size of hail (MESH) product. At points where WRF successfully forecasts convection, the forecasted hail size is within 0.5 in. 66% of the time.

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Samuel J. Childs, Russ S. Schumacher, and Rebecca D. Adams-Selin

Abstract

Shortly after 0600 UTC (midnight MDT) 9 June 2020, a rapidly intensifying and elongating convective system produced a macroburst and extensive damage in the town of Akron on Colorado’s eastern plains. Instantaneous winds were measured as high as 51.12 m s−1 at 2.3 m AGL from an eddy covariance (EC) tower, and a 50.45 m s−1 wind gust from an adjacent 10-m tower became the highest official thunderstorm wind gust ever measured in Colorado. Synoptic-scale storm motion was southerly, but surface winds were northerly in a postfrontal air mass, creating strong vertical wind shear. Extremely high-resolution temporal and spatial observations allow for a unique look at pressure and temperature tendencies accompanying the macroburst and reveal intriguing wave structures in the outflow. At 10-Hz frequency, the EC tower recorded a 5-hPa pressure surge in 19 s immediately following the strongest winds, and a 15-hPa pressure drop in the following 3 min. Surface temperature also rose 1.5°C in less than 1 min, concurrent with the maximum wind gusts, and then fell sharply by 3.5°C in the following minute. Shifting wind direction observations and an NWS damage survey are suggestive of both radial outflow and a gust front passage, and model proximity soundings reveal a well-mixed surface layer topped by a strong inversion and large low-level vertical wind shear. Despite the greatest risk of severe winds forecast to be northeast of Colorado, convection-allowing model forecasts from 6 to 18 h in advance did show similar structures to what occurred, warranting further simulations to investigate the unique mesoscale and misoscale features associated with the macroburst.

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Faith P. Groff, Rebecca D. Adams-Selin, and Russ S. Schumacher

Abstract

This study investigates the sensitivities of mesoscale convective system (MCS) low-frequency gravity waves to changes in the vertical wind and thermodynamic profile through idealized cloud model simulations, highlighting how internal MCS processes impact low-frequency gravity wave generation, propagation, and environmental influence. Spectral analysis is performed on the rates of latent heat release, updraft velocity, and deep-tropospheric descent ahead of the convection as a signal for vertical wavenumber n=1 wave passage. Results show that perturbations in midlevel descent up to 100 km ahead of the MCS occur at the same frequency as n=1 gravity wave generation prompted by fluctuations in latent heat release due to the cellular variations of the MCS updrafts. Within a nocturnal environment, the frequency of the cellularity of the updrafts increases, subsequently increasing the frequency of n=1 wave generation. In an environment with low-level unidirectional shear, results indicate that n=2 wave generation mechanisms and environmental influence are similar among the simulated daytime and nocturnal MCSs. When deep vertical wind shear is incorporated, many of the low-frequency waves are strong enough to support cloud development ahead of the MCS as well as sustain and support convection.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin, Susan C. van den Heever, and Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

The sensitivity of a case study bow-echo simulation to eight different microphysical schemes in the Weather Research and Forecasting model was tested, with a focus on graupel parameter characteristics. The graupel parameter in one scheme was modified to have a larger mean size and faster fall speed to represent hail (“hail like”). The goal of the study was to measure the sensitivity of five parameters that are important to operational forecasters to graupel properties: timing of bowing development, system speed, wind gusts, system areal coverage, and accumulated precipitation.

The time each system initiated bowing varied by as much as 105 min. Simulations containing graupel with smaller mean size and slower fall speed (“graupel like”) bowed earlier due to increased microphysical cooling and stronger cold pools. These same systems had reduced precipitation efficiency, producing a peak storm-total accumulation of 36 mm, compared to a hail-like peak value of 237 mm, and observed a peak value of 53 mm. Faster-falling hail-like hydrometeors reached the surface with minimal melting, producing the largest accumulations. Graupel-like systems had 10-m wind gusts 73% stronger compared to hail-like systems, due to stronger low-level downdrafts. Systems with a smaller mean graupel size were 19% faster, also due to increased microphysical cooling. The size of the convective region varied by 150%, although this was partially due to scheme differences other than the graupel parameter.

The significant differences in bow-echo characteristics produced by graupel property variations in convective-resolving models emphasize careful microphysical parameterization design. These sensitivities have forecasting implications, as graupel characteristics vary depending on the ambient environment and other factors. Detailed observations of graupel properties are recommended.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin, Susan C. van den Heever, and Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

The effect of changes in microphysical cooling rates on bow echo development and longevity are examined through changes to graupel parameterization in the Advanced Research Weather Research and Forecasting Model (ARW-WRF). Multiple simulations are performed that test the sensitivity to different graupel size distributions as well as the complete removal of graupel. It is found that size distributions with larger and denser, but fewer, graupel hydrometeors result in a weaker cold pool due to reduced microphysical cooling rates. This yields weaker midlevel (3–6 km) buoyancy and pressure perturbations, a later onset of more elevated rear inflow, and a weaker convective updraft. The convective updraft is also slower to tilt rearward, and thus bowing occurs later. Graupel size distributions with more numerous, smaller, and lighter hydrometeors result in larger microphysical cooling rates, stronger cold pools, more intense midlevel buoyancy and pressure gradients, and earlier onset of surface-based rear inflow; these systems develop bowing segments earlier. A sensitivity test with fast-falling but small graupel hydrometeors revealed that small mean size and slow fall speed both contribute to the strong cooling rates. Simulations entirely without graupel are initially weaker, because of limited contributions from cooling by melting of the slowly falling snow. However, over the next hour increased rates of melting snow result in an increasingly more intense system with new bowing. Results of the study indicate that the development of a bow echo is highly sensitive to microphysical processes, which presents a challenge to the prediction of these severe weather phenomena.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin, Adam J. Clark, Christopher J. Melick, Scott R. Dembek, Israel L. Jirak, and Conrad L. Ziegler

Abstract

Four different versions of the HAILCAST hail model have been tested as part of the 2014–16 NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT) Spring Forecasting Experiments. HAILCAST was run as part of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) WRF Ensemble during 2014–16 and the Community Leveraged Unified Ensemble (CLUE) in 2016. Objective verification using the Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor maximum expected size of hail (MRMS MESH) product was conducted using both object-based and neighborhood grid-based verification. Subjective verification and feedback was provided by HWT participants. Hourly maximum storm surrogate fields at a variety of thresholds and Storm Prediction Center (SPC) convective outlooks were also evaluated for comparison. HAILCAST was found to improve with each version due to feedback from the 2014–16 HWTs. The 2016 version of HAILCAST was equivalent to or exceeded the skill of the tested storm surrogates across a variety of thresholds. The post-2016 version of HAILCAST was found to improve 50-mm hail forecasts through object-based verification, but 25-mm hail forecasting ability declined as measured through neighborhood grid-based verification. The skill of the storm surrogate fields varied widely as the threshold values used to determine hail size were varied. HAILCAST was found not to require such tuning, as it produced consistent results even when used across different model configurations and horizontal grid spacings. Additionally, different storm surrogate fields performed at varying levels of skill when forecasting 25- versus 50-mm hail, hinting at the different convective modes typically associated with small versus large sizes of hail. HAILCAST was able to match results relatively consistently with the best-performing storm surrogate field across multiple hail size thresholds.

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