This paper presents results from a comprehensive investigation in which observations from several case studies an integrated with three-dimensional cloud model results to examine the general kinematic structure of downdrafts associated with High Plains precipitating convection. One particular downdraft type, the low-level precipitation-associated downdraft, is the focus of this paper.
General airflow and trajectory patterns within low-level downdrafts are convergent from 0.8 km upwards to downdraft top, typically less than 5 km AGL. Observed mass flux profiles often increase rapidly with height as a result of strong buoyancy forcing below the melting level. Inflow to the low-level downdraft although vertically continuous, can be separated into two branches. The up-down branch originating within the planetary boundary layer initially rises up to 4 km and then descends within the main precipitation-associated downdraft. The midlevel branch, usually more pronounced during early downdraft stages, originates from above the PBL and transports low-valued θe air to low levels.
The depth of the low-level downdraft can be approximated by the environmental sounding transition level, defined as the vertical height interval separating conditionally unstable to neutral air below from roughly stable air above. The low-level downdraft is most frequently located along the upshear storm flank relative to the updraft, although a downshear downdraft may become common under higher environmental wind shear.