Simulation and Analysis of Tornado Development and Decay within a Three-Dimensional Supercell Thunderstorm

View More View Less
  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences and the National Center of Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois
© Get Permissions
Full access

Abstract

A three-dimensional numerical simulation using a two-way interactive nested grid is to study tornado-genesis within a supercell. During a 40-minute period, two tornadoes grow and decay within the storm's mesocyclone. The tornadoes have life spans of approximately 10 minutes. Maximum ground-relative surface wind speeds exceed 60 m s−1 during both tornadoes, and horizontal pressure gradients reach 18 hPa km−1 during the second tornado. Comparison of the simulated storm evolution with Doppler and field observations of supercells and tornadoes shows many similar features.

Vertical vorticity in the mesocyclone and the tornado vortex at low levels is initially created by the tilting of the environmental vorticity and baroclinically generated vorticity along the forward gland gust front of the storm. Tornadogenesis is initiated when mesocyclone rotation increase above cloud base. The increased rotation generates lower pressure in the mesocyclone, increasing the upward pressure gradient forces. The upward pressure gradient forces accelerate the vertical motions near cloud base, creating 20–30 m s−1 updrafts at this level. As the updraft intensifies at cloud base, the convergence in the subcloud layer also increases rapidly. The vertical vorticity is the stretched in the convergent flow, creating the tornado vortex. Tornado decay begins when the vertical pressure gradient forces decrease or even reverse at cloud base, weakening the updraft above tornado. As the updraft weakens, the low-level flow advects the occlusion downdraft completely around the tornado, surrounding the vortex with downdraft and low-level divergence. Cut off from its source of positive vertical vorticity, the tornado then dissipates, leaving a broad low-level circulation behind.

Abstract

A three-dimensional numerical simulation using a two-way interactive nested grid is to study tornado-genesis within a supercell. During a 40-minute period, two tornadoes grow and decay within the storm's mesocyclone. The tornadoes have life spans of approximately 10 minutes. Maximum ground-relative surface wind speeds exceed 60 m s−1 during both tornadoes, and horizontal pressure gradients reach 18 hPa km−1 during the second tornado. Comparison of the simulated storm evolution with Doppler and field observations of supercells and tornadoes shows many similar features.

Vertical vorticity in the mesocyclone and the tornado vortex at low levels is initially created by the tilting of the environmental vorticity and baroclinically generated vorticity along the forward gland gust front of the storm. Tornadogenesis is initiated when mesocyclone rotation increase above cloud base. The increased rotation generates lower pressure in the mesocyclone, increasing the upward pressure gradient forces. The upward pressure gradient forces accelerate the vertical motions near cloud base, creating 20–30 m s−1 updrafts at this level. As the updraft intensifies at cloud base, the convergence in the subcloud layer also increases rapidly. The vertical vorticity is the stretched in the convergent flow, creating the tornado vortex. Tornado decay begins when the vertical pressure gradient forces decrease or even reverse at cloud base, weakening the updraft above tornado. As the updraft weakens, the low-level flow advects the occlusion downdraft completely around the tornado, surrounding the vortex with downdraft and low-level divergence. Cut off from its source of positive vertical vorticity, the tornado then dissipates, leaving a broad low-level circulation behind.

Save