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Low-Level Updraft Intensification in Response to Environmental Wind Profiles

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  • 1 a Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
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Abstract

Supercell storms can develop a “dynamical response” whereby upward accelerations in the lower troposphere amplify as a result of rotationally induced pressure falls aloft. These upward accelerations likely modulate a supercell’s ability to stretch near-surface vertical vorticity to achieve tornadogenesis. This study quantifies such a dynamical response as a function of environmental wind profiles commonly found near supercells. Self-organizing maps (SOMs) were used to identify recurring low-level wind profile patterns from 20 194 model-analyzed, near-supercell soundings. The SOM nodes with larger 0–500 m storm-relative helicity (SRH) and streamwise vorticity (ωs) corresponded to higher observed tornado probabilities. The distilled wind profiles from the SOMs were used to initialize idealized numerical simulations of updrafts. In environments with large 0–500 m SRH and large ωs, a rotationally induced pressure deficit, increased dynamic lifting, and a strengthened updraft resulted. The resulting upward-directed accelerations were an order of magnitude stronger than typical buoyant accelerations. At 500 m AGL, this dynamical response increased the vertical velocity by up to 25 m s−1, vertical vorticity by up to 0.2 s−1, and pressure deficit by up to 5 hPa. This response specifically augments the near-ground updraft (the midlevel updraft properties are almost identical across the simulations). However, dynamical responses only occurred in environments where 0–500 m SRH and ωs exceeded 110 m2 s−2 and 0.015 s−1, respectively. The presence versus absence of this dynamical response may explain why environments with higher 0–500 m SRH and ωs correspond to greater tornado probabilities.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Nicholas A. Goldacker, nagoldac@ncsu.edu

Abstract

Supercell storms can develop a “dynamical response” whereby upward accelerations in the lower troposphere amplify as a result of rotationally induced pressure falls aloft. These upward accelerations likely modulate a supercell’s ability to stretch near-surface vertical vorticity to achieve tornadogenesis. This study quantifies such a dynamical response as a function of environmental wind profiles commonly found near supercells. Self-organizing maps (SOMs) were used to identify recurring low-level wind profile patterns from 20 194 model-analyzed, near-supercell soundings. The SOM nodes with larger 0–500 m storm-relative helicity (SRH) and streamwise vorticity (ωs) corresponded to higher observed tornado probabilities. The distilled wind profiles from the SOMs were used to initialize idealized numerical simulations of updrafts. In environments with large 0–500 m SRH and large ωs, a rotationally induced pressure deficit, increased dynamic lifting, and a strengthened updraft resulted. The resulting upward-directed accelerations were an order of magnitude stronger than typical buoyant accelerations. At 500 m AGL, this dynamical response increased the vertical velocity by up to 25 m s−1, vertical vorticity by up to 0.2 s−1, and pressure deficit by up to 5 hPa. This response specifically augments the near-ground updraft (the midlevel updraft properties are almost identical across the simulations). However, dynamical responses only occurred in environments where 0–500 m SRH and ωs exceeded 110 m2 s−2 and 0.015 s−1, respectively. The presence versus absence of this dynamical response may explain why environments with higher 0–500 m SRH and ωs correspond to greater tornado probabilities.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Nicholas A. Goldacker, nagoldac@ncsu.edu

Supplementary Materials

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