Characteristics of vertical wind profiles near supercells obtained from the rapid update cycle

Paul Markowski, Christina Hannon, Jeff Frame, Elise Lancaster, Albert Pietrycha, Roger Edwards, Richard L. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over 400 vertical wind profiles in close proximity to nontornadic and tornadic supercell thunderstorms are examined. The profiles were obtained from the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC model/analysis system. Ground-relative wind speeds throughout the lower and middle troposphere are larger, on average, in tornadic supercell enviromments than in nontornadic supercell environments. The average vertical profiles of storm-relative wind speed, vertical wind shear, hodograph curvature, crosswise and streamwise vorticity, and storm-relative helicity are generally similar above 1 km in the tornadic and nontornadic supercell environments, with differences that are either not statistically significant or not what most would regard as meteorologically significant. On the other hand, considerable differences are found in these average vertical profiles within 1 km of the ground, with environments associated with significantly tornadic supercells (those producing tornadoes of at least F2 intensity) having substantially larger low-level vertical wind shear, streamwise vorticity, and storm-relative helicity compared to environments associated with nontornadic supercells and weakly tornadic supercells (those producing FO or Fl tornadoes). These findings may partly explain the extraordinary difficulty in discriminating between tornadic and nontornadic supercell environments in a forecasting setting, given the low temporal and spatial frequency of wind observations in the lowest 1 km. It is believed that i would be a worthwhile investment to augment low-level wind profiling capabilities, in addition to taking a closer look at (he dynamical sensitivities of supercell storms to near-surface wind shear by way of high-resolution numerical simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1262-1272
Number of pages11
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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