Investigating the Development and Characteristics of Streamwise Vorticity Currents Produced by Outflow Surges in Simulated Supercell Thunderstorms

Kevin T. Gray, Jeffrey W. Frame

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Streamwise vorticity currents (SVCs) have been hypothesized to enhance low-level mesocyclones within supercell thunderstorms and perhaps increase the likelihood of tornadogenesis. Recent observational studies have confirmed the existence of SVCs in supercells and numerical simulations have allowed for further investigation of SVCs. A suite of 19 idealized supercell simulations with varying midlevel shear orientations is analyzed to determine how SVC formation and characteristics may differ between storms. In our simulations, SVCs develop on the cold side of left-flank convergence boundaries and their updraft-relative positions are partially dependent on downdraft location. The magnitude, duration, and mean depth of SVCs do not differ significantly between simulations or between SVCs that precede tornado-like vortices (TLVs) and those that do not. Trajectories initialized within SVCs reveal two primary airstreams, one that flows through an SVC for the majority of its length, and another that originates in the modified inflow in the forward flank and then merges with the SVC. Vorticity budgets calculated along trajectories reveal that the first airstream exhibits significantly greater maximum streamwise vorticity magnitudes than the second airstream. The vorticity budgets also indicate that stretching of horizontal streamwise vorticity is the dominant contributor to the large values of streamwise vorticity within the SVCs. TLV formation does not require the development of an SVC beforehand; 44% of TLVs in the simulations are preceded by SVCs. When an SVC occurs, it is followed by a TLV 53% of the time, indicating not all SVCs lead to TLV formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3089-3111
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Volume151
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Mesocyclones
  • Supercells
  • Tornadoes
  • Tornadogenesis
  • Vorticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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