The Dynamical Coupling of Convective Updrafts, Downdrafts, and Cold Pools in Simulated Supercell Thunderstorms

G. R. Marion, R. J. Trapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The initiation of second-generation convective storms by the cold pools of first-generation storms is known to depend on cold pool characteristics such as depth and speed. It is not clear, however, how these characteristics relate back to the convective storm components and, in turn, to the environment. Here we investigate the hypothesis that wider updraft cores result in wider downdraft cores, which subsequently lead to the development of deeper cold pools that are more likely to initiate new convection. This hypothesis is addressed using a large set of idealized numerical simulations of highly organized convective storms, specifically, supercells. Quantifications of the convective components show strong interrelationships between updraft area, downdraft area, and cold pool depth, thus supporting our primary hypothesis. These interrelationships are highly sensitive to the parcel buoyancy and vertical wind shear, with large convective available potential energy, strong wind shear, and a deep mixed layer ultimately contributing to the deepest (and strongest) cold pools. Diagnoses of the forcings of vertical accelerations show that draft width, and therefore cold pool depth, are initially influenced by the buoyancy and linear dynamic forcings, but thereafter are controlled mostly by the nonlinear dynamic forcings. These results, overall, have implications on the development (or improvement) of cold pool parameterizations in weather and climate models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)664-683
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 27 2019


  • cold pool
  • downdraft
  • supercell
  • updraft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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