Processes preventing the development of a significant tornado in a Colorado supercell on 26 May 2010

Shawn S. Murdzek, Paul M. Markowski, Yvette P. Richardson, Robin L. Tanamachi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A supercell produced a nearly tornadic vortex during an intercept by the Second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment on 26 May 2010. Using observations from two mobile radars performing dual-Doppler scans, a five-probe mobile mesonet, and a proximity sounding, factors that prevented this vortex from strengthening into a significant tornado are examined. Mobile mesonet observations indicate that portions of the supercell outflow possessed excessive negative buoyancy, likely owing in part to low boundary layer relative humidity, as indicated by a high environmental lifted condensation level. Comparisons to a tornadic supercell suggest that the Prospect Valley storm had enough far-field circulation to produce a significant tornado, but was unable to converge this circulation to a sufficiently small radius. Trajectories suggest that the weak convergence might be due to the low-level mesocyclone ingesting parcels with considerable crosswise vorticity from the near-storm environment, which has been found to contribute to less steady and weaker low-level updrafts in supercell simulations. Yet another factor that likely contributed to the weak low-level circulation was the inability of parcels rich in streamwise vorticity from the forward-flank precipitation region to reach the low-level mesocyclone, likely owing to an unfavorable pressure gradient force field. In light of these results, we suggest that future research should continue focusing on the role of internal, storm-scale processes in tornadogenesis, especially in marginal environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1753-1778
Number of pages26
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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