The characteristics of numerically simulated supercell storms situated over statically stable boundary layers

Christopher J. Nowotarski, Paul M. Markowski, Yvette P. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper uses idealized numerical simulations to investigate the dynamical influences of stable boundary layers on the morphology of supercell thunderstorms, especially the development of low-level rotation. Simulations are initialized in a horizontally homogeneous environment with a surface-based stable layer similar to that found within a nocturnal boundary layer or a mesoscale cold pool. The depth and lapse rate of the imposed stable boundary layer, which together control the convective inhibition (CIN), are varied in a suite of experiments. When compared with a control simulation having little surface-based CIN, each supercell simulated in an environment having a stable boundary layer developsweaker rotation, updrafts, and downdrafts at lowlevels; in general, low-level vertical vorticity and vertical velocitymagnitude decrease as initial CIN increases (changes in CINare due only to variations in the imposed stable boundary layer). Though the presence of a stable boundary layer decreases low-level updraft strength, all supercells except those initiated over the most stable boundary layers had at least some updraft parcels with near-surface origins. Furthermore, the existence of a stable boundary layer only prohibits downdraft parcels from reaching the lowest grid level in the most stable cases. Trajectory and circulation analyses indicate that weaker near-surface rotation in the stable-layer scenarios is a result of the decreased generation of circulation coupled with decreased convergence of the near-surface circulation by weaker low-level updrafts. These results may also suggest a reason why tornadogenesis is less likely to occur in so-called elevated supercell thunderstorms than in surface-based supercells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3139-3162
Number of pages24
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Volume139
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

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