Low-level mesocyclonic concentration by nonaxisymmetric transport. Part II: Vorticity dynamics

Brian J. Gaudet, William R. Cotton, Michael T. Montgomery

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10 Scopus citations


An idealized supercell simulation using the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) produced an elongated low-level mesocyclone that subsequently collapsed into a concentrated vortex. Though vorticity continually increased in the mesocyclone due to horizontal convergence, the collapse phase was additionally characterized by rapidly decreasing pressure, closed streamlines, and the creation of a compact vorticity center isolated from the remaining vorticity. It was shown in Part I of this study that the concentration phase was not initiated by an increase in horizontal convergence, suggesting that the proximate cause resided elsewhere. In this study, the vortex concentration in Part I is examined from a vorticity dynamics perspective. It is shown that concentration occurs when inward radial velocity and vertical vorticity become more spatially correlated in the region surrounding the nascent vortex. It is also emphasized that the anisotropy of the horizontal convergence, which is nearly plane-convergent and of comparable magnitude to the mesocyclonic vorticity, is critical to an understanding of the process. The resultant evolution is intermediate between a state of purely two-dimensional nondivergent dynamics and one in which plane convergence confines vorticity to its axis of dilatation. This intermediate state produces a concentrated vortex more rapidly than either end state. The unsteady nature of the initial vorticity band also serves to increase the circulation and wind speed amplification of the final vortex. It is shown how conceptual models in the fluid dynamics literature can be applied to predicting the time and length scales of tornadic mesocyclone evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1134-1150
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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