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

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

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38 Scopus citations


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
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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