The influence of horizontal environmental variability on numerically simulated convective storms. Part I: Variations in vertical shear

Yvette P. Richardson, Kelvin K. Droegemeier, Robert P. Davies-Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Severe convective storms are typically simulated using either an idealized, horizontally homogeneous environment (i.e., single sounding) or an inhomogeneous environment constructed using numerous types of observations. Representing opposite ends of the spectrum, the former allows for the study of storm dynamics without the complicating effects of either land surface or atmospheric variability, though arguably at the expense of physical realism, while the latter is especially useful for prediction and data sensitivity studies, though because of its physical completeness, determination of cause can be extremely difficult. In this study, the gap between these two extremes is bridged by specifying horizontal variations in environmental vertical shear in an idealized, controlled manner so that their influence on storm morphology can be readily diagnosed. Simulations are performed using the Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS), though with significant modification to accommodate the analytically specified environmental fields. Several steady-state environments are constructed herein that retain a good degree of physical realism while permitting clear interpretation of cause and effect. These experiments are compared to counterpart control simulations in homogeneous environments constructed using single wind profiles from selected locations within the inhomogeneous environment domain. Simulations in which steady-state vertical shear varies spatially are presented for different shear regimes (storm types). A gradient of weak shear across the storm system leads to preferred cell development on the flank with greater shear. In a stronger shear regime (i.e., in the borderline multicell/supercell regime), however, cell development is enhanced on the weaker shear flank while cell organization is enhanced on the strong shear side. When an entire storm system moves from weak to strong shear, changes in cell structure are influenced by local mesoscale forcing associated with the cold pool. In this particular experiment, cells near the leading edge of the cold pool, where gust front convergence occurs along a continuous line, evolve into a bow-echo structure as the shear increases. In contrast, simulated cells that remain relatively isolated on the flank of the cold pool tend to develop supercellular characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3429-3455
Number of pages27
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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