The influences of effective inflow layer streamwise vorticity and storm-relative flow on supercell updraft properties

John M. Peters, Christopher J. Nowotarski, Jake P. Mulholland, Richard L. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The relationship between storm-relative helicity (SRH) and streamwise vorticity vs is frequently invoked to explain the often robust connections between effective inflow layer (EIL) SRH and various supercell updraft properties. However, the definition of SRH also contains storm-relative (SR) flow, and the separate influences of SR flow and vs on updraft dynamics are therefore convolved when SRH is used as a diagnostic tool. To clarify this issue, proximity soundings and numerical experiments are used to disentangle the separate influences of EIL SR flow and vs on supercell updraft characteristics. Our results suggest that the magnitude of EIL vs has little influence on whether supercellular storm mode occurs. Rather, the transition from nonsupercellular to supercellular storm mode is largely modulated by the magnitude of EIL SR flow. Furthermore, many updraft attributes such as updraft width, maximum vertical velocity, vertical mass flux at all levels, and maximum vertical vorticity at all levels are largely determined by EIL SR flow. For a constant EIL SR flow, storms with large EIL vs have stronger low-level net rotation and vertical velocities, which affirms previously established connections between vs and tornadogenesis. EIL vs also influences storms’ precipitation and cold-pool patterns. Vertical nonlinear dynamic pressure acceleration (NLDPA) is larger at low levels when EIL vs is large, but differences in NLDPA aloft become uncorrelated with EIL vs because storms’ midlevel dynamic pressure perturbations are substantially influenced by the tilting of midlevel vorticity. Our results emphasize the importance of considering EIL SR flow in addition to EIL SRH in the research and forecasting of supercell properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3033-3057
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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