Variability of storm-relative helicity during VORTEX

Paul M. Markowski, Jerry M. Straka, Erik N. Rasmussen, David O. Blanchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


In this paper, storm-relative helicity (SRH) and low-level vertical shear of the horizontal wind fields were investigated on the mesoscale and stormscale in regions where tornadoes occurred for four case studies using data collected during the Verification of the Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment. A primary finding was that SRH was highly variable in both time and space in all of the cases, suggesting that this parameter might be difficult to use to predict which storms might become tornadic given the available National Weather Service upper-air wind data. Second, it was also found that the shear between the lowest mean 500-m wind and the 6-km wind was fairly uniform over vast regions in all of the four cases studied: thus, this parameter provided little guidance other than that there was possibly enough shear to support supercells. It was contended that forecasters will need to monitor low-level features, such as boundaries or wind accelerations, which might augment streamwise vorticity ingested into storms. Finally, it was suggested that one reason why one storm might produce a tornado while a nearby one does not might be due to the large variations in SRH on very small spatial and temporal scales. In other words, only those storms that move into regions, small or large, with sufficient SRH might produce tornadoes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2959-2971
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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