10B.3 Is There a "Tipping Point'' between Simulated Nontornadic and Tornadic Supercells in VORTEX2 Environments?

Wednesday, 24 October 2018: 2:30 PM
Pinnacle AB (Stoweflake Mountain Resort )
Brice E. Coffer, North Carolina State Univ., Raleigh, NC; and M. D. Parker

Previous work has suggested that the lower tropospheric wind profile may partly determine whether supercells become tornadic. If tornadogenesis within the VORTEX2 composite environments is more sensitive to the lower tropospheric winds than either the upper tropospheric winds or the thermodynamic profile, then systematically varying the lower tropospheric wind profile might reveal a ``tipping point'' between nontornadic and tornadic supercells. As a test, simulated supercells are initiated in environments that have been gradually interpolated between the low-level wind profiles of the nontornadic and tornadic VORTEX2 supercell composites while also interchanging the upper tropospheric winds and thermodynamic profile.

Simulated supercells become tornadic when the low-level wind profile incorporates at least 40% of the structure from the tornadic VORTEX2 composite environment. Both the nontornadic and tornadic storms have similar outflow temperatures and availability of surface vertical vorticity near their updrafts. Most distinctly, a robust low-level mesocyclone and updraft immediately overlie the intensifying near-surface circulation in each of the tornadic supercells. The nontornadic supercells have low-level updrafts that are disorganized, with pockets of descent throughout the region where surface vertical vorticity resides.

The lower tropospheric wind profile drives these distinct configurations of the low-level mesocyclone and updraft, regardless of the VORTEX2 composite upper tropospheric wind profile or thermodynamic profile. This study therefore supports a potentially useful, robust link between the probability of supercell tornadogenesis and the lower tropospheric wind profile, with tornadogenesis more (less) likely when the orientation of horizontal vorticity in the lowest few hundred meters is streamwise (crosswise).

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