92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Monday, 23 January 2012
Detection of Mesoscale Vortices and Their Role in Subsequent Convection
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
Matthew B. Paulus, UCAR, Boulder, CO

Mid-level mesoscale vortices impact warm-season precipitation by initiating and focusing deep convection. Given their significance to forecasting, it is important to understand mesoscale vortices, their frequency, and their impact on subsequent convection in greater detail. This research was a pilot study to identify such vortices using two separate techniques.

Vortices were identified through a subjective visual identification technique that relied mostly on composite radar reflectivity and satellite imagery, as well as through an objective algorithm applied to hourly 20-km Rapid Update Cycle model analyses. Vortices arising within organized convection, called mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs), as well as ones forming in the absence of convection (dry vortices) were identified over the central United States during an active period from 1-10 June 2009. Additionally, MCVs were identified that were responsible for triggering subsequent convection. The results from the subjective and objective methods were compared, and vortex characteristics such as duration were analyzed.

The objective algorithm detected more vortices than expected, as well as an approximately equal distribution of dry and convective vortices. Approximately two-thirds of the MCVs detected by the algorithm were also detectable by the subjective, visual method. MCVs that triggered new convection accounted for less than half of all cases, while in general MCVs lasted longer than dry vortices. While extension of this research is necessary in order to apply to a more broad range of MCVs, these results demonstrate the potential of the methodology in identifying these vortices, which will potentially lead to a greater understanding of such systems.

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