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The Arcadia, Oklahoma, Storm of 17 May 1981: Analysis of a Supercell during Tornadogenesis

The Arcadia, Oklahoma, Storm of 17 May 1981: Analysis of a Supercell during Tornadogenesis On 17 May 1981, an extensive dataset was collected for a supercell thunderstorm that produced an F2 tornado near Arcadia in central Oklahoma. Coordinated dual-Doppler scans of the storm by 10-cm research radars were collected at approximately 5-min intervals from 30 min before the tornado touched down until 15 min after the tornado had dissipated. The Arcadia storm was also well sampled by a 444-m-tall instrumented tower. The low-level inflow, updraft, mesocyclone, and rear precipitation core of the supercell all passed across the tower. A comparison of the instrumented tower measurements with a dual-Doppler synthesis reveals that the latter qualitatively resolved the low-level flow. However, the magnitudes of the low-level horizontal winds and updraft speed were underestimated. In addition, the vertical shear of the horizontal wind in the lowest kilometer was unresolved in the Doppler winds. In the storm environment, horizontal vorticity was strong (∼1.5 × 10 −2 s −1 ) and approximately streamwise over the depth of the instrumented tower. Just upstream (northeast) of the updraft, the magnitude of horizontal vorticity was nearly twice this value and had likely been enhanced by baroclinic generation of horizontal vorticity and/or stretching of horizontal vorticity. Tilting of the resulting horizontal vorticity into the vertical produced the pretornadic low-level mesocyclone. Low-level mesocyclone inflow was primarily from the east, but during the tornadic stage, parcels approaching from the north and west were also drawn into the circulation. The tornado formed southeast of the mesocyclone center and near the tip of the reflectivity hook echo while low-level mesocyclone vorticity was increasing. Tornadogenesis occurred near the nose of the rear downdraft within a region of horizontal shear between southeasterly inflow into the storm and westerly outflow from the rear downdraft. Pressure retrievals suggest the rear downdraft south of the mesocyclone center was associated with a downward-directed perturbation pressure gradient force. The tornado and the parent storm dissipated as outflow surged eastward ahead of the updraft. This case study is the first to include a comparison of independent measurements of the wind field in and near the low-level mesocyclone of a supercell. The wind analysis is also complemented by the instrumented tower thermodynamic measurements. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Monthly Weather Review American Meteorological Society

The Arcadia, Oklahoma, Storm of 17 May 1981: Analysis of a Supercell during Tornadogenesis

Monthly Weather Review , Volume 125 (10) – Oct 29, 1996

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Publisher
American Meteorological Society
Copyright
Copyright © 1996 American Meteorological Society
ISSN
1520-0493
DOI
10.1175/1520-0493(1997)125<2562:TAOSOM>2.0.CO;2
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

On 17 May 1981, an extensive dataset was collected for a supercell thunderstorm that produced an F2 tornado near Arcadia in central Oklahoma. Coordinated dual-Doppler scans of the storm by 10-cm research radars were collected at approximately 5-min intervals from 30 min before the tornado touched down until 15 min after the tornado had dissipated. The Arcadia storm was also well sampled by a 444-m-tall instrumented tower. The low-level inflow, updraft, mesocyclone, and rear precipitation core of the supercell all passed across the tower. A comparison of the instrumented tower measurements with a dual-Doppler synthesis reveals that the latter qualitatively resolved the low-level flow. However, the magnitudes of the low-level horizontal winds and updraft speed were underestimated. In addition, the vertical shear of the horizontal wind in the lowest kilometer was unresolved in the Doppler winds. In the storm environment, horizontal vorticity was strong (∼1.5 × 10 −2 s −1 ) and approximately streamwise over the depth of the instrumented tower. Just upstream (northeast) of the updraft, the magnitude of horizontal vorticity was nearly twice this value and had likely been enhanced by baroclinic generation of horizontal vorticity and/or stretching of horizontal vorticity. Tilting of the resulting horizontal vorticity into the vertical produced the pretornadic low-level mesocyclone. Low-level mesocyclone inflow was primarily from the east, but during the tornadic stage, parcels approaching from the north and west were also drawn into the circulation. The tornado formed southeast of the mesocyclone center and near the tip of the reflectivity hook echo while low-level mesocyclone vorticity was increasing. Tornadogenesis occurred near the nose of the rear downdraft within a region of horizontal shear between southeasterly inflow into the storm and westerly outflow from the rear downdraft. Pressure retrievals suggest the rear downdraft south of the mesocyclone center was associated with a downward-directed perturbation pressure gradient force. The tornado and the parent storm dissipated as outflow surged eastward ahead of the updraft. This case study is the first to include a comparison of independent measurements of the wind field in and near the low-level mesocyclone of a supercell. The wind analysis is also complemented by the instrumented tower thermodynamic measurements.

Journal

Monthly Weather ReviewAmerican Meteorological Society

Published: Oct 29, 1996

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