Journal article Open Access

Variations in Supercell Morphology. Part I: Observations of the Role of Upper-Level Storm-Relative Flow

Rasmussen, Erik N.; Straka, Jerry M.

It is hypothesized that the precipitation intensity beneath a supercell updraft is strongly influenced by the amount of hydrometeors that are reingested into the updraft after being transported away in the divergent upperlevel flow of the anvil. This paper presents the results of a climatological analysis of soundings associated with three types of isolated supercells having distinctive precipitation distributions, the so-called classic, low-precipitation (LP). and high-precipitation (HP) storms. It is shown that storm-relative flow at 9-10 km above the ground is strongest in the environments of LP storms, and relatively weak in the environments of HP storms, with classic storms occurring in environments with intermediate magnitudes of upper storm-relative flow. It is plausible that comparatively strong flow in the anvil-bearing levels of LP storms transports hydrometeors far enough from the updraft that they are relatively unlikely to be reingested into the updraft. leading to greatly diminished precipitation formation in the updraft itself. Conversely, the weak upper flow near HP storms apparently allows a relatively large number of hydrometeors to return to the updraft, leading to the generation of relatively large amounts of precipitation in the updraft. It also is apparent that thermodynamic factors such as convective available potential energy, low-level mixing ratio, and mean relative humidity are of lesser importance in determining storm type from a climatological perspective, although important variations in humidity may not be well sampled in this study. This climatological analysis does not directly evaluate the stated hypothesis: however, the findings do indicate that further modeling and microphysical observations are warranted.

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