An assessment of low-level baroclinity and vorticity within a simulated supercell

Jeffrey Beck, Christopher Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Idealized supercell modeling has provided a wealth of information regarding the evolution and dynamics within supercell thunderstorms. However, discrepancies in conceptual models exist, including uncertainty regarding the existence, placement, and forcing of low-level boundaries in these storms, as well as their importance in low-level vorticity development. This study offers analysis of the origins of low-level boundaries and vertical vorticity within the low-level mesocyclone of a simulated supercell. Low-level boundary location shares similarities with previous modeling studies; however, the development and evolution of these boundaries differ from previous conceptual models. The rear-flank gust front develops first, whereas the formation of a boundary extending north of the mesocyclone undergoes numerous iterations caused by competing outflow and inflow before a steady-state boundary is produced. A third boundary extending northeast of the mesocyclone is produced through evaporative cooling of inflow air and develops last. Conceptual models for the simulation were created to demonstrate the evolution and structure of the low-level boundaries. Only the rear-flank gust front may be classified as a "gust front," defined as having a strong wind shift, delineation between inflow and outflow air, and a strong pressure gradient across the boundary. Trajectory analyses show that parcels traversing the boundary north of the mesocyclone and the rear-flank gust front play a strong role in the development of vertical vorticity existing within the low-level mesocyclone. In addition, baroclinity near the rear-flank downdraft proves to be key in producing horizontal vorticity that is eventually tilted, providing a majority of the positive vertical vorticity within the low-level mesocyclone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-669
Number of pages21
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Convective-scale processes
  • Mesoscale models
  • Storm environments
  • Thermodynamics
  • Vorticity


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