Imported and storm-generated near-ground vertical vorticity in a simulated supercell*

Johannes M.L. Dahl, Matthew D. Parker, Louis J. Wicker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


The authors use a high-resolution supercell simulation to investigate the source of near-ground vertical vorticity by decomposing the vorticity vector into barotropic and nonbarotropic parts. This way, the roles of ambient and storm-generated vorticity can be isolated. A new Lagrangian technique is employed in which material fluid volume elements are tracked to analyze the rearrangement of ambient vortex-line segments. This contribution is interpreted as barotropic vorticity. The storm-generated vorticity is treated as the residual between the known total vorticity and the barotropic vorticity. In the simulation the development of near-ground vertical vorticity is an outflow phenomenon. There are distinct ''rivers'' of cyclonic shear vorticity originating from the base of downdrafts that feed into the developing near-ground vortex. The origin of these rivers of vertical vorticity is primarily horizontal baroclinic production, which ismaximized in the lowest few hundred meters AGL. Subsequently, this horizontal vorticity is tilted upward while the parcels are still descending. The barotropic vorticity remains mostly streamwise along the analyzed trajectories and does not acquire a large vertical component as the parcels reach the ground. Thus, the ambient vorticity that is imported into the storm contributes only a small fraction of the total near-ground vertical vorticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3027-3051
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014


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