Uncertainties in trajectory calculations within near-surface mesocyclones of simulated supercells

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


This study addresses the sensitivity of backward trajectories within simulated near-surface mesocyclones to the spatiotemporal resolution of the velocity field. These backward trajectories are compared to forward trajectories computed during run time within the numerical model. It is found that the population of backward trajectories becomes increasingly contaminated with "inflow trajectories" that owe their existence to spatiotemporal interpolation errors in time-varying and strongly curved, confluent flow. These erroneous inflow parcels may mistakenly be interpreted as a possible source of air for the near-surface vortex. It is hypothesized that, unlike forward trajectories, backward trajectories are especially susceptible to errors near the strongly confluent intensifying vortex. Although the results are based on model output, dual-Doppler analysis fields may be equally affected by such errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2959-2966
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Convective-scale processes
  • Numerical analysis/modeling
  • Tornadogenesis
  • Trajectories


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