Variability of Updraft and Downdraft Characteristics in a Large Parameter Space Study of Convective Storms

Kirkpatrick, Cody; McCaul Jr., Eugene W.; Cohen, Charles
May 2009
Monthly Weather Review;May2009, Vol. 137 Issue 5, p1550
Academic Journal
Over 200 convective storm simulations are analyzed to examine the variability in storm vertical velocity and updraft area characteristics as a function of basic environmental parameters. While it is known that bulk properties of the troposphere such as convective available potential energy (CAPE) and deep-layer wind shear exert significant influence over updraft intensity and area, additional parameters such as the temperature at the cloud base, the height of the level of free convection (LFC), and the vertical distribution of buoyancy also have an effect. For example, at low CAPE, updraft strength is strongly related to the vertical distribution of buoyancy, and also to the bulk environmental wind shear. More generally, updraft area and its temporal variability both tend to increase in environments where the LFC is raised. Additionally, in environments with persistent storms, downdraft strength is sensitive to the bulk shear, environmental temperature, and LFC height. Using multiple linear regression methods, the best combinations of environmental parameters explain up to 81% of the interexperiment variance in second-hour mean peak updraft velocity, 74% for midlevel updraft area, and 64% for downdraft velocity. Downdraft variability is explained even less well (49%) when only persistent storms are considered. These idealized simulation results show that it is easier to predict storm updraft characteristics than those of the downdraft.


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