The Surprising Role of Orography in the Initiation of an Isolated Thunderstorm in Southern England

Lean, Humphrey W.; Roberts, Nigel M.; Clark, Peter A.; Morcrette, Cyril
September 2009
Monthly Weather Review;Sep2009, Vol. 137 Issue 9, p3026
Academic Journal
Many factors, both mesoscale and larger scale, often come together in order for a particular convective initiation to take place. The authors describe a modeling study of a case from the Convective Storms Initiation Project (CSIP) in which a single thunderstorm formed behind a front in the southern United Kingdom. The key features of the case were a tongue of low-level high θw air associated with a forward-sloping split front (overrunning lower θw air above), a convergence line, and a “lid” of high static stability air, which the shower was initially constrained below but later broke through. In this paper, the authors analyze the initiation of the storm, which can be traced back to a region of high ground (Dartmoor) at around 0700 UTC, in more detail using model sensitivity studies with the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM). It is established that the convergence line was initially caused by roughness effects but had a significant thermal component later. Dartmoor had a key role in the development of the thunderstorm. A period of asymmetric flow over the high ground, with stronger low-level descent in the lee, led to a hole in a layer of low-level clouds downstream. The surface solar heating through this hole, in combination with the tongue of low-level high θw air associated with the front, caused the shower to initiate with sufficient lifting to enable it later to break through the lid.


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