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Rapid Mesoscale Environmental Changes Accompanying Genesis of an Unusual Tornado
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    Weather and Forecasting, 31(3), 763-786.
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Rapid Mesoscale Environmental Changes Accompanying Genesis of an Unusual Tornado
  • Description:
    This study documents a very rapid increase in convective instability, vertical wind shear, and mesoscale forcing for ascent leading to the formation of a highly unusual tornado as detected by a ground-based microwave radiometer and wind profiler, and in 1-km resolution mesoanalyses. Mesoscale forcing for the rapid development of severe convection began with the arrival of a strong upper-level jet streak with pronounced divergence in its left exit region and associated intensification of the low-level flow to the south of a pronounced warm front. The resultant increase in stretching deformation along the front occurred in association with warming immediately to its south as low-level clouds dissipated. This created a narrow ribbon of intense frontogenesis and a rapid increase in convective available potential energy (CAPE) within 75 min of tornadogenesis. The Windsor, Colorado, storm formed at the juncture of this warm frontogenesis zone and a developing dryline. Storm-relative helicity suddenly increased to large values during this pretornadic period as a midtropospheric layer of strong southeasterly winds descended to low levels. The following events also occurred simultaneously within this short period of time: a pronounced decrease in midtropospheric equivalent potential temperature theta(e) accompanying the descending jet, an increase in low-level theta(e) associated with the surface sensible heating, and elimination of the capping inversion and convective inhibition. The simultaneous nature of these rapid changes over such a short period of time, not fully captured in Storm Prediction Center mesoanalyses, was likely critical in generating this unusual tornadic event.
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