Multiscale Aspects of the 26–27 April 2011 Tornado Outbreak. Part II: Environmental Modifications and Upscale Feedbacks Arising from Latent Processes
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Multiscale Aspects of the 26–27 April 2011 Tornado Outbreak. Part II: Environmental Modifications and Upscale Feedbacks Arising from Latent Processes

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  • Journal Title:
    Monthly Weather Review
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    One of the most prolific tornado outbreaks ever documented occurred on 26–27 April 2011 and comprised three successive episodes of tornadic convection that culminated with the development of numerous long-track, violent tornadoes over the southeastern United States during the afternoon of 27 April. This notorious afternoon supercell outbreak was preceded by two quasi-linear convective systems (hereinafter QLCS1 and QLCS2), the first of which was an anomalously severe nocturnal system that rapidly grew upscale during the previous evening. Here in Part II, we use a series of RUC 1-h forecasts and output from convection-permitting WRF-ARW simulations configured both with and without latent heat release to investigate how environmental modifications and upscale feedbacks produced by the two QLCSs contributed to the evolution and exceptional severity of this multiepisode outbreak. QLCS1 was primarily responsible for amplifying the large-scale flow pattern, inducing two upper-level jet streaks, and promoting secondary surface cyclogenesis downstream from the primary baroclinic system. Upper-level divergence markedly increased after QLCS1 developed, which yielded strong isallobaric forcing that rapidly strengthened the low-level jet (LLJ) and vertical wind shear over the warm sector and contributed to the system’s upscale growth and notable severity. Moreover, QLCS2 modified the mesoscale environment prior to the supercell outbreak by promoting the downstream formation of a pronounced upper-level jet streak, altering the midlevel jet structure, and furthering the development of a highly ageostrophic LLJ over the Southeast. Collectively, the flow modifications produced by both QLCSs contributed to the notably favorable shear profiles present during the afternoon supercell outbreak. Significance Statement The tornado outbreak that impacted the United States on 26–27 April 2011 was part of an extended outbreak that produced 343 tornadoes and numerous fatalities. This paper is Part II of a study that describes the meteorological factors supporting such a prolific event. Herein we investigate the convectively forced environmental modifications that occurred during a 36-h period encompassing three successive convective episodes. The first two episodes collectively altered the upper-level flow pattern and markedly enhanced low-level winds throughout the warm sector. These modifications served as upscale feedbacks that contributed to the first episode’s exceptional severity and to the remarkable vertical shear profiles that supported numerous long-track and violent tornadoes during the final episode on the afternoon of 27 April.
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    Monthly Weather Review, 150(2), 337-368
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