Impact of Environmental Variations on Simulated Squall Lines Interacting with Terrain

Casey E. Letkewicz, Matthew D. Parker
2011 Monthly Weather Review  
The complex evolution of convective systems crossing (or attempting to cross) mountainous terrain represents a substantial forecasting challenge. This study examines the processes associated with environments of "crossing" squall lines (which were able to redevelop strong convection in the lee of a mountain barrier) and "noncrossing" squall lines (which were not able to redevelop strong convection downstream of the barrier). In particular, numerical simulations of mature convective systems
more » ... ective systems crossing idealized terrain roughly approximating the Appalachian Mountains were used to test the first-order impact of variations in the vertical wind profile upon system maintenance. By itself, the wind profile showed no ability to uniquely discriminate between simulated crossing and noncrossing squall lines; each test revealed a similar pattern of orographic enhancement, suppression, and lee reinvigoration in which a hydraulic jump deepened the system's cold pool and renewed the low-level lifting. Increasing the mean wind led to greater enhancement of vertical velocities on the windward side of the barrier and greater suppression on the lee side. Variations in the low-level shear influenced the temperature and depth of the outflow, which in turn altered the lifting along the system's gust front. However, in all of the wind profile tests, convection redeveloped in the lee. Additional simulations explored more marginal environments in which idealized low-level cooling or drying stabilized the downstream environment. In most such tests, the systems weakened but the presence of CAPE aloft still enabled the systems to survive in the lee. However, the combination of a stronger mean wind with diminished CAPE and increased convective inhibition (CIN) was ultimately found to eliminate downstream redevelopment and produce a noncrossing mesoscale convective system (MCS). Within these experiments, the ability of a squall line to cross a barrier similar to the Appalachians is primarily tied to the characteristics of the downstream thermodynamic environment; however, as the lee thermodynamic environment becomes less favorable, the mean wind exerts a greater influence on system intensity and redevelopment.
doi:10.1175/2011mwr3635.1 fatcat:wly3m36nc5ablhkfu222p6yh5a