Wintertime supercell thunderstorms in a subtropical environment: Numerical simulation

Chung Chieh Wang, George Tai Jen Chen*, Shan Chien Yang, Kazuhisa Tsuboki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Following an earlier diagnostic study, the present paper performs numerical simulations of the rare wintertime supercell storms during 19-20 December 2002 in a subtropical environment near Taiwan. Using Japan Meteorology Agency (JMA) 20-km analyses and horizontal grid spacing of 1.5 and 0.5 km, the Cloud-Resolving Storm Simulator (CReSS) of Nagoya University successfully reproduced the three major storms at the correct time and location, but the southern storm decayed too early over the Taiwan Strait. The two experiments produce similar overall results, suggesting that the 1.5-km grid spacing is sufficient even for storm dynamics. Model results are further used to examine the storm structure, kinematics, splitting process, and the variation in the mesoscale environment. Over the Taiwan Strait, the strong surface northeasterly flow enhanced low-level vertical shear and helped the storms evolve into isolated supercells. Consistent with previous studies, the vorticity budget analysis indicates that midlevel updraft rotation arose mainly from the tilting effect, and was reinforced by vertical stretching at the supercell stage. As the ultimate source of vorticity generation, the horizontal vorticity (vertical shear) was altered by the baroclinic (solenoidal) effect around the warm-core updraft, as well as the tilting of vertical vorticity onto, and rotation of vortex tubes in the x-y plane, forming a counterclockwise pattern that pointed generally northward (westward) at the right (left) flanks of the updraft. In both runs, model storms travel about 15°-20° to the left of the actual storms, and they are found to be quite sensitive to the detailed low-level thermodynamic structure of the postfrontal atmosphere and the intensity of the storms themselves, in particular whether or not the existing instability can be released by forced uplift at the gust front. In this regard, the finer 0.5-km grid did produce stronger storms that maintained longer across the strait. The disagreement in propagation direction between the model and real storms is partially attributed to the differences in environment, while the remaining part is most likely due to differences not reflected in gridded analyses. Since the conditions (in both the model and real atmosphere) over the Taiwan Strait are not uniform and depend on many detailed factors, it is anticipated that a successful simulation that agrees with the observation in all aspects over data-sparse regions like this one will remain a challenging task in the foreseeable future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2175-2202
Number of pages28
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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