Studies of the relationship between environmental forcing and the structure and dynamics of tornado-like vortices

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Axisymmetric numerical simulations continue to provide insight into how the structure, dynamics, and maximum wind speeds of tornadoes, and other convectively-maintained vortices, are influenced by the surrounding environment. This work is continued with a new numerical model of axisymmetric incompressible flow that incorporates adaptive mesh refinement. The model dynamically increases or decreases the resolution in regions of interest as determined by a specified refinement criterion. Here, the criterion used is based on the cell Reynolds number dx dv / nu, so that the flow is guaranteed to be laminar on the scale of the local grid spacing. The model is ... continued below

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Nolan, David S.; Almgren, Ann S. & Bell, John B. September 1, 2000.

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Axisymmetric numerical simulations continue to provide insight into how the structure, dynamics, and maximum wind speeds of tornadoes, and other convectively-maintained vortices, are influenced by the surrounding environment. This work is continued with a new numerical model of axisymmetric incompressible flow that incorporates adaptive mesh refinement. The model dynamically increases or decreases the resolution in regions of interest as determined by a specified refinement criterion. Here, the criterion used is based on the cell Reynolds number dx dv / nu, so that the flow is guaranteed to be laminar on the scale of the local grid spacing. The model is used to investigate how the altitude and shape of the convective forcing, the size of the domain, and the effective Reynolds number (based on the choice of the eddy viscosity nu) influence the structure and dynamics of the vortex. Over a wide variety of domain and forcing geometries,the vortex Reynolds number Gamma / nu (the ratio of the far-field circulation to the eddy viscosity) is shown to be the most important parameter for determining vortex structure and behavior. Furthermore,it is found that the vertical scale of the convective forcing only affects the vortex inasmuch as this vertical scale contributes to the total strength of the convective forcing. The horizontal scale of the convective forcing, however, is found to be the fundamental length scale in the problem, in that it can determine both the circulation of the fluid that is drawn into the vortex core, and also influences the depth of the swirling boundary layer. Higher mean wind speeds are sustained as the eddy viscosity is decreased; however, it is observed that the highest wind speeds are found in the high-swirl, two-celled vortex regime rather than in the low-swirl, one-celled regime, which is in contrast with some previous results. The conclusions drawn from these results are applied to dimensional simulations with scales similar to the mesocyclone/thunderstorm environment. Tornado-like vortices are reproduced, using a constant eddy viscosity with such values as 40 m2s-1, which have maximum wind speeds, radii of maximum winds, and boundary layer depths which are quite similar to those recently observed with portable Doppler radar. Based on the results of both nondimensional and tornado-scale simulations, scaling laws are empirically derived for the internal length scales in tornado-like vortices, such as the depth of the boundary layer and the radius of maximum winds.

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OSTI as DE00782526

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  • Other Information: PBD: 1 Sep 2000

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  • Report No.: LBNL--47554
  • Grant Number: AC03-76SF00098
  • DOI: 10.2172/782526 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 782526
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc723760

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  • September 1, 2000

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  • Sept. 29, 2015, 5:31 a.m.

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  • April 4, 2016, 6:29 p.m.

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Nolan, David S.; Almgren, Ann S. & Bell, John B. Studies of the relationship between environmental forcing and the structure and dynamics of tornado-like vortices, report, September 1, 2000; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc723760/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.