Conditional symmetric instability in sting-jet storms
Gray, S. L., Martinez-Alvarado, O., Baker, L. H. and Clark, P. A. (2011) Conditional symmetric instability in sting-jet storms. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 137 (659). pp. 1482-1500. ISSN 1477-870X
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/qj.859
Sting jets are transient mesoscale jets of air that descend from the tip of the cloud head towards the top of the boundary layer in severe extratropical cyclones and can lead to damaging surface wind gusts. This recently identified jet is distinct from the well-documented jets associated with the cold and warm conveyor belts. One mechanism proposed for their development is the release of conditional symmetric instability (CSI). Here the spatial distribution and temporal evolution of several CSI diagnostics in four severe storms are analysed. A sting jet has been identified in three of these storms; for comparison, we also analysed one storm that did not have a sting jet, even though it hadmany of the apparent features of sting-jet storms. The sting-jet storms are distinct from the non-sting-jet storms by having much greater andmore extensive conditional instability (CI) and CSI. CSI is released by ascending air parcels in the cloud head in two of the sting-jet storms and by descending air parcels in the other sting-jet storm. By contrast, only weak CI to ascending air parcels is present at the cloud-head tip in the non-sting-jet storm. CSI released by descending air parcels, as diagnosed by decaying downdraught slantwise convective available potential energy (DSCAPE), is collocated with the sting jets in all three sting-jet storms and has a localisedmaximum in two of them. Consistent evolutions of saturated moist potential vorticity are found.We conclude that CSI release has a role in the generation of the sting jet, that the sting jet may be driven by the release of instability to both ascending and descending parcels, and that DSCAPE could be used as a discriminating diagnostic for the sting jet based on these four case-studies.