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The role of mesoscale instabilities in the sting-jet dynamics of windstorm Tini

Volonté, A. ORCID:, Clark, P. A. ORCID: and Gray, S. L. ORCID: (2018) The role of mesoscale instabilities in the sting-jet dynamics of windstorm Tini. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 144 (712). pp. 877-899. ISSN 1477-870X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/qj.3264


Sting jets (SJ) occur as an additional region of low-level strong winds in some Shapiro-Keyser-type extra-tropical cyclones. While SJs are widely accepted as being distinct from the warm and cold conveyor belts, the mechanisms responsible for their occurrence are still not fully understood. Here we determine the relative importance of the release of mesoscale instabilities and synoptic-scale cyclone dynamics, so addressing an area of current debate. Numerical weather prediction simulations of a SJ-containing windstorm are analysed and Lagrangian trajectories used to assess the evolution of, and mesoscale atmospheric instabilities (e.g. symmetric and inertial instabilities) in, the descending airstream. The SJ undergoes a two-stage descent: cooling via sublimation followed by a large acceleration accompanied by instability release. Combined tilting and stretching of vorticity play a major role in the local onset of instability on the airstream. Vorticity and frontogenesis fields have a narrow slantwise banded structure in the cloud head and around the SJ; the descending SJ modifies the widespread frontolysis expected from the large-scale dynamics alone in the frontal-fracture region. A coarser-resolution simulation also generates strong winds in the frontal-fracture region, although these are significantly weaker than in the higher-resolution simulation. The SJ airstream in the coarser-resolution simulation undergoes a weaker descent without instability generation and descends in a widespread frontolytic region. Hence, while the SJ undergoes a process of destabilisation that enhances its descent and acceleration in the higher-resolution simulation, enhancing the strong winds already generated by the synoptic-scale cyclone dynamics, this destabilisation does not occur in the SJ produced by a coarser-resolution simulation, resulting in weaker winds. This analysis reveals the synergy between the paradigms of SJ occurrence through the release of mesoscale instabilities and synoptic-scale cyclone dynamics and demonstrates that the current debate may in part be a consequence of the model resolutions used by different studies.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:75706
Uncontrolled Keywords:Atmospheric Science
Publisher:Royal Meteorological Society


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