Conditional symmetric instability in sting-jet storms

Authors

  • S. L. Gray,

    Corresponding author
    1. Joint Centre for Mesoscale Meteorology, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK
    • Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Earley Gate, PO Box 243, Reading RG6 6BB, UK.
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  • O. Martínez-Alvarado,

    1. Joint Centre for Mesoscale Meteorology, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK
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  • L. H. Baker,

    1. Joint Centre for Mesoscale Meteorology, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK
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  • P. A. Clark

    1. Joint Centre for Mesoscale Meteorology, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK
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    • The contribution of this author was written in the course of his employment at the Met Office, UK, and is published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


Abstract

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 had many of the apparent features of sting-jet storms. The sting-jet storms are distinct from the non-sting-jet storms by having much greater and more 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 localised maximum 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. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society and British Crown Copyright, the Met Office

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