skip to main content

Title: Environmental and Radar Characteristics of Gargantuan Hail-Producing Storms
Abstract Storms that produce gargantuan hail (defined here as ≥ 6 inches or 15 cm in maximum dimension), although seemingly rare, can cause extensive damage to property and infrastructure, and cause injury or even death to humans and animals. Currently, we are limited in our ability to accurately predict gargantuan hail and detect gargantuan hail on radar. In this study, we analyze the environments and radar characteristics of gargantuan hail-producing storms to define the parameter space of environments in which gargantuan hail occurs, and compare environmental parameters and radar signatures in these storms to storms producing other sizes of hail. We find that traditionally used environmental parameters used for severe storms prediction, such as most unstable convective available potential energy (MUCAPE) and 0–6 km vertical wind shear, display considerable overlap between gargantuan hail-producing storm environments and those that produce smaller hail. There is a slight tendency for larger MUCAPE values for gargantuan hail cases, however. Additionally, gargantuan hail-producing storms seem to have larger low-level storm-relative winds and larger updraft widths than those storms producing smaller hail, implying updrafts less diluted by entrainment and perhaps maximizing the liquid water content available for hail growth. Moreover, radar reflectivity or products derived from it are not different from cases of smaller hail sizes. However, inferred mesocyclonic rotational velocities within the hail growth region of storms that produce gargantuan hail are significantly stronger than the rotational velocities found for smaller hail categories.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Monthly Weather Review
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Hail-bearing storms produce substantial socioeconomic impacts each year, yet challenges remain in forecasting the type of hail threat supported by a given environment and in using radar to estimate hail sizes more accurately. One class of hail threat is storms producing large accumulations of small hail (SPLASH). This paper presents an analysis of the environments and polarimetric radar characteristics of such storms. Thirteen SPLASH events were selected to encompass a broad range of geographic regions and times of year. Rapid Refresh model output was used to characterize the mesoscale environments associated with each case. This analysis reveals that a range of environments can support SPLASH cases; however, some commonalities included large precipitable water (exceeding that day’s climatological 90th-percentile values), CAPE < 2500 J kg−1, weak storm-relative wind speeds (<10 m s−1) in the lowest few kilometers of the troposphere, and a weak component of the storm-relative flow orthogonal to the 0–6-km shear vector. Most of the storms were weak supercells that featured distinctive S-band radar signatures, including compact (<200 km2) regions of reflectivity factor > 60 dB Z, significant differential attenuation evident as negative differential reflectivity extending downrange of the hail core, and anomalously large specific differential phase KDP. The KDPvalues often approached or exceeded the operational color scale’s upper limit (10.7° km−1); reprocessing the level-II data revealed KDP>17° km−1, the highest documented in precipitation at S band. Electromagnetic scattering calculations using the T-matrix method confirm that large quantities of small melting hail mixed with heavy rain can plausibly explain the observed radar signatures.

    more » « less
  2. Córdoba Province in Argentina is a global hotspot for deep hail-producing storms. Previous studies of hail formation and detection largely relied on satellite snapshots or modeling studies, but lacked hail validation, relying instead on proxy metrics. To address this limitation, this study used hail collected in the mountainous Córdoba region in collaboration with the citizen science program “Cosecheros de Granizo 2018–2020” including from a record-breaking hail event and from the 2018–2019 RELAMPAGO field campaign. Three cases including a MCS and two supercells, which have verified hail in different environment locations relative to the Sierras de Córdoba, were analyzed for multi-spectral signatures in GOES-16 satellite data. Brightness temperatures decreased over time after convective initiation, reaching values cooler than the tropopause with variations around those values of different magnitudes. Overall, all cases exhibited a slight weakening of the updraft and strong presence of smaller ice crystal sizes just prior to the hail report, especially for the larger hailstones. The results demonstrate promise in using satellite proxies for hail detection in multiple environments for different storm modes. The long-term goal is to better understand hail-producing storms and unique challenges of forecasting hail in this region. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Lasting updrafts are necessary to produce severe hail; conventional wisdom suggests that extremely large hailstones require updrafts of commensurate strength. Because updraft strength is largely controlled by convective available potential energy (CAPE), one would expect environments with larger CAPE to be conducive to storms producing larger hail. By systematically varying CAPE in a horizontally homogeneous initial environment, we simulate hail production in high-shear, high-instability supercell storms using Cloud Model 1 and a detailed 3D hail growth trajectory model. Our results suggest that CAPE modulates the updraft’s strength, width, and horizontal wind field, as well as the liquid water content along hailstones’ trajectories, all of which have a significant impact on final hail sizes. In particular, hail sizes are maximized for intermediate CAPE values in the range we examined. Results show a non-monotonic relationship between the hailstones’ residence time and CAPE due to changes to the updraft wind field. The ratio of updraft area to southerly wind speed within the updraft serves as a proxy for residence time. Storms in environments with large CAPE may produce smaller hail because the in-updraft horizontal wind speeds become too great, and hailstones are prematurely ejected out of the optimal growth region. Liquid water content (LWC) along favorable hailstone pathways also exhibits peak values for intermediate CAPE values, owing to the horizontal displacement across the midlevel updraft of moist inflow air from differing source levels. In other words, larger CAPE does not equal larger hail, and storm-structural nuances must be examined.

    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract A detailed microphysical model of hail growth is developed and applied to idealized numerical simulations of deep convective storms. Hailstone embryos of various sizes and densities may be initialized in and around the simulated convective storm updraft, and then are tracked as they are advected and grow through various microphysical processes. Application to an idealized squall line and supercell storm results in a plausibly realistic distribution of maximum hailstone sizes for each. Simulated hail growth trajectories through idealized supercell storms exhibit many consistencies with previous hail trajectory work that used observed storms. Systematic tests of uncertain model parameters and parameterizations are performed, with results highlighting the sensitivity of hail size distributions to these changes. A set of idealized simulations is performed for supercells in environments with varying vertical wind shear to extend and clarify our prior work. The trajectory calculations reveal that, with increased zonal deep-layer shear, broader updrafts lead to increased residence time and thus larger maximum hail sizes. For cases with increased meridional low-level shear, updraft width is also increased, but hailstone sizes are smaller. This is a result of decreased residence time in the updraft, owing to faster northward flow within the updraft that advects hailstones through the growth region more rapidly. The results suggest that environments leading to weakened horizontal flow within supercell updrafts may lead to larger maximum hailstone sizes. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Severe convective storms (SCS) and their associated hazards present significant societal risk. Understanding of how these hazards, such as hailfall, may change due to anthropogenic climate change is in its infancy. Previous methods used to investigate possible changes in SCS and their hail used climate model output and were limited by their coarse spatiotemporal resolution and less detailed representations of hail. This study instead uses an event-level pseudo–global warming (PGW) approach to simulate seven different hailstorms in their historical environments, and again in five different end-of-century PGW environments obtained from the worst-case scenario increases in CO2of five different CMIP5 members. Changes in large-scale environmental parameters were generally found to be consistent with prior studies, showing mostly increases in CAPE, CIN, and precipitable water, with minor changes in vertical wind shear. Nearly all simulated events had moderately stronger updrafts in the PGW environments. Only cold-season events showed an increase in hail sizes both within the storms and at the surface, whereas warm-season events exhibited a decrease in hail sizes at the surface and aloft. Changes in the event-total hailfall area at the ground also showed a seasonal trend, with increases in cold-season events and decreases in warm-season events. Melting depths increased for all PGW environments, and these increases likely contributed to greater rainfall area for warm-season events, where an increase in smaller hail aloft would be more prone to melting. The differences in PGW simulation hail sizes in cold-season and warm-season events found here are likely related to differences in microphysical processes and warrant future study.

    Significance Statement

    It is uncertain how severe thunderstorm hazards (such as hail, tornadoes, and damaging winds) may change due to human-induced climate change. Given the significant societal risk these hazards pose, this study seeks to better understand how hailstorms may change in the future. Simulated end-of-century storms in winter months showed larger hail sizes and a larger area of event-total hailfall than in the historical simulations, whereas simulated future storms in spring and summer months showed smaller hail sizes and a reduction in the area where hail fell. An analysis of traditional environmental and storm-scale properties did not reveal a clear distinction between cold-season and warm-season hailstorms, suggesting that changes in small-scale precipitation processes may be responsible.

    more » « less