Simulated changes in storm morphology associated with a sea-breeze air mass

Joshua Hartigan, Robert A. Warren, Joshua S. Soderholm, Harald Richter

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The central east coast of Australia is frequently impacted by large hail and damaging winds associated with severe convective storms, with individual events recording damages exceeding AUD 1 billion. These storms present a significant challenge for forecasting because of their development in seemingly marginal environments. They often have been observed to intensify upon approaching the coast, with case studies and climatological analyses indicating that interactions with the sea breeze are key to this process. The relative importance of the additional lifting and vorticity along the sea-breeze front in comparison with the change to a cooler, moister air mass with stronger low-level shear behind the front has yet to be investigated. Here, the role of the sea-breeze air mass is isolated using idealized numerical simulations of storms developing in a horizontally homogeneous environment. The base-state substitution (BSS) modeling technique is utilized to introduce the sea-breeze air mass following initial storm development. Relative to a simulation without BSS, the storm is longer lived and more intense, ultimately developing supercell characteristics including increased updraft rotation, deviant motion to the left of the mean wind vector, and a strong reflectivity gradient on the inflow edge. Separately simulating the changes in the thermodynamic and wind fields reveals that the enhanced storm longevity and intensity are primarily due to the latter. The change in the low-level environmental winds slows gust-front propagation, allowing the storm to continue to ingest warm, potentially buoyant environmental air. At the same time, increased low-level shear promotes the development of persistent updraft rotation that causes the storm to make a transition from a multicell to a supercell.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-351
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Cloud resolving models
  • Hail
  • Sea breezes
  • Severe storms
  • Supercells

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