The Science Behind the Flint-Beecher Tornado
Introduction | Background |
Modern Retrospective of June 8, 1953
Technology advances have afforded us a means of peering into the inner workings of the atmosphere through the use of complex mathematical models. These models can depict, and to a certain degree predict, many aspects of atmospheric behavior. To investigate the thunderstorm development that resulted in the violent tornado outbreak across southeast Michigan on June 8, 1953, we have used a highly sophisticated model (the Weather Research and Forecasting model- WRF) to recreate, in an idealized manner, the events of that day. From this model depiction, we can gain a sense of the storm structure and evolution through the use of radar-like depictions and even three-dimensional graphical renderings.
Animation 2 demonstrates what the low-level (near ground height) radar reflectivity may have looked like shortly after the development of strong to severe thunderstorms and continuing through the mature phases of thunderstorm complex. A distinct cell split occurs, with the southern storm becoming a strong supercell. The simulation shows a developing "hook"-type echo structure with the southern storm along with the formation of strong outflow boundaries from both storms. This storm split is even more evident in Animation 3, which depicts what the mid-levels of the storm may have looked like from a radar perspective. Each storm has a deep strong "reflectivity" core indicating the presence of an intense updraft structure.
(Caption: Pseudo-radar reflectivity at 2500 feet AGL. Idealized simulation from the 2100 UTC June 8, 1953 sounding at Mount Clemens, Michigan.)
Animation 4 is the top view of a 3 dimensional graphical rendering of the cloud water/ice associated with the storms. The overshooting tops associated with deep convective updrafts can be seen with both storms along with the formation of a well developed anvil structure and outflow induced cloud bands. Animation 5 is a 3 dimensional view of the storms' cloud field from the southeast. The simulation certainly depicts a well developed supercell complex capable of producing prolific severe weather.
(Caption: 3 dimensional cloud/precipitation visualization, top view. Idealized simulation from the 2100 UTC June 8, 1953 sounding at Mount Clemens, Michigan.)
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