A Formula for the Maximum Vertical Velocity in Supercell Updrafts Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractIn supercell environments, previous authors have shown strong connections between the vertical wind shear magnitude, updraft width, and entrainment. Based on these results, it is hypothesized that the influences of entrainment-driven dilution on buoyancy and maximum updraft vertical velocity w in supercell environments are a predictable function of the vertical wind shear profile. It is also hypothesized that the influences of pressure perturbation forces on maximum updraft w are small because of a nearly complete offset between upward dynamic pressure forces and downward buoyant pressure forces. To address these hypotheses, we derive a formula for the maximum updraft w that incorporates the effects of entrainment-driven dilution on buoyancy but neglects pressure gradient forces. Solutions to this formula are compared with output from previous numerical simulations. This formula substantially improves predictions of maximum updraft w over past CAPE-derived formulas for maximum updraft w, which supports the first hypothesis. Furthermore, integrated vertical accelerations along trajectories show substantial offsets between dynamic and buoyant pressure forces, supporting the second hypothesis. It is argued that the new formula should be used in addition to CAPE-derived measures for w in forecast and research applications when accurate diagnosis of updraft speed is required.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 6.55

author list (cited authors)

  • Peters, J. M., Morrison, H., Nowotarski, C. J., Mulholland, J. P., & Thompson, R. L.

citation count

  • 12

publication date

  • November 2020