Axisymmetric Tornado simulations at high reynolds number

Richard Rotunno, George H. Bryan, David S. Nolan, Nathan A. Dahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This study is the first in a series that investigates the effects of turbulence in the boundary layer of a tornado vortex. In this part, axisymmetric simulations with constant viscosity are used to explore the relationships between vortex structure, intensity, and unsteadiness as functions of diffusion (measured by a Reynolds number Rer) and rotation (measured by a swirl ratio Sr). A deep upper-level damping zone is used to prevent upper-level disturbances from affecting the low-level vortex. The damping zone is most effective when it overlaps with the specified convective forcing, causing a reduction to the effective convective velocity scale We. With this damping in place, the tornado-vortex boundary layer shows no sign of unsteadiness for a wide range of parameters, suggesting that turbulence in the tornado boundary layer is inherently a three-dimensional phenomenon. For high Rer, the most intense vortices have maximum mean tangential winds well in excess of We, and maximum mean vertical velocity exceeds 3 times We. In parameter space, the most intense vortices fall along a line that follows Sr~Rer-1/3, in agreement with previous analytical predictions by Fiedler and Rotunno. These results are used to inform the design of three-dimensional large-eddy simulations in subsequent papers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3843-3854
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2016


  • Circulation/ dynamics
  • Dynamics
  • Tornadogenesis
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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