Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Houston & Wilhelmson, January 2012; DOI: 10.1175/MWR-D-10-05033.1


Copyright 2012 American Meteorological Society


A suite of experiments conducted using a cloud-resolving model is examined to assess the role that preexisting airmass boundaries can play in regulating storm propagation. The 27 May 1997 central Texas tornadic event is used to guide these experiments. The environment of this event was characterized by multiple preexisting airmass boundaries, large CAPE, and weak vertical shear.

Only the experiments with preexisting airmass boundaries produce back-building storm propagation (storm motion in opposition to the mean wind). When both the cold front and dryline are present, storm maintenance occurs through the quasi-continuous maintenance of a set of long-lived updrafts and not through discrete updraft redevelopment. Since the cold front is not required for back building, it is clear that back building in this environment does not require quasi-continuous updraft maintenance. The back-building storm simulated with both the cold front and dryline is found to be anchored to the boundary zipper (the intersection of the cold front and dryline). However, multiple preexisting airmass boundaries are not required for back building since experiments with only a dryline also support back building. A conceptual model of back building and boundary zippering is developed that highlights the important role that preexisting boundaries can play in back-building propagation.