Numerical modeling and analysis of the effect of complex Greek topography on tornadogenesis
Abstract. Tornadoes have been reported in Greece over recent decades in specific sub-geographical areas and have been associated with strong synoptic forcing. While it has been established that meteorological conditions over Greece are affected at various scales by the significant variability of topography, the Ionian Sea to the west and the Aegean Sea to the east, there is still uncertainty regarding topography's importance on tornadic generation and development.
The aim of this study is to investigate the role of topography in significant tornadogenesis events that were triggered under strong synoptic scale forcing over Greece. Three tornado events that occurred over the last years in Thebes (Boeotia, 17 November 2007), Vrastema (Chalkidiki, 12 February 2010) and Vlychos (Lefkada, 20 September 2011) were selected for numerical experiments. These events were associated with synoptic scale forcing, while their intensities were T4–T5 (on the TORRO scale), causing significant damage. The simulations were performed using the non-hydrostatic weather research and forecasting model (WRF), initialized by European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) gridded analyses, with telescoping nested grids that allow for the representation of atmospheric circulations ranging from the synoptic scale down to the mesoscale. In the experiments, the topography of the inner grid was modified by: (a) 0% (actual topography) and (b) −100% (without topography), making an effort to determine whether the occurrence of tornadoes – mainly identified by various severe weather instability indices – could be indicated by modifying topography. The principal instability variables employed consisted of the bulk Richardson number (BRN) shear, the energy helicity index (EHI), the storm-relative environmental helicity (SRH), and the maximum convective available potential energy (MCAPE, for parcels with maximum θe). Additionally, a model verification was conducted for every sensitivity experiment accompanied by analysis of the absolute vorticity budget.
Numerical simulations revealed that the complex topography constituted an important factor during the 17 November 2007 and 12 February 2010 events, based on EHI, SRH, BRN, and MCAPE analyses. Conversely, topography around the 20 September 2011 event was characterized as the least significant factor based on EHI, SRH, BRN, and MCAPE analyses.