Erik Rasmussen's Denver presentation....any additional info?

We had a discussion about this a few nights ago in chat. Apparently, Erik has brought forth a new theory concerning tornadogenesis. Can anyone who was present elaborate on what he said? Is there any papers online outlining this new theory?

What I heard about sounded interesting and different, though I just caught bits and pieces of what he said. I figured any new revelations or theories concerning such a topic would make for an interesting discussion here.

I'm sure Aaron Kennedy can comment on it, since he's heavily working on this research... Gabe Garfield and I spent quite a bit of time on the long drive from DEN/DIA to OUN talking about it, and, from an anecdotal since, it seems plausible and quite interesting...
That is does Jeff. This seems to be the first really new idea to come along in a long time regarding tornadogenesis. Being Erik has spent so much time in the field studying this, recording data and analyzing said data, it makes his thoughts on the subject even more interesting.

I'm sure we'll be hearing much discussion on this matter over the coming months. And even though I'm sure there will be differing opinions (as there always is), I for one will try to keep an open mind. Afterall, that's how we learn.

The theory George is referring to is what may be called "Blob Theory" (Erik R. used this term). Essentially, in many tornadic supercells, a slightly higher reflectivity signature appears in 88-D data that starts at higher elevations and descends toward the ground just before tornadogenesis (the scientific name for it is a "descending reflectivity core").

Visually, it can appear as a rain band directly behind the low-level meso which has no apparent connection with the main precipitation core.

After thinking about it for a while, I can think of at least a few events that have had a small rain band that was located just to the west of the tornado.

Belle Plaine, KS tornado of June 12, 2004.
Mulvane, KS tornaod of the same day.
Atlanta, KS tornado, also of the same day.
Harper, KS tornado of May 12, 2004.

The most notable of these is probably the Atlanta tornado. Just prior to tornado touchdown, a thin, compact rain band obscured the funnel from sight (as viewed from the west). Shortly after this began to clear, the tornado touched down.


A few images from Brian Morganti's page which show this feature quite well:

May 24, 2004 in Chester, NE.

May 24, 2004 near Belleville, KS.

May 29, 2004 in Sumner County, KS.

Notice in this image that the "wrapping rain curtains" do not actually originate from the main precipitation core. This "blob" is only associated with the localized tornadic circulation.

Gabe, fascinating stuff! Thanks for sharing.

I'll be sure to keep a close eye on the radar images this Spring and see if I can spot some of the tell-tale signatures.
That is interesting. I chased the Chester/Belleville storm. I have video of the storm in the photos posted above. In fact I unfortunately, HAIL, was the last person to leave the area near where those photos were taken. At first there was just a beautiful Meso and wall cloud then an intenese precip core formed right in the middle of the Meso. After that precip dissipated the attendant tornado formed in the exact location where the precip core had been. I identified that as the RFD precip. Is the descending reflectivity core the samething as the RFD?
I guess my next question will focus more specifically on the the processes involved with tornadogenesis.

Has Erik stated what effect he thinks this "Blob Theory" plays in getting the tornado to the ground? Does it happen in conjunction with the meso? Or it it independent of the meso, which his theory seems to hint at?

It also seem the vorticity tube Erik thinks stretches over the RFD may play a greater role in this theory than the meso itself, when it comes to tornado production. But this is the part where I kind of get lost, so that's why I'm asking here.

BTW, great discussion so far folks. Thanks for keeping this going.

I would think that the descending reflectivity core (DRC, or "the blob"), when descending in (?) the RFD, would enhance convergence along the leading edge of it when it hits the ground and spreads out. As the blob hits the ground and spreads out downwind, there is enhanced convergence along the leading edge, which may help 'tight'/focus the rotation. In addition, the baroclinicity involved would enhance vorticity, which, when ingested into the updraft, may increase rotation.

I've always just thought of the precip behind/south/near the tornado as just 'wrap-around' precipitation. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I've seen, on my chases, times when there is a very intense precip core ("The blob" perhaps) just to the south of the tornado. I find it very interesting, since I've never really thought of enhanced precipitation descending from the backside of the storm, rather than "wrapping around" the back side of the meso. Yes, precipitation falls towards the ground, but I'm talking about a particularly intense area of precipitation.

EDIT: Check out a presentation by Dr. Rasmussen at , a powerpoint presentation regarding "The Blob" and the supercell that produced the Dimmitt, TX, tornado...
First, the blob (descending reflectivity core) and the RFD are not the same thing - in fact the blob is not the occlusion downdraft either, but does appear close to it. Observations have indicated that the blob can be caused by a few very large raindrops - which can be nearly invisible to the naked eye. The clear slot occlusion is basically not really clear, but instead has a few big raindrops in it, particularly along the southern wall of the clear slot in the Dimmit case most carefully studied. The massive wet microbursts shown in the images above may be something different entirely.

The relation between the blob and tornadogenesis is seemingly still unclear - mostly because there is a void in available data as to what happens between the ground (where the mobile mesonet are) and the lowest radar data (about 500 m above the ground). Without any information here - the vortex line analysis can't be completed to tie the whole thing together. The overarching problem is getting strong horizontal shear to the ground. There is a lot of vertical wind shear near the surface - the vortex lines are then parallel with the ground - and you need them perpindicular with the ground to get a tornado. You can tilt the horizontal lines to get the vortex lines vertically oriented - but you then somehow have to get this vertical circulation back to the surface to get a tornado - and this blob may play a role in that process. At least, that is what is being looked at as far as I'm aware.

I should add that the images I posted aren't necessarily physical manifestations of "the blob", but nevertheless may be related.

Originally posted by Jeff Wear
I think I got this \"blob\" on video during the first tornado of the series near Mulvane KS on 6/12/2004....look closely about 10-12 seconds into the video to see a burst of precip descend west and south of the meso then wrap around it immediately before the funnel forms.......

Great Video Jeff. There is clearly precipitation from the clear slot just prior to the funnel development. It can be seen best when stepping through the video backwards. From my understanding of the presentation, this is the area his studies were focused on. It was also mentioned that the DRC or “Blobâ€￾ would return at about 35 – 40 dbz, somewhat less than the main precipitation core. I think it was also noted that this DRC needed to be “warmâ€￾ so that when it fed into the meso circulation it might provide a boost to tornadogenesis. The other significant thing Dr. Rasmussen talked about was the idea that the cyclonic rotation located in the right leg of the horseshoe was actually connected, via an updraft arch to a anti-cyclonic rotation located on the other side of the DRC, or in the left leg of the horseshoe. In Jeff’s video, the cyclonic rotation is clearly visible on the right side, and it appears the low clouds in the foreground may be feeding into the meso right to left, or in an anti-cyclonic direction. Also at 7 sec. into the video it appears that a small hole opens up in the left leg of the horseshoe. What does all this mean? I don’t know, but I do find it very interesting that the posted pictures and video would seem to acknowledge at least some of points of his presentation. Hopefully Aaron can maybe share some more information with us. I would really like to see some additional printed material to review this subject again.
Originally posted by Kurt Silvey

I think it was also noted that this DRC needed to be “warmâ€￾ so that when it fed into the meso circulation it might provide a boost to tornadogenesis.

As Glen brought up, the Blob (DRC) and RFD are not one in the same. There has been discussion and studies in the past few years examining the relationship between RFD thermodynamic characteristics (theta-e, theta-v, etc... or 'warm' vs. 'cold') of tornadic and nontornadic supercells. The Blob theory seems to be seperate, yet I can't imagine to be entirely unrelated, from the RFD... Correct me if I'm wrong, Aaron or Glen...
Yeah, the blob does seem to be seperate, yet that said there was evidence of a small downdraft on the back side of the blob (not the center of the blob) - the spatial scale being much smaller than the typical RFD. The blob is colocated with a strong jetlet feature - with cyclonic shear on the left side and anticyclonic shear on the right side. It appears to be tied with the descent of the tornado cyclone from mid-levels. Further, as the blob reaaches the ground, it is associated with a surge in the gust front, with numerous very small vortices (not tornadoes - but might be associated with small gustnado appearance spinups) spinning up along the gust front edge, particularly on the cyclonic side of the surge. It is further hypothesized (not in the Rasmussen work) that through vortex mergers into the gust front occlusion of these small spinups that this could serve as a seed for the tornado cyclone aloft to lock in phase with. Observations of these surface vortices have been made by both the DOWs and the UMass radar operated by Bluestein's team.

While there are several cases of blobs for tornadic cases using radar data only, more work needs to be done to make sure blobs don't appear often times when no tornado occurs. Also, this may be an evolution only associated with a particular mode of tornadogenesis, and then would not have general applicability. As with most observations of 'features', it is very difficult to determine if the blob is causing a phenomena, or if the phenomena is causing the blob. At this point, too many puzzles pieces are missing to definitively say one way or the other.

I think Jeff Wear's video is quite possibly a blob phenomena - at least it looks to have the right visual characteristics. If I had the radar data handy, I'd try looking for a blob feature with this case (but I don't).

If the vortex2 field project happens - this is certainly a feature that folks will be looking at closely - and hopefully get some better sampling of to better undertand the dynamics and thermodynamics behind it. Numerical models have offered some clues - but the observations to confirm/deny what we see is as yet unavailable.

I'm not aware of Aaron's involvement in this research - but perhaps he has additional insight to share on the subject.

Originally posted by Glen Romine

I'm not aware of Aaron's involvement in this research - but perhaps he has additional insight to share on the subject.


During Dr. Rasmussen’s presentation Aaron, along with 4 or 5 others, were credited with participating in the project's research.

I’m curious, is the power point presentation linked above basically the same one we saw in Denver, or something new? I don’t have ppt on either of these two machines, and wondered if I should go through the trouble of finding a copy to view this. Often times the ppt presentations themselves don’t really show much without the lecture.
Originally posted by Kurt Silvey

I’m curious, is the power point presentation linked above basically the same one we saw in Denver, or something new? I don’t have ppt on either of these two machines, and wondered if I should go through the trouble of finding a copy to view this. Often times the ppt presentations themselves don’t really show much without the lecture.

The ppt I linked to previously is not the same presentation as we saw in Denver...