Evaluation of a Mesoscale Atmospheric Dispersion Modeling System with Observations from the 1980 Great Plains Mesoscale Tracer Field Experiment. Part I: Datasets and Meteorological Simulations

Michael D. Moran Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

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Roger A. Pielke Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

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Abstract

The Colorado State University mesoscale atmospheric dispersion (MAD) numerical modeling system, which consists of a prognostic mesoscale meteorological model coupled to a mesoscale Lagrangian particle dispersion model, has been used to simulate the transport and diffusion of a perfluorocarbon tracer-gas cloud for one afternoon surface release during the July 1980 Great Plains mesoscale tracer field experiment. Ground-level concentration (GLC) measurements taken along arcs of samplers 100 and 600 km downwind of the release site at Norman, Oklahoma, up to three days after the tracer release were available for comparison. Quantitative measures of a number of significant dispersion characteristics obtained from analysis of the observed tracer cloud's moving GLC “footprint” have been used to evaluate the modeling system's skill in simulating this MAD case.

MAD is more dependent upon the spatial and temporal structure of the transport wind field than is short-range atmospheric dispersion. For the Great Plains mesoscale tracer experiment, the observations suggest that the Great Plains nocturnal low-level jet played an important role in transporting and deforming the tracer cloud. A suite of ten two- and three-dimensional numerical meteorological experiments was devised to investigate the relative contributions of topography, other surface inhomogeneities, atmospheric baroclinicity, synoptic-scale flow evolution, and meteorological model initialization time to the structure and evolution of the low-level mesoscale flow field and thus to MAD. Results from the ten mesoscale meteorological simulations are compared in this part of the paper. The predicted wind fields display significant differences, which give rise in turn to significant differences in predicted low-level transport. The presence of an oscillatory ageostrophic component in the observed synoptic low-level winds for this case is shown to complicate initialization of the meteorological model considerably and is the likely cause of directional errors in the predicted mean tracer transport. A companion paper describes the results from the associated dispersion simulations.

Abstract

The Colorado State University mesoscale atmospheric dispersion (MAD) numerical modeling system, which consists of a prognostic mesoscale meteorological model coupled to a mesoscale Lagrangian particle dispersion model, has been used to simulate the transport and diffusion of a perfluorocarbon tracer-gas cloud for one afternoon surface release during the July 1980 Great Plains mesoscale tracer field experiment. Ground-level concentration (GLC) measurements taken along arcs of samplers 100 and 600 km downwind of the release site at Norman, Oklahoma, up to three days after the tracer release were available for comparison. Quantitative measures of a number of significant dispersion characteristics obtained from analysis of the observed tracer cloud's moving GLC “footprint” have been used to evaluate the modeling system's skill in simulating this MAD case.

MAD is more dependent upon the spatial and temporal structure of the transport wind field than is short-range atmospheric dispersion. For the Great Plains mesoscale tracer experiment, the observations suggest that the Great Plains nocturnal low-level jet played an important role in transporting and deforming the tracer cloud. A suite of ten two- and three-dimensional numerical meteorological experiments was devised to investigate the relative contributions of topography, other surface inhomogeneities, atmospheric baroclinicity, synoptic-scale flow evolution, and meteorological model initialization time to the structure and evolution of the low-level mesoscale flow field and thus to MAD. Results from the ten mesoscale meteorological simulations are compared in this part of the paper. The predicted wind fields display significant differences, which give rise in turn to significant differences in predicted low-level transport. The presence of an oscillatory ageostrophic component in the observed synoptic low-level winds for this case is shown to complicate initialization of the meteorological model considerably and is the likely cause of directional errors in the predicted mean tracer transport. A companion paper describes the results from the associated dispersion simulations.

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