Lake Michigan Lake Breezes: Climatology, Local Forcing, and Synoptic Environment

Neil F. Laird Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, and Atmospheric Environment Section, Illinois State Water Survey, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Champaign, Illinois

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David A. R. Kristovich Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, and Atmospheric Environment Section, Illinois State Water Survey, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Champaign, Illinois

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Xin-Zhong Liang Atmospheric Environment Section, Illinois State Water Survey, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Champaign, Illinois

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Raymond W. Arritt Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

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Kenneth Labas National Weather Service, Chicago Forecast Office, Romeoville, Illinois

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Abstract

A method was developed to identify the occurrence of lake-breeze events along the eastern, western, and both shores of Lake Michigan during a 15-yr period (1982–96). Comparison with detailed observations from May through September of 1996–97 showed that the method reasonably identified Lake Michigan lake-breeze events. The method also demonstrated the important ability to distinguish non-lake-breeze events; a problem experienced by previously developed lake-breeze criteria. Analyses of the 15-yr climatological data indicated that lake breezes tended to occur more frequently along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan than along the western shore. On average, a maximum number of lake-breeze events occurred during August at each location. This maximum is most closely associated with weaker monthly average wind speeds. Even though the air–lake temperature difference ΔT provides the local forcing for the development of the lake-breeze circulation, large temperature differences are not required. Nearly 70% of all events occurred with a daytime maximum ΔT ⩽ 12°C. The evaluation of a lake-breeze index ε used in past studies and many forecasting applications showed indices computed using offshore or shore-perpendicular wind speeds (U or |U|, respectively) at inland sites resolved ≥95% of identified events based on critical ε values of 2–6. When wind speed, irrespective of wind direction, was used to calculate ε, the success of the critical indices decreased by as much as 26%. Results also showed that the lake-breeze index has a considerable tendency to overestimate the number of events. Although the possibility was suggested by previous investigations, the critical value of ε may not be appreciably affected by changes in location along the shoreline. In addition, noteworthy differences in the position of synoptic-scale sea level pressure and wind fields with respect to Lake Michigan were found to occur during eastern, western, and both-shore lake-breeze events.

Corresponding author address: Neil F. Laird, Illinois State Water Survey, 2204 Griffith Drive, Champaign, IL 61820-7495.

n-laird@uiuc.edu

Abstract

A method was developed to identify the occurrence of lake-breeze events along the eastern, western, and both shores of Lake Michigan during a 15-yr period (1982–96). Comparison with detailed observations from May through September of 1996–97 showed that the method reasonably identified Lake Michigan lake-breeze events. The method also demonstrated the important ability to distinguish non-lake-breeze events; a problem experienced by previously developed lake-breeze criteria. Analyses of the 15-yr climatological data indicated that lake breezes tended to occur more frequently along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan than along the western shore. On average, a maximum number of lake-breeze events occurred during August at each location. This maximum is most closely associated with weaker monthly average wind speeds. Even though the air–lake temperature difference ΔT provides the local forcing for the development of the lake-breeze circulation, large temperature differences are not required. Nearly 70% of all events occurred with a daytime maximum ΔT ⩽ 12°C. The evaluation of a lake-breeze index ε used in past studies and many forecasting applications showed indices computed using offshore or shore-perpendicular wind speeds (U or |U|, respectively) at inland sites resolved ≥95% of identified events based on critical ε values of 2–6. When wind speed, irrespective of wind direction, was used to calculate ε, the success of the critical indices decreased by as much as 26%. Results also showed that the lake-breeze index has a considerable tendency to overestimate the number of events. Although the possibility was suggested by previous investigations, the critical value of ε may not be appreciably affected by changes in location along the shoreline. In addition, noteworthy differences in the position of synoptic-scale sea level pressure and wind fields with respect to Lake Michigan were found to occur during eastern, western, and both-shore lake-breeze events.

Corresponding author address: Neil F. Laird, Illinois State Water Survey, 2204 Griffith Drive, Champaign, IL 61820-7495.

n-laird@uiuc.edu

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