A Case Study of Mid-Atlantic Nocturnal Boundary Layer Events during WAVES 2006

S. Rabenhorst Department of Physics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland

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D. N. Whiteman Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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D.-L. Zhang Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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B. Demoz Department of Physics and Astronomy, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

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Abstract

The Water Vapor Variability-Satellite/Sondes (WAVES) 2006 field campaign provided a contiguous 5-day period of concentrated high-resolution measurements to examine finescale boundary layer phenomena under the influence of a summertime subtropical high over the mid-Atlantic region that is characterized by complex geography. A holistic analytical approach to low-level wind observations was adopted to identify the low-level flow structures and patterns of evolution on the basis of airmass properties and origination. An analysis of the measurements and the other available observations is consistent with the classic depiction of the daytime boundary layer development but revealed a pronounced diurnal cycle that was categorized into three stages: (i) daytime growth of the convective boundary layer, (ii) flow intensification into a low-level jet regime after dusk, and (iii) interruption by a downslope wind regime after midnight. The use of the field campaign data allows for the differentiation of the latter two flow regimes by their directions with respect to the orientation of the Appalachian Mountains and their airmass origins. Previous studies that have investigated mountain flows and low-level jet circulations have focused on regions with overt geographic prominence, stark gradients, or frequent reoccurrences, whereby such meteorological phenomena exhibit a clear signature and can be easily isolated and diagnosed. The results of this study provide evidence that similar circulation patterns operate in nonclassic locations with milder topography and atmospheric gradients, such as the mid-Atlantic region. The new results have important implications for the understanding of the mountain-forced flows and some air quality problems during the nocturnal period.

Corresponding author address: S. Rabenhorst, Dept. of Physics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250. E-mail: sraben1@umbc.edu

Abstract

The Water Vapor Variability-Satellite/Sondes (WAVES) 2006 field campaign provided a contiguous 5-day period of concentrated high-resolution measurements to examine finescale boundary layer phenomena under the influence of a summertime subtropical high over the mid-Atlantic region that is characterized by complex geography. A holistic analytical approach to low-level wind observations was adopted to identify the low-level flow structures and patterns of evolution on the basis of airmass properties and origination. An analysis of the measurements and the other available observations is consistent with the classic depiction of the daytime boundary layer development but revealed a pronounced diurnal cycle that was categorized into three stages: (i) daytime growth of the convective boundary layer, (ii) flow intensification into a low-level jet regime after dusk, and (iii) interruption by a downslope wind regime after midnight. The use of the field campaign data allows for the differentiation of the latter two flow regimes by their directions with respect to the orientation of the Appalachian Mountains and their airmass origins. Previous studies that have investigated mountain flows and low-level jet circulations have focused on regions with overt geographic prominence, stark gradients, or frequent reoccurrences, whereby such meteorological phenomena exhibit a clear signature and can be easily isolated and diagnosed. The results of this study provide evidence that similar circulation patterns operate in nonclassic locations with milder topography and atmospheric gradients, such as the mid-Atlantic region. The new results have important implications for the understanding of the mountain-forced flows and some air quality problems during the nocturnal period.

Corresponding author address: S. Rabenhorst, Dept. of Physics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250. E-mail: sraben1@umbc.edu
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