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LLAP Band Structure and Intense Lake-Effect Snowfall Downwind of Lake Ontario: Insights from the OWLeS 7–9 January 2014 Event

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming
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Abstract

Modeling and observational studies stemming from the 2013–14 Ontario Winter Lake-Effect Systems (OWLeS) field campaign have yielded much insight into the structure and development of long-lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) lake-effect systems over Lake Ontario. This study uses airborne single- and dual-Doppler radar data obtained during two University of Wyoming King Air flights, as well as a high-resolution numerical model simulation, to examine and contrast two distinctly different LLAP band structures observed within a highly persistent lake-effect system on 7–9 January 2014. On 7 January, a very cold air mass accompanied by strong westerly winds and weak capping aloft resulted in a deep, intense LLAP band that produced heavy snowfall well inland. In contrast, weaker winds, weaker surface heat fluxes, and stronger capping aloft resulted in a weaker LLAP band on 9 January. This band was blocked along the downwind shore and produced only light snowfall closer to the shoreline. Although the two structures examined here represent opposite ends of a spectrum of LLAP bands, both cases reveal a well-organized mesoscale secondary circulation composed of two counterrotating horizontal vortices positioned on either side of a narrow updraft within the band. In both cases, this circulation traces back to a shallow, baroclinic land-breeze front originating along a bulge in the lake’s southern shoreline. As the band extends downstream and the low-level baroclinity weakens, buoyancy increases within the band—driven in part by cloud latent heating—leading to band intensification and a deeper, stronger, and more symmetric secondary circulation over the lake.

Corresponding author: Philip T. Bergmaier, pbergmai@uwyo.edu

This article is included in the Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS) Special Collection.

Abstract

Modeling and observational studies stemming from the 2013–14 Ontario Winter Lake-Effect Systems (OWLeS) field campaign have yielded much insight into the structure and development of long-lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) lake-effect systems over Lake Ontario. This study uses airborne single- and dual-Doppler radar data obtained during two University of Wyoming King Air flights, as well as a high-resolution numerical model simulation, to examine and contrast two distinctly different LLAP band structures observed within a highly persistent lake-effect system on 7–9 January 2014. On 7 January, a very cold air mass accompanied by strong westerly winds and weak capping aloft resulted in a deep, intense LLAP band that produced heavy snowfall well inland. In contrast, weaker winds, weaker surface heat fluxes, and stronger capping aloft resulted in a weaker LLAP band on 9 January. This band was blocked along the downwind shore and produced only light snowfall closer to the shoreline. Although the two structures examined here represent opposite ends of a spectrum of LLAP bands, both cases reveal a well-organized mesoscale secondary circulation composed of two counterrotating horizontal vortices positioned on either side of a narrow updraft within the band. In both cases, this circulation traces back to a shallow, baroclinic land-breeze front originating along a bulge in the lake’s southern shoreline. As the band extends downstream and the low-level baroclinity weakens, buoyancy increases within the band—driven in part by cloud latent heating—leading to band intensification and a deeper, stronger, and more symmetric secondary circulation over the lake.

Corresponding author: Philip T. Bergmaier, pbergmai@uwyo.edu

This article is included in the Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS) Special Collection.

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