Mesoscale Circulations Forced by Melting Snow. Part I: Basic Simulations and Dynamics

Kit K. Szeto Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Charles A. Lin Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Ronald E. Stewart Cloud Physics Research Division, Atmospheric Environment Service, Downsview, Ontario, Canada

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Abstract

The melting of snow extracts latent heat of fusion from the environment. The basic response of the atmosphere to this cooling-by-melting mechanism is investigated by using a nonlinear two-dimensional numerical model. It is found that the resultant melting-induced circulations consist of a forced downdraft which spreads out laterally like a gravity current and transients which are gravity waves. The characteristics of these mesoscale thermally driven circulations are studied under idealistic atmospheric conditions. Model results show that the melting associated with realistic precipitation rates (up to 10 mm h−1) can induce horizontal wind perturbations of several meters per second and vertical motions of tens of centimeters per second. Since the gravity waves and the cold outflow current propagate away from the source, they can have significant dynamic effects on the environment remote from the precipitation region. Moreover, the melting-induced, near O°C isothermal layer in the atmosphere alters the local static stability. It is inferred that thew melting-induced effects may significantly influence the momentum and moisture transports in mesoscale precipitation systems.

Abstract

The melting of snow extracts latent heat of fusion from the environment. The basic response of the atmosphere to this cooling-by-melting mechanism is investigated by using a nonlinear two-dimensional numerical model. It is found that the resultant melting-induced circulations consist of a forced downdraft which spreads out laterally like a gravity current and transients which are gravity waves. The characteristics of these mesoscale thermally driven circulations are studied under idealistic atmospheric conditions. Model results show that the melting associated with realistic precipitation rates (up to 10 mm h−1) can induce horizontal wind perturbations of several meters per second and vertical motions of tens of centimeters per second. Since the gravity waves and the cold outflow current propagate away from the source, they can have significant dynamic effects on the environment remote from the precipitation region. Moreover, the melting-induced, near O°C isothermal layer in the atmosphere alters the local static stability. It is inferred that thew melting-induced effects may significantly influence the momentum and moisture transports in mesoscale precipitation systems.

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