A Three-Dimensional Numerical Investigation of a Carolina Coastal Front and the Gulf Stream Rainband

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  • 1 Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina Slate University, Raleigh, North Carolina
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Abstract

A three-dimensional mesoscale planetary boundary layer (PBL) numerical model is used to investigate mesoscale circulations over the Carolina coastal and Gulf Stream baroclinic zones. Idealized ambient onshore and offshore flows are investigated, which represent the synoptic conditions during the Intensive Observation Period-2 (IOP-2) of the 1986 Genesis of Atlantic Lows Experiment (GALE). For the easterly onshore flow, a confluence zone appears west of the Gulf Stream in response to the effect of the oceanic baroclinicity. The confluence zone is nearly parallel to the coastline and the SST isotherms, with northeasterly (southwesterly) flow to the west (east). A shallow coastal front forms below 2 km as the cyclonic shear of the ageostrophic flow becomes strong. Quasi-stationary rainbands are produced by cumulus convection along the coastal front. The northern part of the front and the rainbands later encroach inland as the cold air intensity over ground weakens due to onshore warm air advection. The modeled coastal circulation is in agreement with the observations, suggesting that differential boundary-layer modification may be the main mechanism for the formation of the coastal front. The existence of an onshore ambient flow appears to be a necessary condition for the presence of the Coastal front. For the northerly offshore ambient flow, the rainband therefore appears along the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream, which then moves slowly downstream in response to the generated atmospheric baroclinicity. For both flows, the development of the rainbands is sensitive to variations in eddy Prandtl number, and their growth rate can be explained in terms of conditional symmetric instability.

Abstract

A three-dimensional mesoscale planetary boundary layer (PBL) numerical model is used to investigate mesoscale circulations over the Carolina coastal and Gulf Stream baroclinic zones. Idealized ambient onshore and offshore flows are investigated, which represent the synoptic conditions during the Intensive Observation Period-2 (IOP-2) of the 1986 Genesis of Atlantic Lows Experiment (GALE). For the easterly onshore flow, a confluence zone appears west of the Gulf Stream in response to the effect of the oceanic baroclinicity. The confluence zone is nearly parallel to the coastline and the SST isotherms, with northeasterly (southwesterly) flow to the west (east). A shallow coastal front forms below 2 km as the cyclonic shear of the ageostrophic flow becomes strong. Quasi-stationary rainbands are produced by cumulus convection along the coastal front. The northern part of the front and the rainbands later encroach inland as the cold air intensity over ground weakens due to onshore warm air advection. The modeled coastal circulation is in agreement with the observations, suggesting that differential boundary-layer modification may be the main mechanism for the formation of the coastal front. The existence of an onshore ambient flow appears to be a necessary condition for the presence of the Coastal front. For the northerly offshore ambient flow, the rainband therefore appears along the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream, which then moves slowly downstream in response to the generated atmospheric baroclinicity. For both flows, the development of the rainbands is sensitive to variations in eddy Prandtl number, and their growth rate can be explained in terms of conditional symmetric instability.

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