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Numerical Simulations of a Gravity Wave Event over CCOPE. Part I: The Role of Geostrophic Adjustment in Mesoscale Jetlet Formation

Michael L. KaplanDepartment of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Steven E. KochDepartment of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Yuh-Lang LinDepartment of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Ronald P. WeglarzDepartment of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Robert A. RozumalskiDepartment of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Abstract

Mesoscale model simulations are performed in order to provide insight into the complex role of jet streak adjustments in establishing an environment favorable to the generation of gravity waves on 11–12 July 1981. This wave event was observed in unprecedented detail downstream of the Rocky Mountains in Montana during the Cooperative Convective Precipitation Experiment. The high-resolution model simulations employ a variety of terrain treatments in the absence of the complicating effects of precipitation physics in order to examine the complex interactions between orography and adiabatic geostrophic adjustment processes.

Results indicate that prior to gravity wave formation, a four-stage geostrophic adjustment process modified the structure of the mid- to upper-tropospheric jet streak by creating secondary mesoscale jet streaks (jetlets) to the southeast of the polar jet streak in proximity to the gravity wave generation region (WGR). During stage I, a strong rightward-directed ageostrophic flow in the right exit region of the polar jet streak (J1) developed over west-central Montana. This thermally indirect transverse secondary circulation resulted from inertial-advective adjustments wherein momentum was transported downstream and to the right of J1 as air parcels decelerated through the exit region.

During stage II, a highly unbalanced jetlet (J2) formed just northwest of the WGR in response to the inertial-advective forcing accompanying the ageostrophic circulation associated with J1. The mass field adjusted to this ageostrophic wind field. An adiabatic cooling and warming dipole resulting from this thermally indirect secondary circulation was the cause for frontogenesis and a rightward shift in the midtropospheric pressure gradients. Since this secondary circulation associated with J2 occurred above a dramatic vertical variation in the thermal wind, the vertical transport of potentially colder air from below was larger ahead of and to the right of J1, thus shifting the new jetlet (J2) well away from J1 as the mass field adjusted to the new wind field.

Stage III was established when the new mass field, which developed in association with J2 during stage II, set up a dynamically unbalanced circulation oriented primarily across the stream, and directly over the WGR. This new leftward-directed ageostrophic cross-stream flow (A) formed between jetlet J2 and the original exit region of the polar jet streak J1.

Finally, a midlevel mesoscale jetlet (J3) is simulated to have developed in stage IV over the WGR in response to the integrated mass flux divergence associated with both the stage II and III adjustment processes. This lower-level return branch circulation to jetlet J2 was further enhanced by velocity divergence accompanying the localized cross-stream ageostrophic wind maximum (A), which develops during stage III. The entire multistage geostrophic adjustment process required about 12 h to complete over a region encompassing approximately 400 km × 400 km.

Corresponding author address: Prof. Yuh-Lang Lin, Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Campus Box 8208, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8208.

Email: yl__lin@ncsu.edu

Abstract

Mesoscale model simulations are performed in order to provide insight into the complex role of jet streak adjustments in establishing an environment favorable to the generation of gravity waves on 11–12 July 1981. This wave event was observed in unprecedented detail downstream of the Rocky Mountains in Montana during the Cooperative Convective Precipitation Experiment. The high-resolution model simulations employ a variety of terrain treatments in the absence of the complicating effects of precipitation physics in order to examine the complex interactions between orography and adiabatic geostrophic adjustment processes.

Results indicate that prior to gravity wave formation, a four-stage geostrophic adjustment process modified the structure of the mid- to upper-tropospheric jet streak by creating secondary mesoscale jet streaks (jetlets) to the southeast of the polar jet streak in proximity to the gravity wave generation region (WGR). During stage I, a strong rightward-directed ageostrophic flow in the right exit region of the polar jet streak (J1) developed over west-central Montana. This thermally indirect transverse secondary circulation resulted from inertial-advective adjustments wherein momentum was transported downstream and to the right of J1 as air parcels decelerated through the exit region.

During stage II, a highly unbalanced jetlet (J2) formed just northwest of the WGR in response to the inertial-advective forcing accompanying the ageostrophic circulation associated with J1. The mass field adjusted to this ageostrophic wind field. An adiabatic cooling and warming dipole resulting from this thermally indirect secondary circulation was the cause for frontogenesis and a rightward shift in the midtropospheric pressure gradients. Since this secondary circulation associated with J2 occurred above a dramatic vertical variation in the thermal wind, the vertical transport of potentially colder air from below was larger ahead of and to the right of J1, thus shifting the new jetlet (J2) well away from J1 as the mass field adjusted to the new wind field.

Stage III was established when the new mass field, which developed in association with J2 during stage II, set up a dynamically unbalanced circulation oriented primarily across the stream, and directly over the WGR. This new leftward-directed ageostrophic cross-stream flow (A) formed between jetlet J2 and the original exit region of the polar jet streak J1.

Finally, a midlevel mesoscale jetlet (J3) is simulated to have developed in stage IV over the WGR in response to the integrated mass flux divergence associated with both the stage II and III adjustment processes. This lower-level return branch circulation to jetlet J2 was further enhanced by velocity divergence accompanying the localized cross-stream ageostrophic wind maximum (A), which develops during stage III. The entire multistage geostrophic adjustment process required about 12 h to complete over a region encompassing approximately 400 km × 400 km.

Corresponding author address: Prof. Yuh-Lang Lin, Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Campus Box 8208, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8208.

Email: yl__lin@ncsu.edu

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