A Family of Frontal Cyclones over the Western Atlantic Ocean. Part I: A 60-h Simulation

Da-Lin Zhang Department of Meteorology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland

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Ekaterina Radeva Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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John Gyakum Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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Abstract

Despite marked improvements in the predictability of rapidly deepening extratropical cyclones, many operational models still have great difficulties in predicting frontal cyclogenesis that often begins as a mesoscale vortex embedded in a large-scale (parent) cyclone system. In this paper, a 60-h simulation and analysis of a family of frontal cyclones that were generated over the western Atlantic Ocean during 13–15 March 1992 are performed using the Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research mesoscale model with a fine-mesh grid size of 30 km. Although it is initialized with conventional observations, the model reproduces well the genesis, track and intensity of the frontal cyclones, their associated thermal structure and precipitation pattern, as well as their surface circulations, as verified against the Canadian Meteorological Centre analysis and other available observations.

It is shown that each frontal cyclone is initiated successively to the southwest of its predecessor in the cold sector, first appearing as a pressure trough superposed on a baroclinically unstable basic state in the lowest 150–300 hPa. Then, it derives kinetic energy from the low-level available potential energy as it moves over an underlying warm ocean surface (with weak static stability) toward a leading large-scale frontal zone and deepens rapidly by release of latent heat occurring in its own circulations. One of the frontal cyclones, originating in the cold air mass, deepens 44 hPa in 42 h and overwhelms the parent cyclone after passing over the warm Gulf Stream water into the leading frontal zone. These cyclones have diameters ranging from 500 to 1100 km (as denoted by the last closed isobar) and are spaced 1000–1400 km apart (between their circulation centers) during the mature stage. They begin to establish their own cold/warm frontal circulations once their first closed isobars appear, thus distorting the leading large-scale frontal structures and altering the distribution and type (convective versus stratiform) of precipitation.

It is found that the frontal cyclones accelerate and experience their central pressure drops as they move from high to low pressure regions toward the parent cyclone center, and then they decelerate and fill as they travel away from the parent cyclone. Their spatial and temporal scales, vertical structures, as well as deepening mechanisms, are shown to differ significantly from those typical extratropical cyclones as previously studied.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Da-Lin Zhang, Department of Meteorology, University of Maryland, Room 2213, Space Science Building, College Park, MD 20742-2425.

Email: dalin@atmos.umd.edu

Abstract

Despite marked improvements in the predictability of rapidly deepening extratropical cyclones, many operational models still have great difficulties in predicting frontal cyclogenesis that often begins as a mesoscale vortex embedded in a large-scale (parent) cyclone system. In this paper, a 60-h simulation and analysis of a family of frontal cyclones that were generated over the western Atlantic Ocean during 13–15 March 1992 are performed using the Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research mesoscale model with a fine-mesh grid size of 30 km. Although it is initialized with conventional observations, the model reproduces well the genesis, track and intensity of the frontal cyclones, their associated thermal structure and precipitation pattern, as well as their surface circulations, as verified against the Canadian Meteorological Centre analysis and other available observations.

It is shown that each frontal cyclone is initiated successively to the southwest of its predecessor in the cold sector, first appearing as a pressure trough superposed on a baroclinically unstable basic state in the lowest 150–300 hPa. Then, it derives kinetic energy from the low-level available potential energy as it moves over an underlying warm ocean surface (with weak static stability) toward a leading large-scale frontal zone and deepens rapidly by release of latent heat occurring in its own circulations. One of the frontal cyclones, originating in the cold air mass, deepens 44 hPa in 42 h and overwhelms the parent cyclone after passing over the warm Gulf Stream water into the leading frontal zone. These cyclones have diameters ranging from 500 to 1100 km (as denoted by the last closed isobar) and are spaced 1000–1400 km apart (between their circulation centers) during the mature stage. They begin to establish their own cold/warm frontal circulations once their first closed isobars appear, thus distorting the leading large-scale frontal structures and altering the distribution and type (convective versus stratiform) of precipitation.

It is found that the frontal cyclones accelerate and experience their central pressure drops as they move from high to low pressure regions toward the parent cyclone center, and then they decelerate and fill as they travel away from the parent cyclone. Their spatial and temporal scales, vertical structures, as well as deepening mechanisms, are shown to differ significantly from those typical extratropical cyclones as previously studied.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Da-Lin Zhang, Department of Meteorology, University of Maryland, Room 2213, Space Science Building, College Park, MD 20742-2425.

Email: dalin@atmos.umd.edu

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