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Structure and Evolution of Winter Cyclones in the Central United States and Their Effects on the Distribution of Precipitation. Part VI: A Mesoscale Modeling Study of the Initiation of Convective Rainbands

Mark T. StoelingaDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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John D. LocatelliDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Peter V. HobbsDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Abstract

A cyclonic storm that moved over the central United States on 8–9 March 1992 developed two convective rainbands, namely, a pre–dry trough rainband and a cold front aloft (CFA) rainband. This study extends the results of previous investigations of these two rainbands by examining their initiation with the use of a nested-grid mesoscale model simulation with spatial resolution down to 8.3 km. The model simulation reproduced the synoptic-scale setting in which the rainbands developed, as well as the mesoscale processes that initiated the rainbands.

The pre–dry trough rainband was produced by the gradual ascent of a convectively unstable airstream above a gently sloping warm-frontal zone east of the dryline. After sufficient lifting, the instability was released through upright convection. The gradual ascent is well estimated by quasigeostrophic diagnosis, but the location and timing of the rainband are very sensitive to the convective stability characteristics within the airstream.

The CFA rainband was initiated by a Pacific cold front that occluded with the warm-frontal surface. This mesoscale occlusion process produced a narrow region of enhanced ascent at the dryline, which resulted in the lifting of the western edge of an air mass with high convective available potential energy. The lower-tropospheric mesoscale occlusion process was not resolved by a quasigeostrophic vertical velocity diagnosis. Also, although an upper-level front and tropopause fold were present, the CFA was separate from that feature.

Corresponding author address: Peter V. Hobbs, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640.

Email: phobbs@atmos.washington.edu

Abstract

A cyclonic storm that moved over the central United States on 8–9 March 1992 developed two convective rainbands, namely, a pre–dry trough rainband and a cold front aloft (CFA) rainband. This study extends the results of previous investigations of these two rainbands by examining their initiation with the use of a nested-grid mesoscale model simulation with spatial resolution down to 8.3 km. The model simulation reproduced the synoptic-scale setting in which the rainbands developed, as well as the mesoscale processes that initiated the rainbands.

The pre–dry trough rainband was produced by the gradual ascent of a convectively unstable airstream above a gently sloping warm-frontal zone east of the dryline. After sufficient lifting, the instability was released through upright convection. The gradual ascent is well estimated by quasigeostrophic diagnosis, but the location and timing of the rainband are very sensitive to the convective stability characteristics within the airstream.

The CFA rainband was initiated by a Pacific cold front that occluded with the warm-frontal surface. This mesoscale occlusion process produced a narrow region of enhanced ascent at the dryline, which resulted in the lifting of the western edge of an air mass with high convective available potential energy. The lower-tropospheric mesoscale occlusion process was not resolved by a quasigeostrophic vertical velocity diagnosis. Also, although an upper-level front and tropopause fold were present, the CFA was separate from that feature.

Corresponding author address: Peter V. Hobbs, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640.

Email: phobbs@atmos.washington.edu

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