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The Kinematic Structure of a Wasatch Mountain Winter Storm during IPEX IOP3

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  • * NOAA/Cooperative Institute for Regional Prediction, and Department of Meteorology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • | + Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada
  • | # Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York
  • | @ Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • | 5 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

The influence of orographic circulations on the precipitation structure of a Wasatch Mountain winter storm is examined using observations collected during the third intensive observing period (IOP3) of the Intermountain Precipitation Experiment (IPEX). The event featured the passage of a midlevel (700–550 hPa) trough followed 3 h later by a surface trough. Prior to and during the midlevel trough passage, large-scale southwesterly flow impinged on the Wasatch Mountains. Low-level confluence was observed between this southwesterly flow and along-barrier southerly flow within 20–40 km of the Wasatch Mountains. This confluence zone, which moved toward the Wasatch Mountains during and following the passage of the midlevel trough, was accompanied by low-level convergence and precipitation enhancement over the upstream lowlands. Dual-Doppler analysis revealed the presence of a shallow along-barrier jet near the base of the Wasatch Mountains that was surmounted by southwesterly cross-barrier flow at mid- and upper-mountain levels. This cross-barrier flow produced strong (1–2 m s−1) ascent as it interacted with the steep windward slopes of the Wasatch Mountains, where precipitation was roughly double that observed in the lowlands upstream. Flow deflection and splitting were also observed near the highest terrain features. A narrow region of strong subsidence, which at times exceeded 2 m s−1, was found to the lee of the Wasatch and, based on radar imagery, appeared to modulate hydrometeor spillover aloft. Processes contributing to the evolution of the near-barrier flow field, including topographic blocking, diabatic effects, and surface friction contrasts, are discussed.

Corresponding author address: Justin A. W. Cox, Dept. of Meteorology, University of Utah, 135 South 1460 East, Room 819, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. Email: jacox@met.utah.edu

Abstract

The influence of orographic circulations on the precipitation structure of a Wasatch Mountain winter storm is examined using observations collected during the third intensive observing period (IOP3) of the Intermountain Precipitation Experiment (IPEX). The event featured the passage of a midlevel (700–550 hPa) trough followed 3 h later by a surface trough. Prior to and during the midlevel trough passage, large-scale southwesterly flow impinged on the Wasatch Mountains. Low-level confluence was observed between this southwesterly flow and along-barrier southerly flow within 20–40 km of the Wasatch Mountains. This confluence zone, which moved toward the Wasatch Mountains during and following the passage of the midlevel trough, was accompanied by low-level convergence and precipitation enhancement over the upstream lowlands. Dual-Doppler analysis revealed the presence of a shallow along-barrier jet near the base of the Wasatch Mountains that was surmounted by southwesterly cross-barrier flow at mid- and upper-mountain levels. This cross-barrier flow produced strong (1–2 m s−1) ascent as it interacted with the steep windward slopes of the Wasatch Mountains, where precipitation was roughly double that observed in the lowlands upstream. Flow deflection and splitting were also observed near the highest terrain features. A narrow region of strong subsidence, which at times exceeded 2 m s−1, was found to the lee of the Wasatch and, based on radar imagery, appeared to modulate hydrometeor spillover aloft. Processes contributing to the evolution of the near-barrier flow field, including topographic blocking, diabatic effects, and surface friction contrasts, are discussed.

Corresponding author address: Justin A. W. Cox, Dept. of Meteorology, University of Utah, 135 South 1460 East, Room 819, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. Email: jacox@met.utah.edu

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