Terrain Influences on Synoptic Storm Structure and Mesoscale Precipitation Distribution during IPEX IOP3

Jason C. Shafer NOAA Cooperative Institute for Regional Prediction, and Department of Meteorology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

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W. James Steenburgh NOAA Cooperative Institute for Regional Prediction, and Department of Meteorology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

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Justin A. W. Cox NOAA Cooperative Institute for Regional Prediction, and Department of Meteorology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

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John P. Monteverdi San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California

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Abstract

The influence of topography on the evolution of a winter storm over the western United States and distribution of precipitation over northern Utah are examined using data collected during the third intensive observing period (IOP3) of the Intermountain Precipitation Experiment (IPEX). The analysis is based on high-density surface observations collected by the MesoWest cooperative networks, special radiosonde observations, wind profiler observations, Next-Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) data, and conventional data. A complex storm evolution was observed, beginning with frontal distortion and low-level frontolysis as a surface occluded front approached the Sierra Nevada. As the low-level occluded front weakened, the associated upper-level trough moved over the Sierra Nevada and overtook a lee trough. The upper-level trough, which was forward sloping and featured more dramatic moisture than temperature gradients, then moved across Nevada with a weak surface reflection as a pressure trough.

Over northern Utah, detailed observations revealed the existence of a midlevel trough beneath the forward-sloping upper-level trough. This midlevel trough appeared to form along a high-potential-vorticity banner that developed over the southern Sierra Nevada and moved downstream over northern Utah. A surface trough moved over northern Utah 3 h after the midlevel trough and delineated two storm periods. Ahead of the surface trough, orographic precipitation processes dominated and produced enhanced mountain precipitation. This period also featured lowland precipitation enhancement upstream of the northern Wasatch Mountains where a windward convergence zone was present. Precipitation behind the surface trough was initially dominated by orographic processes, but soon thereafter featured convective precipitation that was not fixed to the terrain. Processes responsible for the complex vertical trough structure and precipitation distribution over northern Utah are discussed.

Corresponding author address: Jason C. Shafer, Dept. of Meteorology, Lyndon State College, 1001 College Rd., Lyndonville, VT 05851. Email: jason.shafer@lyndonstate.edu

Abstract

The influence of topography on the evolution of a winter storm over the western United States and distribution of precipitation over northern Utah are examined using data collected during the third intensive observing period (IOP3) of the Intermountain Precipitation Experiment (IPEX). The analysis is based on high-density surface observations collected by the MesoWest cooperative networks, special radiosonde observations, wind profiler observations, Next-Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) data, and conventional data. A complex storm evolution was observed, beginning with frontal distortion and low-level frontolysis as a surface occluded front approached the Sierra Nevada. As the low-level occluded front weakened, the associated upper-level trough moved over the Sierra Nevada and overtook a lee trough. The upper-level trough, which was forward sloping and featured more dramatic moisture than temperature gradients, then moved across Nevada with a weak surface reflection as a pressure trough.

Over northern Utah, detailed observations revealed the existence of a midlevel trough beneath the forward-sloping upper-level trough. This midlevel trough appeared to form along a high-potential-vorticity banner that developed over the southern Sierra Nevada and moved downstream over northern Utah. A surface trough moved over northern Utah 3 h after the midlevel trough and delineated two storm periods. Ahead of the surface trough, orographic precipitation processes dominated and produced enhanced mountain precipitation. This period also featured lowland precipitation enhancement upstream of the northern Wasatch Mountains where a windward convergence zone was present. Precipitation behind the surface trough was initially dominated by orographic processes, but soon thereafter featured convective precipitation that was not fixed to the terrain. Processes responsible for the complex vertical trough structure and precipitation distribution over northern Utah are discussed.

Corresponding author address: Jason C. Shafer, Dept. of Meteorology, Lyndon State College, 1001 College Rd., Lyndonville, VT 05851. Email: jason.shafer@lyndonstate.edu

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