Statistical Differences of Quasigeostrophic Variables, Stability, and Moisture Profiles in North American Storm Tracks

Andrew E. Mercer Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, and School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Michael B. Richman Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, and School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Abstract

Three common synoptic storm tracks observed throughout the United States are the Alberta Clipper, the Colorado cyclone, and the East Coast storm. Numerous studies have been performed on individual storm tracks analyzing quasigeostrophic dynamics, stability, and moisture profiles in each. This study evaluated storms in each track to help diagnose patterns and magnitudes of the aforementioned quantities, documenting how they compare from track to track. Six diagnostic variables were computed to facilitate the comparison of the storm tracks: differential geostrophic absolute vorticity advection, temperature advection, Q-vector divergence, mean layer specific humidity, low-level stability, and midlevel stability. A dataset was compiled, consisting of 101 Alberta Clippers, 165 Colorado cyclones, and 159 East Coast cyclones and mean fields were generated for this comparison. Maxima and minima of the 25th and 75th percentiles were generated to diagnose magnitudes and patterns of strong versus weak cyclones and measure their similarities and differences to the mean patterns. Alberta Clippers were found to show the weakest magnitude of quasigeostrophic variables, while East Coast storms had the strongest magnitudes. Alberta Clippers maintained the lowest moisture content through their life cycle as well. However, East Coast storms were the most stable of the three tracks. Typically, correlations between storm tracks were high; suggesting that storm evolution is similar between tracks, in terms of the patterns of diagnostic variables measured. However, significant magnitude differences in the quasigeostrophic variables distinguished the storms in each track.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Michael B. Richman, Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, and School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Suite 5900, Norman, OK 73072-7307. Email: mrichman@ou.edu

Abstract

Three common synoptic storm tracks observed throughout the United States are the Alberta Clipper, the Colorado cyclone, and the East Coast storm. Numerous studies have been performed on individual storm tracks analyzing quasigeostrophic dynamics, stability, and moisture profiles in each. This study evaluated storms in each track to help diagnose patterns and magnitudes of the aforementioned quantities, documenting how they compare from track to track. Six diagnostic variables were computed to facilitate the comparison of the storm tracks: differential geostrophic absolute vorticity advection, temperature advection, Q-vector divergence, mean layer specific humidity, low-level stability, and midlevel stability. A dataset was compiled, consisting of 101 Alberta Clippers, 165 Colorado cyclones, and 159 East Coast cyclones and mean fields were generated for this comparison. Maxima and minima of the 25th and 75th percentiles were generated to diagnose magnitudes and patterns of strong versus weak cyclones and measure their similarities and differences to the mean patterns. Alberta Clippers were found to show the weakest magnitude of quasigeostrophic variables, while East Coast storms had the strongest magnitudes. Alberta Clippers maintained the lowest moisture content through their life cycle as well. However, East Coast storms were the most stable of the three tracks. Typically, correlations between storm tracks were high; suggesting that storm evolution is similar between tracks, in terms of the patterns of diagnostic variables measured. However, significant magnitude differences in the quasigeostrophic variables distinguished the storms in each track.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Michael B. Richman, Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, and School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Suite 5900, Norman, OK 73072-7307. Email: mrichman@ou.edu

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