Banded Convection Caused by Frontogenesis in a Conditionally, Symmetrically, and Inertially Unstable Environment

David M. Schultz Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, and NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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John A. Knox Faculty of Engineering, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Abstract

Several east–west-oriented bands of clouds and light rain formed on 20 July 2005 over eastern Montana and the Dakotas. The cloud bands were spaced about 150 km apart, and the most intense band was about 20 km wide and 300 km long, featuring areas of maximum radar reflectivity factor of about 50 dBZ. The cloud bands formed poleward of an area of lower-tropospheric frontogenesis, where air of modest convective available potential energy was being lifted. During initiation and maintenance of the bands, mesoscale regions of dry symmetric and inertial instability were present in the region of the bands, suggesting a possible mechanism for the banding. Interpretation of the extant instabilities in the region of the bands was sensitive to the methodology to assess the instability. The release of these instabilities produced circulations with enough vertical motion to lift parcels to their lifting condensation level, resulting in the observed cloud bands. A high-resolution, numerical weather prediction model demonstrated that forecasting these types of events in such real-time models is possible, although the timing, evolution, and spacing of the bands were not faithfully reproduced. This case is compared to two previous cases in the literature where banded convection was associated with a combination of conditional, symmetric, and inertial instability.

Corresponding author address: Dr. David M. Schultz, NOAA/NSSL/FRDD, Suite 4356, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072-7326. Email: david.schultz@noaa.gov

Abstract

Several east–west-oriented bands of clouds and light rain formed on 20 July 2005 over eastern Montana and the Dakotas. The cloud bands were spaced about 150 km apart, and the most intense band was about 20 km wide and 300 km long, featuring areas of maximum radar reflectivity factor of about 50 dBZ. The cloud bands formed poleward of an area of lower-tropospheric frontogenesis, where air of modest convective available potential energy was being lifted. During initiation and maintenance of the bands, mesoscale regions of dry symmetric and inertial instability were present in the region of the bands, suggesting a possible mechanism for the banding. Interpretation of the extant instabilities in the region of the bands was sensitive to the methodology to assess the instability. The release of these instabilities produced circulations with enough vertical motion to lift parcels to their lifting condensation level, resulting in the observed cloud bands. A high-resolution, numerical weather prediction model demonstrated that forecasting these types of events in such real-time models is possible, although the timing, evolution, and spacing of the bands were not faithfully reproduced. This case is compared to two previous cases in the literature where banded convection was associated with a combination of conditional, symmetric, and inertial instability.

Corresponding author address: Dr. David M. Schultz, NOAA/NSSL/FRDD, Suite 4356, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072-7326. Email: david.schultz@noaa.gov

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