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Baroclinic Transition of a Long-Lived Mesoscale Convective Vortex

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  • 1 Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York
  • | 2 Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado
  • | 3 Numerical Weather Prediction Research Section, Meteorological Service of Canada, Dorval, Québec, Canada
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Abstract

The period 5–15 June 2003, during the field phase of the Bow Echo and Mesoscale Convective Vortex (MCV) Experiment (BAMEX), was noteworthy for the wide variety of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) that occurred. Of particular interest was a long-lived MCV that formed in the trailing stratiform region of an MCS over west Texas at 0600 UTC 10 June. This MCV was noteworthy for its (i) longevity as it can be tracked from 0600 UTC 10 June to 1200 UTC 14 June, (ii) development of a surface cyclonic circulation and attendant −2- to −4-hPa sea level pressure perturbation, (iii) ability to retrigger convection and produce widespread rains over several diurnal heating cycles, and (iv) transition into a baroclinic surface cyclone with distinct frontal features. Baroclinic transition, defined here as the acquisition of surface fronts, occurred as the MCV interacted with a remnant cold front, left behind by a predecessor extratropical cyclone, over the Great Lakes region. Although the MCV developed well-defined frontal structure, which helped to focus heavy precipitation, weakening occurred throughout the baroclinic transition process. Energetics calculations indicated that weakening occurred as the diabatic and baroclinic energy conversion terms approached zero just prior and during baroclinic transition. This weakening can be attributed to (i) an increase in environmental wind shear, (ii) the development of a downshear tilt and associated anticyclonic vorticity advection over the surface low center, and (iii) the eastward relative movement of organized convection away from the MCV center.

Corresponding author address: Thomas J. Galarneau Jr., Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, ES-351, University at Albany, State University of New York, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222. Email: tomjr@atmos.albany.edu

Abstract

The period 5–15 June 2003, during the field phase of the Bow Echo and Mesoscale Convective Vortex (MCV) Experiment (BAMEX), was noteworthy for the wide variety of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) that occurred. Of particular interest was a long-lived MCV that formed in the trailing stratiform region of an MCS over west Texas at 0600 UTC 10 June. This MCV was noteworthy for its (i) longevity as it can be tracked from 0600 UTC 10 June to 1200 UTC 14 June, (ii) development of a surface cyclonic circulation and attendant −2- to −4-hPa sea level pressure perturbation, (iii) ability to retrigger convection and produce widespread rains over several diurnal heating cycles, and (iv) transition into a baroclinic surface cyclone with distinct frontal features. Baroclinic transition, defined here as the acquisition of surface fronts, occurred as the MCV interacted with a remnant cold front, left behind by a predecessor extratropical cyclone, over the Great Lakes region. Although the MCV developed well-defined frontal structure, which helped to focus heavy precipitation, weakening occurred throughout the baroclinic transition process. Energetics calculations indicated that weakening occurred as the diabatic and baroclinic energy conversion terms approached zero just prior and during baroclinic transition. This weakening can be attributed to (i) an increase in environmental wind shear, (ii) the development of a downshear tilt and associated anticyclonic vorticity advection over the surface low center, and (iii) the eastward relative movement of organized convection away from the MCV center.

Corresponding author address: Thomas J. Galarneau Jr., Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, ES-351, University at Albany, State University of New York, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222. Email: tomjr@atmos.albany.edu

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