Alongfront Variability of Precipitation Associated with a Midlatitude Frontal Zone: TRMM Observations and MM5 Simulation

Mei Han Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, and Mesoscale Atmospheric Process Branch, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Scott A. Braun Mesoscale Atmospheric Process Branch, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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P. Ola G. Persson Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, and NOAA/Environmental Technology Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Jian-Wen Bao NOAA/Environmental Technology Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

On 19 February 2001, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite observed complex alongfront variability in the precipitation structure of an intense cold-frontal rainband. The TRMM Microwave Imager brightness temperatures suggested that, compared to the northern and southern ends of the rainband, a greater amount of precipitation ice was concentrated in the middle portion of the rainband where the front bowed out. A model simulation conducted using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5) is examined to explain the distribution of precipitation associated with the cold-frontal rainband. The simulation reveals that the enhanced precipitation ice production and the implied mean ascent along the central part of the front were associated with a synergistic interaction between a low-level front and an upper-level front associated with an intrusion of high-PV stratospheric air. The low-level front contributed to an intense bow-shaped narrow cold-frontal rainband (NCFR). The upper-level front was dynamically active only along the central to northern portion of the NCFR, where the upper-level PV advection and Q-vector convergence were most prominent. The enhanced mean ascent associated with the upper-level front contributed to a wide cold-frontal rainband (WCFR) that trailed or overlapped with the NCFR along its central to northern segments. Because of the combination of the forcing from both lower- and upper-level fronts, the ascent was deepest and most intense along the central portion of the front. Thus, a large concentration of precipitation ice, attributed to both the NCFR and WCFR, was produced.

Corresponding author address: Mei Han, Mesoscale Atmospheric Process Branch, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA GSFC, Code 613.1, Greenbelt, MD 20771. Email: mei.han-1@nasa.gov

Abstract

On 19 February 2001, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite observed complex alongfront variability in the precipitation structure of an intense cold-frontal rainband. The TRMM Microwave Imager brightness temperatures suggested that, compared to the northern and southern ends of the rainband, a greater amount of precipitation ice was concentrated in the middle portion of the rainband where the front bowed out. A model simulation conducted using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5) is examined to explain the distribution of precipitation associated with the cold-frontal rainband. The simulation reveals that the enhanced precipitation ice production and the implied mean ascent along the central part of the front were associated with a synergistic interaction between a low-level front and an upper-level front associated with an intrusion of high-PV stratospheric air. The low-level front contributed to an intense bow-shaped narrow cold-frontal rainband (NCFR). The upper-level front was dynamically active only along the central to northern portion of the NCFR, where the upper-level PV advection and Q-vector convergence were most prominent. The enhanced mean ascent associated with the upper-level front contributed to a wide cold-frontal rainband (WCFR) that trailed or overlapped with the NCFR along its central to northern segments. Because of the combination of the forcing from both lower- and upper-level fronts, the ascent was deepest and most intense along the central portion of the front. Thus, a large concentration of precipitation ice, attributed to both the NCFR and WCFR, was produced.

Corresponding author address: Mei Han, Mesoscale Atmospheric Process Branch, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA GSFC, Code 613.1, Greenbelt, MD 20771. Email: mei.han-1@nasa.gov

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