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Observations of Seven Atmospheric Density Current Fronts in Dixon, California

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  • 1 California State University, Chico, Chico, California
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Abstract

Seven atmospheric density current fronts are identified in sequences of ground-based, scanning aerosol backscatter lidar images and in situ micrometeorological time series data that were collected simultaneously and nearly continuously between 15 March and 11 June of 2007 in Dixon, California. The fronts, observed on different days, had the following features in common: 1) an increase in aerosol backscatter intensity, 2) a decrease in air temperature, 3) an increase in water vapor mixing ratio, 4) movement toward the north, 5) airflow from the south in the denser air mass, and 6) occurrence within a 3.5-h time span in the afternoon. The observations support the hypothesis that the fronts are the leading edges of shallow marine air masses advancing northward from the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. The observations are used to test an empirical relationship between front speed, airmass density difference, depth of the dense air mass, and speed of the opposing flow. Prominent features of the fronts such as lobe and cleft structure, billows, and nose and head structure are described. Time-lapse animations of the lidar scans are available in the online version of this article.

Corresponding author address: Shane D. Mayor, Department of Physics, California State University, Chico, 400 West First St., Chico, CA 95929. E-mail: sdmayor@csuchico.edu

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online Web site.

Abstract

Seven atmospheric density current fronts are identified in sequences of ground-based, scanning aerosol backscatter lidar images and in situ micrometeorological time series data that were collected simultaneously and nearly continuously between 15 March and 11 June of 2007 in Dixon, California. The fronts, observed on different days, had the following features in common: 1) an increase in aerosol backscatter intensity, 2) a decrease in air temperature, 3) an increase in water vapor mixing ratio, 4) movement toward the north, 5) airflow from the south in the denser air mass, and 6) occurrence within a 3.5-h time span in the afternoon. The observations support the hypothesis that the fronts are the leading edges of shallow marine air masses advancing northward from the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. The observations are used to test an empirical relationship between front speed, airmass density difference, depth of the dense air mass, and speed of the opposing flow. Prominent features of the fronts such as lobe and cleft structure, billows, and nose and head structure are described. Time-lapse animations of the lidar scans are available in the online version of this article.

Corresponding author address: Shane D. Mayor, Department of Physics, California State University, Chico, 400 West First St., Chico, CA 95929. E-mail: sdmayor@csuchico.edu

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online Web site.

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