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Circulations, Bounded Weak Echo Regions, and Horizontal Vortices Observed within Long-Lake-Axis-Parallel–Lake-Effect Storms by the Doppler on Wheels

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  • 1 Department of Earth Sciences, State University of New York at Oswego, Oswego, New York
  • | 2 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois
  • | 3 Center for Severe Weather Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

The eastern Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario) are often affected by intense lake-effect snowfalls. Lake-effect storms that form parallel to the major axes of these lakes can strongly impact communities by depositing more than 100 cm of snowfall in less than 24 h. Long-lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) storms are significantly different in structure and dynamics compared to the much more studied wind-parallel roll storms that typically form over the western Great Lakes. A Doppler on Wheels (DOW) mobile radar sampled several of these storms at fine spatial and temporal resolutions (and close to the surface) during the winter of 2010–11 over and downwind of Lake Ontario to document and improve understanding of how these storms develop. Over 1100 observations of vortices were catalogued within the 16 December 2010 and 4–5 January 2011 events. The majority of these vortices were less than 1 km in diameter with a statistical modal difference in Doppler velocity (delta-V) value across the vortex of 11 m s−1. Vortices developed along boundaries, which formed within the bands, suggesting horizontal shear instability was the main cause. Other features noted in the DOW observations included bounded weak echo regions, anvils, and horizontal vortices, typically on the south side of west–east-oriented LLAP bands. The reflectivity and velocity structure of LLAP bands were found to be much more complex than previously thought, which may impact localized precipitation amounts and errors in forecast location/intensity.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-12-00226.s1.

Corresponding author address: Scott Steiger, 206 Hewitt Union, Department of Earth Sciences, State University of New York at Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126. E-mail: scott.steiger@oswego.edu

Abstract

The eastern Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario) are often affected by intense lake-effect snowfalls. Lake-effect storms that form parallel to the major axes of these lakes can strongly impact communities by depositing more than 100 cm of snowfall in less than 24 h. Long-lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) storms are significantly different in structure and dynamics compared to the much more studied wind-parallel roll storms that typically form over the western Great Lakes. A Doppler on Wheels (DOW) mobile radar sampled several of these storms at fine spatial and temporal resolutions (and close to the surface) during the winter of 2010–11 over and downwind of Lake Ontario to document and improve understanding of how these storms develop. Over 1100 observations of vortices were catalogued within the 16 December 2010 and 4–5 January 2011 events. The majority of these vortices were less than 1 km in diameter with a statistical modal difference in Doppler velocity (delta-V) value across the vortex of 11 m s−1. Vortices developed along boundaries, which formed within the bands, suggesting horizontal shear instability was the main cause. Other features noted in the DOW observations included bounded weak echo regions, anvils, and horizontal vortices, typically on the south side of west–east-oriented LLAP bands. The reflectivity and velocity structure of LLAP bands were found to be much more complex than previously thought, which may impact localized precipitation amounts and errors in forecast location/intensity.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-12-00226.s1.

Corresponding author address: Scott Steiger, 206 Hewitt Union, Department of Earth Sciences, State University of New York at Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126. E-mail: scott.steiger@oswego.edu

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