Analysis of Snow Multibands and Their Environments with High-Resolution Idealized Simulations

Nicholas M. Leonardo aSchool of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York

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Brian A. Colle aSchool of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York

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Abstract

Nested idealized baroclinic wave simulations at 4-km and 800-m grid spacing are used to analyze the precipitation structures and their evolution in the comma head of a developing extratropical cyclone. After the cyclone spins up by hour 120, snow multibands develop within a wedge-shaped region east of the near-surface low center within a region of 700–500-hPa potential and conditional instability. The cells deepen and elongate northeastward as they propagate north. There is also an increase in 600–500-hPa southwesterly vertical wind shear prior to band development. The system stops producing bands 12 h later as the differential moisture advection weakens, and the instability is depleted by the convection. Sensitivity experiments are run in which the initial stability and horizontal temperature gradient of the baroclinic wave are adjusted by 5%–10%. A 10% decrease in initial instability results in less than half the control run potential instability by 120 h and the cyclone fails to produce multibands. Meanwhile, a 5% decrease in instability delays the development of multibands by 18 h. Meanwhile, decreasing the initial horizontal temperature gradient by 10% delays the growth of vertical shear and instability, corresponding to multibands developing 12–18 h later. Conversely, increasing the horizontal temperature gradient by 10% corresponds to greater vertical shear, resulting in more prolific multiband activity developing ∼12 h earlier. Overall, the relatively large changes in band characteristics over a ∼12-h period (120–133 h) and band evolutions for the sensitivity experiments highlight the potential predictability challenges.

Significance Statement

Multiple-banded precipitation structures are difficult to predict and can greatly impact snowfall forecasts. This study investigates the precipitation bands in the comma head of a low pressure system in a numerical model to systematically isolate the roles of different ambient conditions. The results emphasize that environments with instability (e.g., air free to rise after small upward displacement) and increasing winds with height favor the development of banded structures. The forecast challenge for these bands is illustrated by starting the model with relatively small changes in the temperature field. Decreasing the instability by 10% suppresses band development, while increasing (decreasing) the horizontal temperature change across the system by 10% corresponds to the bands developing 12 h earlier (later).

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

This article is included in the IMPACTS Special Collection.

Corresponding author: Nicholas M. Leonardo, Nicholas.leonardo@stonybrook.edu

Abstract

Nested idealized baroclinic wave simulations at 4-km and 800-m grid spacing are used to analyze the precipitation structures and their evolution in the comma head of a developing extratropical cyclone. After the cyclone spins up by hour 120, snow multibands develop within a wedge-shaped region east of the near-surface low center within a region of 700–500-hPa potential and conditional instability. The cells deepen and elongate northeastward as they propagate north. There is also an increase in 600–500-hPa southwesterly vertical wind shear prior to band development. The system stops producing bands 12 h later as the differential moisture advection weakens, and the instability is depleted by the convection. Sensitivity experiments are run in which the initial stability and horizontal temperature gradient of the baroclinic wave are adjusted by 5%–10%. A 10% decrease in initial instability results in less than half the control run potential instability by 120 h and the cyclone fails to produce multibands. Meanwhile, a 5% decrease in instability delays the development of multibands by 18 h. Meanwhile, decreasing the initial horizontal temperature gradient by 10% delays the growth of vertical shear and instability, corresponding to multibands developing 12–18 h later. Conversely, increasing the horizontal temperature gradient by 10% corresponds to greater vertical shear, resulting in more prolific multiband activity developing ∼12 h earlier. Overall, the relatively large changes in band characteristics over a ∼12-h period (120–133 h) and band evolutions for the sensitivity experiments highlight the potential predictability challenges.

Significance Statement

Multiple-banded precipitation structures are difficult to predict and can greatly impact snowfall forecasts. This study investigates the precipitation bands in the comma head of a low pressure system in a numerical model to systematically isolate the roles of different ambient conditions. The results emphasize that environments with instability (e.g., air free to rise after small upward displacement) and increasing winds with height favor the development of banded structures. The forecast challenge for these bands is illustrated by starting the model with relatively small changes in the temperature field. Decreasing the instability by 10% suppresses band development, while increasing (decreasing) the horizontal temperature change across the system by 10% corresponds to the bands developing 12 h earlier (later).

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

This article is included in the IMPACTS Special Collection.

Corresponding author: Nicholas M. Leonardo, Nicholas.leonardo@stonybrook.edu
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