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Precipitation Regimes during Cold-Season Central U.S. Inverted Trough Cases. Part II: A Comparative Case Study

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  • 1 National Weather Service Forecast Office, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • | 2 National Weather Service Forecast Office, Duluth, Minnesota
  • | 3 Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department, Saint Cloud State University, Saint Cloud, Minnesota
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Abstract

This is the second of two papers that examine the organization of the precipitation field during central U.S. cold-season cyclones involving inverted troughs (ITs). The first paper (Part I) used a climatology and composites to find synoptic-scale differences between storms with precipitation located ahead of the IT (ahead cases) and those with precipitation located behind the IT (behind cases). This paper expands the conclusions in Part I through the use of a comparative case study between two cyclones. The first cyclone, on 29 October 1996, was an ahead case that produced heavy rainfall and was associated with a potential vorticity (PV) anomaly moving across the central plains. The IT formed in the lee of the Rockies prior to 0600 UTC 29 October and moved east into the northern plains over the next 18 h. The trough itself was coincident with the limiting streamline, which separated moist air rising over the warm front from dry air subsiding behind the cyclone. The second cyclone, on 17–18 January 1996, had precipitation on both sides of the IT and was associated with heavy snow and blizzard conditions in the northern plains and significant ice accumulation in the western Great Lakes. The IT was associated with large frontogenesis over the snow area. The ascent was further enhanced by a jet streak moving across southern Canada. Dynamically, the IT resembled a warm front, with veering winds with height and a strong frontal inversion.

The mechanism that appeared to control the different precipitation organization between the two systems was the orientation of the PV anomalies and the airstreams associated with their secondary circulations. This resulted in a differing orientation of the baroclinicity north and east of the cyclone. In the ahead case, the rising branches of the secondary circulations forced by the northern and southern anomalies remained separate. This allowed the baroclinicity to develop along the traditional warm front, while the IT never developed a thermal gradient as it moved east. In the both sides case, the southern stream anomaly helped to fix the northern anomaly-forced jet streak in place, so that a strong temperature gradient developed along the IT with strong frontogenesis and warm-air advection observed behind the IT. As the frontal circulation developed, the direct circulation associated with the right entrance region of a jet streak enhanced the ascent to the west of the IT.

A conceptual model is proposed based upon the case studies and the results of Part I. This model can be used by forecasters to differentiate between the precipitation regimes in cyclones associated with ITs.

* Current affiliation: Vaisala Group, Westford, Massachusetts

Corresponding author address: Philip N. Schumacher, National Weather Service, 26 Weather Ln., Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Email: phil.schumacher@noaa.gov

Abstract

This is the second of two papers that examine the organization of the precipitation field during central U.S. cold-season cyclones involving inverted troughs (ITs). The first paper (Part I) used a climatology and composites to find synoptic-scale differences between storms with precipitation located ahead of the IT (ahead cases) and those with precipitation located behind the IT (behind cases). This paper expands the conclusions in Part I through the use of a comparative case study between two cyclones. The first cyclone, on 29 October 1996, was an ahead case that produced heavy rainfall and was associated with a potential vorticity (PV) anomaly moving across the central plains. The IT formed in the lee of the Rockies prior to 0600 UTC 29 October and moved east into the northern plains over the next 18 h. The trough itself was coincident with the limiting streamline, which separated moist air rising over the warm front from dry air subsiding behind the cyclone. The second cyclone, on 17–18 January 1996, had precipitation on both sides of the IT and was associated with heavy snow and blizzard conditions in the northern plains and significant ice accumulation in the western Great Lakes. The IT was associated with large frontogenesis over the snow area. The ascent was further enhanced by a jet streak moving across southern Canada. Dynamically, the IT resembled a warm front, with veering winds with height and a strong frontal inversion.

The mechanism that appeared to control the different precipitation organization between the two systems was the orientation of the PV anomalies and the airstreams associated with their secondary circulations. This resulted in a differing orientation of the baroclinicity north and east of the cyclone. In the ahead case, the rising branches of the secondary circulations forced by the northern and southern anomalies remained separate. This allowed the baroclinicity to develop along the traditional warm front, while the IT never developed a thermal gradient as it moved east. In the both sides case, the southern stream anomaly helped to fix the northern anomaly-forced jet streak in place, so that a strong temperature gradient developed along the IT with strong frontogenesis and warm-air advection observed behind the IT. As the frontal circulation developed, the direct circulation associated with the right entrance region of a jet streak enhanced the ascent to the west of the IT.

A conceptual model is proposed based upon the case studies and the results of Part I. This model can be used by forecasters to differentiate between the precipitation regimes in cyclones associated with ITs.

* Current affiliation: Vaisala Group, Westford, Massachusetts

Corresponding author address: Philip N. Schumacher, National Weather Service, 26 Weather Ln., Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Email: phil.schumacher@noaa.gov

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