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Using Frontogenesis to Identify Sting Jets in Extratropical Cyclones

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  • 1 Centre for Atmospheric Science, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
  • | 2 NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Ocean Prediction Center, College Park, Maryland
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Abstract

Sting jets, or surface wind maxima at the end of bent-back fronts in Shapiro–Keyser cyclones, are one cause of strong winds in extratropical cyclones. Although previous studies identified the release of conditional symmetric instability as a cause of sting jets, the mechanism to initiate its release remains unidentified. To identify this mechanism, a case study was selected of an intense cyclone over the North Atlantic Ocean during 7–8 December 2005 that possessed a sting jet detected from the NASA Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT). A couplet of Petterssen frontogenesis and frontolysis occurred along the bent-back front. The direct circulation associated with the frontogenesis led to ascent within the cyclonically turning portion of the warm conveyor belt, contributing to the comma-cloud head. When the bent-back front became frontolytic, an indirect circulation associated with the frontolysis, in conjunction with alongfront cold advection, led to descent within and on the warm side of the front, bringing higher-momentum air down toward the boundary layer. Sensible heat fluxes from the ocean surface and cold-air advection destabilized the boundary layer, resulting in near-neutral static stability facilitating downward mixing. Thus, descent associated with the frontolysis reaching a near-neutral boundary layer provides a physical mechanism for sting jets, is consistent with previous studies, and synthesizes existing knowledge. Specifically, this couplet of frontogenesis and frontolysis could explain why sting jets occur at the end of the bent-back front and emerge from the cloud head, why sting jets are mesoscale phenomena, and why they only occur within Shapiro–Keyser cyclones. A larger dataset of cases is necessary to test this hypothesis.

Corresponding author address: Prof. David M. Schultz, Centre for Atmospheric Science, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Simon Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom. E-mail: david.schultz@manchester.ac.uk

This article is included in the Diabatic Influence on Mesoscale Structures in Extratropical Storms (DIAMET) special collection.

Abstract

Sting jets, or surface wind maxima at the end of bent-back fronts in Shapiro–Keyser cyclones, are one cause of strong winds in extratropical cyclones. Although previous studies identified the release of conditional symmetric instability as a cause of sting jets, the mechanism to initiate its release remains unidentified. To identify this mechanism, a case study was selected of an intense cyclone over the North Atlantic Ocean during 7–8 December 2005 that possessed a sting jet detected from the NASA Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT). A couplet of Petterssen frontogenesis and frontolysis occurred along the bent-back front. The direct circulation associated with the frontogenesis led to ascent within the cyclonically turning portion of the warm conveyor belt, contributing to the comma-cloud head. When the bent-back front became frontolytic, an indirect circulation associated with the frontolysis, in conjunction with alongfront cold advection, led to descent within and on the warm side of the front, bringing higher-momentum air down toward the boundary layer. Sensible heat fluxes from the ocean surface and cold-air advection destabilized the boundary layer, resulting in near-neutral static stability facilitating downward mixing. Thus, descent associated with the frontolysis reaching a near-neutral boundary layer provides a physical mechanism for sting jets, is consistent with previous studies, and synthesizes existing knowledge. Specifically, this couplet of frontogenesis and frontolysis could explain why sting jets occur at the end of the bent-back front and emerge from the cloud head, why sting jets are mesoscale phenomena, and why they only occur within Shapiro–Keyser cyclones. A larger dataset of cases is necessary to test this hypothesis.

Corresponding author address: Prof. David M. Schultz, Centre for Atmospheric Science, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Simon Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom. E-mail: david.schultz@manchester.ac.uk

This article is included in the Diabatic Influence on Mesoscale Structures in Extratropical Storms (DIAMET) special collection.

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