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Ben Harvey, John Methven, Chloe Eagle, and Humphrey Lean

Abstract

In situ aircraft observations are used to interrogate the ability of a numerical weather prediction model to represent flow structure and turbulence at a narrow cold front. Simulations are performed at a range of nested resolutions with grid spacings of 12 km down to 100 m, and the convergence with resolution is investigated. The observations include the novel feature of a low-altitude circuit around the front that is closed in the frame of reference of the front, thus allowing the direct evaluation of area-average vorticity and divergence values from circuit integrals. As such, the observational strategy enables a comparison of flow structures over a broad range of spatial scales, from the size of the circuit itself (100 km) to small-scale turbulent fluctuations (10 m). It is found that many aspects of the resolved flow converge successfully toward the observations with resolution if sampling uncertainty is accounted for, including the area-average vorticity and divergence measures and the narrowest observed cross-frontal width. In addition, there is a gradual handover from parameterized to resolved turbulent fluxes of moisture and momentum as motions in the convective boundary layer behind the front become partially resolved in the highest-resolution simulations. In contrast, the parameterized turbulent fluxes associated with subgrid-scale shear-driven turbulence ahead of the front do not converge on the observations. The structure of frontal rainbands associated with a shear instability along the front also does not converge with resolution, indicating that the mechanism of the frontal instability may not be well represented in the simulations.

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Sam Hardy, David M. Schultz, and Geraint Vaughan

Abstract

Major river flooding affected the United Kingdom in late September 2012 as a slow-moving extratropical cyclone brought over 150 mm of rain to parts of northern England and north Wales. The cyclone deepened over the United Kingdom on 24–26 September as a potential vorticity (PV) anomaly approached from the northwest, elongated into a PV streamer, and wrapped around the cyclone. The strength and position of the PV anomaly is modified in the initial conditions of Weather Research and Forecasting Model simulations, using PV surgery, to examine whether different upper-level forcing, or different phasing between the PV anomaly and cyclone, could have produced an even more extreme event. These simulations reveal that quasigeostrophic (QG) forcing for ascent ahead of the anomaly contributed to the persistence of the rainfall over the United Kingdom. Moreover, weakening the anomaly resulted in lower rainfall accumulations across the United Kingdom, suggesting that the impact of the event might be proportional to the strength of the upper-level QG forcing. However, when the anomaly was strengthened, it rotated cyclonically around a large-scale trough over Iceland rather than moving eastward as in the verifying analysis, with strongly reduced accumulated rainfall across the United Kingdom. A similar evolution developed when the anomaly was moved farther away from the cyclone. Conversely, moving the anomaly nearer to the cyclone produced a similar solution to the verifying analysis, with slightly increased rainfall totals. These counterintuitive results suggest that the verifying analysis represented almost the highest-impact scenario possible for this flooding event when accounting for sensitivity to the initial position and strength of the PV anomaly.

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Jesse Norris, Geraint Vaughan, and David M. Schultz

Abstract

Precipitation patterns along cold fronts can exhibit a variety of morphologies including narrow cold-frontal rainbands and core-and-gap structures. A three-dimensional primitive equation model is used to investigate alongfront variability of precipitation in an idealized baroclinic wave. Along the poleward part of the cold front, a narrow line of precipitation develops. Along the equatorward part of the cold front, precipitation cores and gaps form. The difference between the two evolutions is due to differences in the orientation of vertical shear near the front in the lower troposphere: at the poleward end the along-frontal shear is dominant and the front is in near-thermal wind balance, while at the equatorward end the cross-frontal shear is almost as large. At the poleward end, the thermal structure remains erect with the front well defined up to the midtroposphere, hence updrafts remain erect and precipitation falls in a continuous line along the front. At the equatorward end, the cores form as undulations appear in both the prefrontal and postfrontal lighter precipitation, associated with vorticity maxima moving along the front on either side. Cross-frontal winds aloft tilt updrafts, so that some precipitation falls ahead of the surface cold front, forming the cores. Sensitivity simulations are also presented in which SST and roughness length are varied between simulations. Larger SST reduces cross-frontal winds aloft and leads to a more continuous rainband. Larger roughness length destroys the surface wind shift and thermal gradient, allowing mesovortices to dominate the precipitation distribution, leading to distinctive and irregularly shaped, quasi-regularly spaced precipitation maxima.

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Geraint Vaughan, Bogdan Antonescu, David M. Schultz, and Christopher Dearden

Abstract

Deep convection frequently occurs on the eastern side of upper-level troughs, or potential vorticity (PV) anomalies. This is consistent with uplift ahead of a cyclonic PV anomaly, and consequent reduction in static stability and increase of convective available potential energy (CAPE). Nevertheless, the causal link between upper-level PV and deep convection has not been proven, and given that lift, moisture, and instability must all be present for deep convection to occur it is not clear that upper-level forcing is sufficient. In this paper a convective rainband that intensified ahead of a cyclonic PV anomaly in an environment with little CAPE (~10 J kg−1) is examined to determine the factors responsible for its intensification. The key feature was a low-level convergence line, arising from the remnants of an occluded front embedded in the low-level cyclonic flow. The rainband’s intensity and morphology was influenced by the remnants of a tropopause fold that capped convection at midlevels in the southern part of the band, and by a reduction in upper-level static stability in the northern part of the band that allowed the convection to reach the tropopause. Ascent ahead of the trough appears to have played only a minor role in conditioning the atmosphere to convection: in most cases the ascending airstream had previously descended in the flow west of the trough axis. Thus, simple “PV thinking” is not capable of describing the development of the rainband, and it is concluded that preexisting low-level wind and humidity features played the dominant role.

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Oscar Martínez-Alvarado, Suzanne L. Gray, and John Methven

Abstract

Extratropical cyclones are typically weaker and less frequent in summer as a result of differences in the background state flow and diabatic processes with respect to other seasons. Two extratropical cyclones were observed in summer 2012 with a research aircraft during the Diabatic Influences on Mesoscale Structures in Extratropical Storms (DIAMET) field campaign. The first cyclone deepened only down to 995 hPa; the second cyclone deepened down to 978 hPa and formed a potential vorticity (PV) tower, a frequent signature of intense cyclones. The objectives of this article are to quantify the effects of diabatic processes and their parameterizations on cyclone dynamics. The cyclones were analyzed through numerical simulations incorporating tracers for the effects of diabatic processes on potential temperature and PV. The simulations were compared with radar rainfall observations and dropsonde measurements. It was found that the observed maximum vapor flux in the stronger cyclone was twice as strong as in the weaker cyclone; the water vapor mass flow along the warm conveyor belt of the stronger cyclone was over half that typical in winter. The model overestimated water vapor mass flow by approximately a factor of 2 as a result of deeper structure in the rearward flow and humidity in the weaker case. An integral tracer interpretation is introduced, relating the tracers with cross-isentropic mass transport and circulation. It is shown that the circulation around the cyclone increases much more slowly than the amplitude of the diabatically generated PV tower. This effect is explained using the PV impermeability theorem.

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C. Dearden, G. Vaughan, T. Tsai, and J.-P. Chen

Abstract

Numerical simulations are performed with the Weather Research and Forecasting Model to elucidate the diabatic effects of ice phase microphysical processes on the dynamics of two slow-moving summer cyclones that affected the United Kingdom during the summer of 2012. The first case is representative of a typical midlatitude storm for the time of year, while the second case is unusually deep. Sensitivity tests are performed with 5-km horizontal grid spacing and at lead times between 1 and 2 days using three different microphysics schemes, one of which is a new scheme whose development was informed by the latest in situ observations of midlatitude weather systems. The effects of latent heating and cooling associated with deposition growth, sublimation, and melting of ice are assessed in terms of the impact on both the synoptic scale and the frontal scale. The results show that, of these diabatic processes, deposition growth was the most important in both cases, affecting the depth and position of each of the low pressure systems and influencing the spatial distribution of the frontal precipitation. Cooling associated with sublimation and melting also played a role in determining the cyclone depth, but mainly in the more intense cyclone case. The effects of ice crystal habit and secondary ice production are also explored in the simulations, based on insight from in situ observations. However in these two cases, the ability to predict changes in crystal habit did not significantly impact the storm evolution, and the authors found no obvious need to parameterize secondary ice crystal production at the model resolutions considered.

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Ross N. Bannister

Abstract

This paper investigates the effect on balance of a number of Schur product–type localization schemes that have been designed with the primary function of reducing spurious far-field correlations in forecast error statistics. The localization schemes studied comprise a nonadaptive scheme (where the moderation matrix is decomposed in a spectral basis), and two adaptive schemes: a simplified version of Smoothed Ensemble Correlations Raised to a Power (SENCORP) and Ensemble Correlations Raised to a Power (ECO-RAP). The paper shows, the author believes for the first time, how the degree of balance (geostrophic and hydrostatic) implied by the error covariance matrices localized by these schemes can be diagnosed. Here it is considered that an effective localization scheme is one that reduces spurious correlations adequately, but also minimizes disruption of balance (where the “correct” degree of balance or imbalance is assumed to be possessed by the unlocalized ensemble). By varying free parameters that describe each scheme (e.g., the degree of truncation in the schemes that use the spectral basis, the “order” of each scheme, and the degree of ensemble smoothing), it is found that a particular configuration of the ECO-RAP scheme is best suited to the convective-scale system studied. According to the diagnostics this ECO-RAP configuration still weakens geostrophic and hydrostatic balance, but overall this is less so than for other schemes.

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Jeffrey M. Chagnon and Suzanne L. Gray

Abstract

The structure of near-tropopause potential vorticity (PV) acts as a primary control on the evolution of extratropical cyclones. Diabatic processes such as the latent heating found in ascending moist warm conveyor belts modify PV. A dipole in diabatically generated PV (hereafter diabatic PV) straddling the extratropical tropopause, with the positive pole above the negative pole, was diagnosed in a recently published analysis of a simulated extratropical cyclone. This PV dipole has the potential to significantly modify the propagation of Rossby waves and the growth of baroclinically unstable waves. This previous analysis was based on a single case study simulated with 12-km horizontal grid spacing and parameterized convection. Here the dipole is investigated in three additional cold-season extratropical cyclones simulated in both convection-parameterizing and convection-permitting model configurations. A diabatic PV dipole across the extratropical tropopause is diagnosed in all three cases. The amplitude of the dipole saturates approximately 36 h from the time diabatic PV is accumulated. The node elevation of the dipole varies between 2 and 4 PVU (1 PVU = 106 K kg−1 m2 s−1) in the three cases, and the amplitude of the system-averaged dipole varies between 0.2 and 0.4 PVU. The amplitude of the negative pole is similar in the convection-parameterizing and convection-permitting simulations. The positive pole, which is generated by longwave radiative cooling, is weak in the convection-permitting simulations due to the small domain size, which limits the accumulation of diabatic tendencies within the interior of the domain. The possible correspondence between the diabatic PV dipole and the extratropical tropopause inversion layer is discussed.

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G. Lloyd, C. Dearden, T. W. Choularton, J. Crosier, and K. N. Bower

Abstract

Three case studies in frontal clouds from the Diabatic Influences on Mesoscale Structures in Extratropical Storms (DIAMET) project are described to understand the microphysical development of the mixed phase regions of these clouds. The cases are a kata-type cold front, a wintertime warm front, and a summertime occluded frontal system. The clouds were observed by radar, satellite, and in situ microphysics measurements from the U.K. Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) research aircraft. The kata cold front cloud was shallow with a cloud-top temperature of approximately −13°C. Cloud-top heterogeneous ice nucleation was found to be consistent with predictions by a primary ice nucleation scheme. The other case studies had high cloud tops (< −40°C) and despite no direct cloud-top measurements in these regions, homogeneous ice nucleation would be expected. The maximum ice crystal concentrations and ice water contents in all clouds were observed at temperatures around −5°C. Graupel was not observed, hence, secondary ice was produced by riming on snow falling through regions of supercooled liquid water. Within these regions substantial concentrations (10–150 L−1) of supercooled drizzle were observed. The freezing of these drops increases the riming rate due to the increase in rimer surface area. Increasing rime accretion has been shown to lead to higher ice splinter production rates. Despite differences in the cloud structure, the maximum ice crystal number concentration in all three clouds was ~100 L−1. Ice water contents were similar in the warm and occluded frontal cases, where median values in both cases reached ~0.2–0.3 g m−3, but lower in the cold front case.

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Matthew R. Clark and Douglas J. Parker

Abstract

Observations from a mesoscale network of automatic weather stations are analyzed for 15 U.K. cold fronts exhibiting narrow cold frontal rainbands (NCFRs). Seven of the NCFRs produced tornadoes. A time-compositing approach is applied to the minute-resolution data using the radar-observed motion vectors of NCFR precipitation segments. Interpolated onto a 5-km grid, the analyses resolve much of the small-mesoscale structure in surface wind, temperature, and pressure fields. Postfrontal winds varied substantially between cases. Tornadic NCFRs exhibited a near-90° wind veer and little or no reduction in wind speed on NCFR passage; these attributes were generally associated with large vertical vorticity, horizontal convergence, and vorticity stretching at the NCFR. Nontornadic NCFRs exhibited smaller wind veers and/or marked decreases in wind speed across the NCFR, and weaker vorticity, convergence, and vorticity stretching. In at least four tornadic NCFRs, increases in vorticity stretching preceded tornadogenesis. Doppler radar observations of two tornadic NCFRs revealed the development of misocyclones, some tornadic, during the latter stages of vorticity-stretching increase. The presence of cyclonic vortices only, in one case occurring at regular intervals along the NCFR, provides limited circumstantial evidence for horizontal shearing instability (HSI), though other vortex-genesis mechanisms cannot be discounted. Vorticity-stretching increases were associated with coherent mesoscale structures in the postfrontal wind field, which modified the cross-frontal convergence. Where cross-frontal convergence was large, extremely narrow, intense shear zones were observed; results suggest that tornadoes occurred when such shear zones developed in conjunction with conditional instability in the prefrontal environment.

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