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  • Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology x
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Feimin Zhang and Zhaoxia Pu

Abstract

This study examines the sensitivity of numerical simulations of near-surface atmospheric conditions to the initial surface albedo and snow depth during an observed ice fog event in the Heber Valley of northern Utah. Numerical simulation results from the mesoscale community Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model are compared with observations from the Mountain Terrain Atmospheric Modeling and Observations (MATERHORN) Program fog field program. It is found that near-surface cooling during the nighttime is significantly underestimated by the WRF Model, resulting in the failure of the model to reproduce the observed fog episode. Meanwhile, the model also overestimates the temperature during the daytime. Nevertheless, these errors could be reduced by increasing the initial surface albedo and snow depth, which act to cool the near-surface atmosphere by increasing the reflection of downward shortwave radiation and decreasing the heating effects from the soil layer. Overall results indicate the important effects of snow representation on the simulation of near-surface atmospheric conditions and highlight the need for snow measurements in the cold season for improved model physics parameterizations.

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Matthew E. Jeglum, Sebastian W. Hoch, Derek D. Jensen, Reneta Dimitrova, and Zachariah Silver

Abstract

Large temperature fluctuations (LTFs), defined as a drop of the near-surface temperature of at least 3°C in less than 30 min followed by a recovery of at least half of the initial drop, were frequently observed during the Mountain Terrain Atmospheric Modeling and Observations (MATERHORN) program. Temperature time series at over 100 surface stations were examined in an automated fashion to identify and characterize LTFs. LTFs occur almost exclusively at night and at locations elevated 50–100 m above the basin floors, such as the east slope of the isolated Granite Mountain (GM). Temperature drops associated with LTFs were as large as 13°C and were typically greatest at heights of 4–10 m AGL. Observations and numerical simulations suggest that LTFs are the result of complex flow interactions of stably stratified flow with a mountain barrier and a leeside cold-air pool (CAP). An orographic wake forms over GM when stably stratified southwesterly nocturnal flow impinges on GM and is blocked at low levels. Warm crest-level air descends in the lee of the barrier, and the generation of baroclinic vorticity leads to periodic development of a vertically oriented vortex. Changes in the strength or location of the wake and vortex cause a displacement of the horizontal temperature gradient along the slope associated with the CAP edge, resulting in LTFs. This mechanism explains the low frequency of LTFs on the west slope of GM as well as the preference for LTFs to occur at higher elevations later at night, as the CAP depth increases.

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Jeffrey D. Massey, W. James Steenburgh, Sebastian W. Hoch, and Derek D. Jensen

Abstract

Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations of the autumn 2012 and spring 2013 Mountain Terrain Atmospheric Modeling and Observations Program (MATERHORN) field campaigns are validated against observations of components of the surface energy balance (SEB) collected over contrasting desert-shrub and playa land surfaces of the Great Salt Lake Desert in northwestern Utah. Over the desert shrub, a large underprediction of sensible heat flux and an overprediction of ground heat flux occurred during the autumn campaign when the model-analyzed soil moisture was considerably higher than the measured soil moisture. Simulations that incorporate in situ measurements of soil moisture into the land surface analyses and use a modified parameterization for soil thermal conductivity greatly reduce these errors over the desert shrub but exacerbate the overprediction of latent heat flux over the playa. The Noah land surface model coupled to WRF does not capture the many unusual playa land surface processes, and simulations that incorporate satellite-derived albedo and reduce the saturation vapor pressure over the playa only marginally improve the forecasts of the SEB components. Nevertheless, the forecast of the 2-m temperature difference between the playa and desert shrub improves, which increases the strength of the daytime off-playa breeze. The stronger off-playa breeze, however, does not substantially reduce the mean absolute errors in overall 10-m wind speed and direction. This work highlights some deficiencies of the Noah land surface model over two common arid land surfaces and demonstrates the importance of accurate land surface analyses over a dryland region.

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Manuela Lehner, C. David Whiteman, Sebastian W. Hoch, Derek Jensen, Eric R. Pardyjak, Laura S. Leo, Silvana Di Sabatino, and Harindra J. S. Fernando

Abstract

Observations were taken on an east-facing sidewall at the foot of a desert mountain that borders a large valley, as part of the Mountain Terrain Atmospheric Modeling and Observations (MATERHORN) field program at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. A case study of nocturnal boundary layer development is presented for a night in mid-May when tethered-balloon measurements were taken to supplement other MATERHORN field measurements. The boundary layer development over the slope could be divided into three distinct phases during this night: 1) The evening transition from daytime upslope/up-valley winds to nighttime downslope winds was governed by the propagation of the shadow front. Because of the combination of complex topography at the site and the solar angle at this time of year, the shadow moved down the sidewall from approximately northwest to southeast, with the flow transition closely following the shadow front. 2) The flow transition was followed by a 3–4-h period of almost steady-state boundary layer conditions, with a shallow slope-parallel surface inversion and a pronounced downslope flow with a jet maximum located within the surface-based inversion. The shallow slope boundary layer was very sensitive to ambient flows, resulting in several small disturbances. 3) After approximately 2300 mountain standard time, the inversion that had formed over the adjacent valley repeatedly sloshed up the mountain sidewall, disturbing local downslope flows and causing rapid temperature drops.

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Jeffrey D. Massey, W. James Steenburgh, Sebastian W. Hoch, and Jason C. Knievel

Abstract

Weather Research and Forecasting Model forecasts over the Great Salt Lake Desert erroneously underpredict nocturnal cooling over the sparsely vegetated silt loam soil area of Dugway Proving Ground in northern Utah, with a mean positive bias error in temperature at 2 m AGL of 3.4°C in the early morning [1200 UTC (0500 LST)]. Positive early-morning bias errors also exist in nearby sandy loam soil areas. These biases are related to the improper initialization of soil moisture and parameterization of soil thermal conductivity in silt loam and sandy loam soils. Forecasts of 2-m temperature can be improved by initializing with observed soil moisture and by replacing Johansen's 1975 parameterization of soil thermal conductivity in the Noah land surface model with that proposed by McCumber and Pielke in 1981 for silt loam and sandy loam soils. Case studies illustrate that this change can dramatically reduce nighttime warm biases in 2-m temperature over silt loam and sandy loam soils, with the greatest improvement during periods of low soil moisture. Predicted ground heat flux, soil thermal conductivity, near-surface radiative fluxes, and low-level thermal profiles also more closely match observations. Similar results are anticipated in other dryland regions with analogous soil types, sparse vegetation, and low soil moisture.

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