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John T. Allen, Edwina R. Allen, Harald Richter, and Chiara Lepore

Abstract

During 2013, multiple tornadoes occurred across Australia, leading to 147 injuries and considerable damage. This prompted speculation as to the frequency of these events in Australia, and whether 2013 constituted a record year. Leveraging media reports, public accounts, and the Bureau of Meteorology observational record, 69 tornadoes were identified for the year in comparison to the official count of 37 events. This identified set and the existing historical record were used to establish that, in terms of spatial distribution, 2013 was not abnormal relative to the existing climatology, but numerically exceeded any year in the bureau’s record. Evaluation of the environments in which these tornadoes formed illustrated that these conditions included tornado environments found elsewhere globally, but generally had a stronger dependence on shear magnitude than direction, and lower lifting condensation levels. Relative to local environment climatology, 2013 was also not anomalous. These results illustrate a range of tornadoes associated with cool season, tropical cyclone, east coast low, supercell tornado, and low shear/storm merger environments. Using this baseline, the spatial climatology from 1980 to 2019 as derived from the nonconditional frequency of favorable significant tornado parameter environments for the year is used to highlight that observations are likely an underestimation. Applying the results, discussion is made of the need to expand observing practices, climatology, forecasting guidelines for operational prediction, and improve the warning system. This highlights a need to ensure that the general public is appropriately informed of the tornado hazard in Australia, and provide them with the understanding to respond accordingly.

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Marvin A. Geller, Peter T. Love, and Ling Wang

Abstract

The 1-s-resolution U.S. radiosonde data are analyzed for unstable layers, where the potential temperature decreases with increasing altitude, in the troposphere and lower stratosphere (LS). Care is taken to exclude spurious unstable layers arising from noise in the soundings and also to allow for the destabilizing influence of water vapor in saturated layers. Riverton, Wyoming, and Greensboro, North Carolina, in the extratropics, are analyzed in detail, where it is found that the annual and diurnal variations are largest, and the interannual variations are smallest in the LS. More unstable layer occurrences in the LS at Riverton are found at 0000 UTC, while at Greensboro, more unstable layer occurrences in the LS are at 1200 UTC, consistent with a geographical pattern where greater unstable layer occurrences in the LS are at 0000 UTC in the western United States, while greater unstable layer occurrences are at 1200 UTC in the eastern United States. The picture at Koror, Palau, in the tropics is different in that the diurnal and interannual variations in unstable layer occurrences in the LS are largest, with much smaller annual variations. At Koror, more frequent unstable layer occurrences in the LS occur at 0000 UTC. Also, a “notch” in the frequencies of occurrence of thin unstable layers at about 12 km is observed at Koror, with large frequencies of occurrence of thick layers at that altitude. Histograms are produced for the two midlatitude stations and one tropical station analyzed. The log–log slopes for troposphere histograms are in reasonable agreement with earlier results, but the LS histograms show a steeper log–log slope, consistent with more thin unstable layers and fewer thick unstable layers there. Some radiosonde stations are excluded from this analysis since a marked change in unstable layer occurrences was identified when a change in radiosonde instrumentation occurred.

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Sergey Frolov, Carolyn A. Reynolds, Michael Alexander, Maria Flatau, Neil P. Barton, Patrick Hogan, and Clark Rowley

Abstract

Patterns of correlations between the ocean and the atmosphere are examined using a high-resolution (1/12° ocean and ice, 1/3° atmosphere) ensemble of data assimilative, coupled, global, ocean–atmosphere forecasts. This provides a unique perspective into atmosphere–ocean interactions constrained by assimilated observations, allowing for the contrast of patterns of coupled processes across regions and the examination of processes affected by ocean mesoscale eddies. Correlations during the first 24 h of the coupled forecast between the ocean surface temperature and atmospheric variables, and between the ocean mixed layer depth and surface winds are examined as a function of region and season. Three distinct coupling regimes emerge: 1) regions characterized by strong sea surface temperature fronts, where uncertainty in the ocean mesoscale influences ocean–atmosphere exchanges; 2) regions with intense atmospheric convection over the tropical oceans, where uncertainty in the modeled atmospheric convection impacts the upper ocean; and 3) regions where the depth of the seasonal mixed layer (MLD) determines the magnitude of the coupling, which is stronger when the MLD is shallow and weaker when the MLD is deep. A comparison with models at lower horizontal (1/12° vs 1° and 1/4°) and vertical (1- vs 10-m depth of the first layer) ocean resolution reveals that coupling in the boundary currents, the tropical Indian Ocean, and the warm pool regions requires high levels of horizontal and vertical resolution. Implications for coupled data assimilation and short-term forecasting are discussed.

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Sean R. Santellanes, George S. Young, David J. Stensrud, Matthew R. Kumjian, and Ying Pan

Abstract

Typical environmental conditions associated with horizontal convective rolls (HCRs) and cellular convection have been known for over 50 years. Yet our ability to predict whether HCRs, cellular convection, or no discernable organized (null) circulation will occur within a well-mixed convective boundary layer based upon easily observed environmental variables has been limited. Herein, a large database of 50 cases each of HCR, cellular convection, and null events is created that includes observations of mean boundary layer wind and wind shear, boundary layer depth; surface observations of wind, temperature, and relative humidity; and estimates of surface sensible heat flux. Results from a multiclass linear discriminant analysis applied to these data indicate that environmental conditions can be useful in predicting whether HCRs, cellular convection, or no circulation occurs, with the analysis identifying the correct circulation type on 72% of the case days. This result is slightly better than using a mean convective boundary layer (CBL) wind speed of 6 m s−1 to discriminate between HCRs and cells. However, the mean CBL wind speed has no ability to further separate out cases with no CBL circulation. The key environmental variables suggested by the discriminant analysis are mean sensible heat flux, friction velocity, and the Obukhov length.

Open access
Zhenhai Zhang and F. Martin Ralph

Abstract

Some extratropical cyclones (ETC) begin their development in close proximity to a preexisting atmospheric river (AR). This study investigates the differences in the cyclogenesis stage between these cyclogenesis events and those that begin without an AR nearby. Well-established ETC and AR detection methods are applied to reanalysis over the North Pacific during the 1979–2009 cool seasons (November–March). Of the 3137 cyclogenesis cases detected, 35% are associated with a nearby AR at the time of initial cyclogenesis. Of all 448 cyclones that deepened explosively in the 24 h after their initiation, 60% began with a preexisting AR nearby. The roles of both dry and diabatic processes that contribute to cyclogenesis are examined, specifically, low-level baroclinicity, upper-level forcing, water vapor inflow, and latent heating. ETCs that develop associated with a preexisting AR receive nearly 80% more water vapor inflow on average, enhancing latent heating and intensifying cyclone deepening in the genesis stage. In contrast, neither low-level baroclinicity nor upper-level potential vorticity exhibit statistically significant differences between cyclogenesis events with and without an AR. Cyclogenesis events associated with an exceptionally strong AR at the ETC initial time deepen even more rapidly in the genesis stage, indicating that the intensity of an antecedent AR can modulate cyclogenesis. About half of the cyclogenesis cases off the U.S. West Coast are associated with ARs at their initial time. These results imply that errors in initial conditions related to ARs can contribute to errors in both AR and ETC predictions, as well as their concomitant impacts.

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Taylor B. Aydell and Craig B. Clements

ABSTRACT

Remote sensing techniques have been used to study and track wildfire smoke plume structure and evolution; however, knowledge gaps remain because of the limited availability of observational datasets aimed at understanding fine-scale fire–atmosphere interactions and plume microphysics. Meteorological radars have been used to investigate the evolution of plume rise in time and space, but highly resolved plume observations are limited. In this study, we present a new mobile millimeter-wave (Ka band) Doppler radar system acquired to sample the fine-scale kinematics and microphysical properties of active wildfire smoke plumes from both wildfires and large prescribed fires. Four field deployments were conducted in autumn of 2019 during two wildfires in California and one prescribed burn in Utah. Radar parameters investigated in this study include reflectivity, radial velocity, Doppler spectrum width, differential reflectivity Z DR, and copolarized correlation coefficient ρ HV. Observed radar reflectivity ranged between −15 and 20 dBZ in plume, and radial velocity ranged from 0 to 16 m s−1. Dual-polarimetric observations revealed that scattering sources within wildfire plumes are primarily nonspherical and oblate-shaped targets as indicated by Z DR values measuring above 0 and ρ HV values below 0.8 within the plume. Doppler spectrum width maxima were located near the updraft core region and were associated with radar reflectivity maxima.

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Ricardo Domingues, Matthieu Le Hénaff, George Halliwell, Jun A. Zhang, Francis Bringas, Patricia Chardon, Hyun-Sook Kim, Julio Morell, and Gustavo Goni

Abstract

Major Atlantic hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria of 2017 reached their peak intensity in September while traveling over the tropical North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, where both atmospheric and ocean conditions were favorable for intensification. In situ and satellite ocean observations revealed that conditions in these areas exhibited (i) sea surface temperatures above 28°C, (ii) upper-ocean heat content above 60 kJ cm−2, and (iii) the presence of low-salinity barrier layers associated with a larger-than-usual extension of the Amazon and Orinoco riverine plumes. Proof-of-concept coupled ocean–hurricane numerical model experiments demonstrated that the accurate representation of such ocean conditions led to an improvement in the simulated intensity of Hurricane Maria for the 3 days preceding landfall in Puerto Rico, when compared to an experiment without the assimilation of ocean observations. Without the assimilation of ocean observations, upper-ocean thermal conditions were generally colder than observations, resulting in reduced air–sea enthalpy fluxes—enthalpy fluxes are more realistically simulated when the upper-ocean temperature and salinity structure is better represented in the model. Our results further showed that different components of the ocean observing system provide valuable information in support of improved TC simulations, and that assimilation of underwater glider observations alone enabled the largest improvement over the 24 h time frame before landfall. Our results, therefore, indicated that ocean conditions were relevant for more realistically simulating Hurricane Maria’s intensity. However, further research based on a comprehensive set of hurricane cases is required to confirm robust improvements to forecast systems.

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Luke Phillipson, Yi Li, and Ralf Toumi

Abstract

The forecast of tropical cyclone (TC) intensity is a significant challenge. In this study, we showcase the impact of strongly coupled data assimilation with hypothetical ocean currents on analyses and forecasts of Typhoon Hato (2017). Several observation simulation system experiments (OSSE) were undertaken with a regional coupled ocean–atmosphere model. We assimilated combinations of (or individually) a hypothetical coastal current HF radar network, a dense array of drifter floats, and minimum sea level pressure. During the assimilation, instant updates of many important atmospheric variables (winds and pressure) are achieved from the assimilation of ocean current observations using the cross-domain error covariance, significantly improving the track and intensity analysis of Typhoon Hato. Relative to a control experiment (with no assimilation), the error of minimum pressure decreased by up to 13 hPa (4 hPa/57% on average). The maximum wind speed error decreased by up to 18 kt (5 kt/41% on average) (1 kt ≈ 0.5 m s−1). By contrast, weakly coupled implementations cannot match these reductions (10% on average). Although traditional atmospheric observations were not assimilated, such improvements indicate that there is considerable potential in assimilating ocean currents from coastal HF radar and surface drifters within a strongly coupled framework for intense landfalling TCs.

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Christopher D. McCray, John R. Gyakum, and Eyad H. Atallah

Abstract

Though prolonged freezing rain events are rare, they can result in substantial damage when they occur. While freezing rain occurs less frequently in the south-central United States than in some regions of North America, a large number of extremely long-duration events lasting at least 18 h have been observed there. We explore the key synoptic–dynamic conditions that lead to these extreme events through a comparison with less severe short-duration events. We produce synoptic–dynamic composites and 7-day backward trajectories for parcels ending in the warm and cold layers for each event category. The extremely long-duration events are preferentially associated with a deeper and more stationary 500-hPa longwave trough centered over the southwestern United States at event onset. This trough supports sustained flow of warm, moist air from within the planetary boundary layer over the Gulf of Mexico northward into the warm layer. The short-duration cases are instead characterized by a more transient upper-level trough axis centered over the south-central U.S. region at onset. Following event onset, rapid passage of the trough leads to quasigeostrophic forcing for descent and the advection of cold, dry air that erodes the warm layer and ends precipitation. While trajectories ending in the cold layer are very similar between the two categories, those ending in the warm layer have a longer history over the Gulf of Mexico in the extreme cases compared with the short-duration ones, resulting in warmer and moister onset warm layers.

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Xiaomin Chen, Ming Xue, Bowen Zhou, Juan Fang, Jun A. Zhang, and Frank D. Marks

Abstract

Horizontal grid spacings of numerical weather prediction models are rapidly approaching O (1 km) and have become comparable with the dominant length scales of flows in the boundary layer; within such “gray-zone”, conventional planetary boundary layer (PBL) parameterization schemes start to violate basic design assumptions. Scale-aware PBL schemes have been developed recently to address the gray-zone issue. By performing WRF simulations of Hurricane Earl (2010) at sub-kilometer grid spacings, this study investigates the effect of the scale-aware Shin-Hong (SH) scheme on the tropical cyclone (TC) intensification and structural changes in comparison to the non-scale-aware YSU scheme it is built upon. Results indicate that SH tends to produce a stronger TC with a more compact inner core than YSU. At early stages, the scale-aware coefficients in SH gradually decrease as the diagnosed boundary layer height exceeds the horizontal grid spacing. This scale-aware effect is most prominent for the nonlocal subgrid-scale vertical turbulent fluxes, in the non-precipitation regions radially outside of the convective rainband, and from the early stage through the middle of rapid intensification (RI) phase. Both the scale awareness and different parameterization of the nonlocal turbulent heat flux in SH reduce the parameterized vertical turbulent mixing, which further induces stronger radial inflows and helps retain more water vapor in the boundary layer. The resulting stronger moisture convergence and diabatic heating near the TC center account for the faster inner-core contraction before RI onset and the higher intensification rate during the RI period. Potential issues of applying these two PBL schemes in TC simulations and suggestions for improvements are discussed.

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