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Nancy E. Westcott
and
David A. R. Kristovich

Abstract

This study focuses on dense fog cases that develop in association with low clouds and sometimes precipitation. A climatology of weather conditions associated with dense fog at Peoria, Illinois, for October–March 1970–94 indicated that fog forming in the presence of low clouds is common, in 57% of all events. For events associated with low pressure systems, low clouds precede dense fog in 84% of cases. Therefore, continental fogs often do not form under the clear-sky conditions that have received the most attention in the literature. Surface cooling is usually observed prior to fog on clear nights. With low cloud bases, warming or no change in temperature is frequent. Thus, fog often forms under conditions that are not well understood, increasing the difficulty of forecasting fog. The possible mechanisms for fog development under low cloud-base conditions were explored for an event when dense fog covered much of Illinois on 7 November 2006. Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) and rawinsonde observations indicated that evaporating precipitation aloft was important in moistening the lower atmosphere. Dense fog occurred about 6 h following light precipitation at the surface. The surface was nearly saturated following precipitation, but relative cooling was needed to overcome weak warm air advection and supersaturate the lower atmosphere. Surface (2 m) temperatures were near or slightly cooler than ground temperatures in most of the region, suggesting surface sensible heat fluxes were not important in this relative cooling. Sounding data indicated drying of the atmosphere above 800 hPa. Infrared satellite imagery indicated deep clouds associated with a low pressure system moved east of Illinois by early morning, leaving only low clouds. It is hypothesized that radiational cooling of the low cloud layer was instrumental in promoting the early morning dense fog.

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Faye E. Barthold
and
David A. R. Kristovich

Abstract

While the total snowfall produced in lake-effect storms can be considerable, little is known about how clouds and snow evolve within lake-effect boundary layers. Data collected over Lake Michigan on 10 January 1998 during the Lake-Induced Convection Experiment (Lake-ICE) are analyzed to better understand and quantify the evolution of clouds and snow. On this date, relatively cold air flowed from west to east across Lake Michigan, creating a quasi-steady-state boundary layer that increased from ≈675 to ≈910 m in depth over a distance of 80 km. Once a cloud deck formed 14–18 km from the upwind shoreline, maximum cloud particle concentrations and liquid water content increased from west to east across the lake. Correspondingly, maximum ice water contents, snowfall rates, and maximum snow particle diameters also increased across the lake. Maximum particle concentrations were found below the mean top of the boundary layer and above the cloud base for both cloud and snow particles.

Surprisingly, snow particles were observed 3–7 km upwind of the upwind edge of the lake-effect cloud deck. These snow particles were observed to be rather spatially uniform throughout the boundary layer. Based on available observations, it is hypothesized that of the mechanisms that could produce this snow, the majority of it originated from transient clouds located near the upwind shore. In addition, maximum snow particle concentrations peaked near the middle of the lake before decreasing toward the downwind shore, indicating the location after which aggregation became an important snow growth mechanism. These results show that the evolution of clouds and snow within lake-effect boundary layers may not occur in the uniform manner often depicted in conceptual models.

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David A. R. Kristovich
and
Neil F. Laird

Abstract

Large spatial and temporal variations were observed in the location of the upwind cloud edge over Lake Michigan during five westerly wind lake-effect events in November 1995 through January 1996. This study examines the impacts of variations of Lake Michigan surface water temperatures (and corresponding surface fluxes) and upwind static stability on the location of the upwind edge of lake-effect clouds, which develop as cold air crosses the lake during the winter. Data used in this study were collected during the 1995/96 National Weather Service Lake-Effect Snow study. Spatial variations in the location of the upwind lake-effect cloud edge are shown to be related to spatial variations in surface heat and moisture fluxes between the lake surface and overlying air. Surface fluxes are influenced by both the distribution of lake surface water temperatures and variations of surface wind speed, air temperature, and relative humidity. Temporal variations of heat and moisture fluxes from the lake surface and low-level static stability upwind of the lake correlate well with changes in locations of the upwind lake-effect cloud edge. In general, increases in total flux over a particular period tended to correspond with westward change in the position of the upwind cloud edge, whereas decreases in total flux corresponded to eastward shifts of the upwind cloud edge. Atmospheric static stability below the upwind inversion was found to be more important than the inversion height in controlling the location of the upwind cloud edge over the lake, with increases in stability corresponding to eastward shifts in its location.

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David A. R. Kristovich
,
Neil F. Laird
, and
Mark R. Hjelmfelt

Abstract

Lake-effect snowstorms generally develop within convective boundary layers, which are induced when cold air flows over relatively warm lakes in fall and winter. Mesoscale circulations within the boundary layers largely control which communities near the downwind shores of the lakes receive the most intense snow. The lack of quantitative observations over the lakes during lake-effect storms limits the ability to fully understand and predict these mesoscale circulations. This study provides the first observations of the concurrent spatial and temporal evolution of the thermodynamic and microphysical boundary layer structure and mesoscale convective patterns across Lake Michigan during an intense lake-effect event. Observations analyzed in this study were taken during the Lake-Induced Convection Experiment (Lake-ICE).

Aircraft and sounding observations indicate that the lake-effect snows of 13 January 1998 developed within a convective boundary layer that grew rapidly across Lake Michigan. Boundary layer clouds developed within 15 km and snow developed within 30 km of the upwind (western) shoreline. Near the downwind shore, cloud cover was extensive and snow nearly filled the boundary layer. Extensive sea smoke in the surface layer, with disorganized (or cellular) and linear features, was observed visually across the entire lake. Over portions of northern Lake Michigan, where airborne dual-Doppler radar observations were obtained, the mesoscale circulation structure remained disorganized (random or cellular) across the lake. Given observed shear and stability conditions in this region, this structure is consistent with past theoretical and numerical modeling results. To the south, where surface winds were slightly stronger and lake–air temperature differences were less, wind-parallel bands indicative of rolls were often present.

The horizontal scale of the observed mesoscale convective structures grew across Lake Michigan, in agreement with most previous studies, but less rapidly than the increase of the boundary layer depth. The decreasing ratio of convective horizontal size to boundary layer depth (aspect ratio) is contrary to many recent studies that found a positive correlation between boundary layer depth and aspect ratio.

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Mathieu R. Gerbush
,
David A. R. Kristovich
, and
Neil F. Laird

Abstract

The development of extensive pack ice fields on the Great Lakes significantly influences lake-effect storms and local airmass modification, as well as the regional hydrologic cycle and lake water levels. The evolution of the ice fields and their impacts on the atmospheric boundary layer complicates weather forecasters’ ability to accurately predict late-season lake-effect snows. The Great Lakes Ice Cover–Atmospheric Flux (GLICAF) experiment was conducted over Lake Erie during February 2004 to investigate the surface–atmosphere exchanges that occur over midlatitude ice-covered lakes. GLICAF observations taken by the University of Wyoming King Air on 26 February 2004 show a strong mesoscale thermal link between the lake surface and the overlying atmospheric boundary layer. Mesoscale atmospheric variations that developed over the lake in turn influenced heat exchanges with the surface. Boundary layer sensible and latent heat fluxes exhibited different relationships to variations in surface pack ice concentration. Turbulent sensible heat fluxes decreased nonlinearly with increases in underlying lake-surface ice concentration such that the largest decreases occurred when ice concentrations were greater than 70%. Latent heat fluxes tended to decrease linearly with increasing ice concentration and had a reduced correlation. Most current operational numerical weather prediction models use simple algorithms to represent the influence of heterogeneous ice cover on heat and moisture fluxes. The GLICAF findings from 26 February 2004 suggest that some currently used and planned approaches in numerical weather prediction models may significantly underestimate sensible heat fluxes in regions of high-concentration ice cover, leading to underpredictions of the local modification of air masses and lake-effect snows.

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Yarice Rodriguez
,
David A. R. Kristovich
, and
Mark R. Hjelmfelt

Abstract

Premodification of the atmosphere by upwind lakes is known to influence lake-effect snowstorm intensity and locations over downwind lakes. This study highlights perhaps the most visible manifestation of the link between convection over two or more of the Great Lakes lake-to-lake (L2L) cloud bands. Emphasis is placed on L2L cloud bands observed in high-resolution satellite imagery on 2 December 2003. These L2L cloud bands developed over Lake Superior and were modified as they passed over Lakes Michigan and Erie and intervening land areas. This event is put into a longer-term context through documentation of the frequency with which lake-effect and, particularly, L2L cloud bands occurred over a 5-yr time period over different areas of the Great Lakes region.

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Joshua J. Schroeder
,
David A. R. Kristovich
, and
Mark R. Hjelmfelt

Abstract

The first detailed observations of the interaction of a synoptic cyclone with a lake-effect convective boundary layer (CBL) were obtained on 5 December 1997 during the Lake-Induced Convection Experiment. Lake-effect precipitation and CBL growth rates were enhanced by natural seeding by snow from higher-level clouds and the modified thermodynamic structure of the air over Lake Michigan due to the cyclone. In situ aircraft observations, project and operational rawinsondes, airborne radar, and operational Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler data were utilized to document the CBL and precipitation structure for comparison with past nonenhanced lake-effect events. Despite modest surface heat fluxes of 100–200 W m−2, cross-lake CBL growth was greatly accelerated as the convection merged with an overlying reduced-stability layer. Over midlake areas, CBL growth rates averaged more than twice those previously reported for lake-effect and oceanic cold-air outbreak situations. Regions of the lake-effect CBL cloud deck were seeded by precipitation from higher-level clouds over the upwind (western) portions of Lake Michigan before the CBL merged with the overlying reduced-stability layer. In situ aircraft observations suggest that in seeded regions, the CBL was deeper than in nonseeded regions. In addition, average water-equivalent precipitation rates for all of the passes with seeded regions were more than an order of magnitude greater in seeded regions than nonseeded regions because of higher concentration of snow particles of all sizes. A maximum snowfall rate of 4.28 mm day−1 was calculated using aircraft particle observations in seeded regions, comparable to snowfall rates previously reported for lake-effect events, often with much larger surface heat fluxes, but not interacting with synoptic cyclones.

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Joseph A. Grim
,
Neil F. Laird
, and
David A. R. Kristovich
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Neil F. Laird
,
David A. R. Kristovich
, and
John E. Walsh

Abstract

An array of 35 idealized mesoscale model simulations was used to examine environmental and surface forcing factors controlling the meso-β-scale circulation structure resulting from cold flow over an isolated axisymmetric body of water at the midlatitudes. Wind speed, lake–air temperature difference, ambient atmospheric stability, and fetch distance were varied across previously observed ranges. Simulated meso-β-scale lake-effect circulations occurred within three basic regimes (e.g., vortices, shoreline bands, widespread coverage), similar to observed morphological regimes. The current study found that the morphological regimes of lake-effect circulations can be predicted using the ratio of wind speed to maximum fetch distance (U/L). Lake-effect environmental conditions producing low values of U/L (i.e., approximately < 0.02 m s−1 km−1) resulted in a mesoscale vortex circulation. Conditions leading to U/L values between about 0.02 and 0.09 m s−1 km−1 resulted in the development of a shoreline band, and U/L values greater than approximately 0.09 m s−1 km−1 produced a widespread coverage event. It was found that transitions from one morphological regime to another are continuous and within transitional zones the structure of a circulation may contain structural features characteristic of more than one regime. Results show that 1) the U/L criterion effectively classifies the morphology independently of the lake–air temperature difference for the parameter value combinations examined and 2) the Froude number, suggested as a potential lake-effect forecasting tool in previous studies, does not permit the unique classification of lake-effect morphology.

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Neil F. Laird
,
L. Jay Miller
, and
David A. R. Kristovich

Abstract

This article presents a detailed examination of the kinematic structure and evolution of the 5 December 1997 winter mesoscale vortex in the vicinity of Lake Michigan using the synthetic dual-Doppler (SDD) technique. When such a mesoscale event propagates a distance large enough that the viewing angle from a single-Doppler radar changes by about 30° and the circulation is sufficiently steady during this time period, then the SDD method can reveal reliable details about the circulation. One such detail of the observed vortex was a pattern of convergence and divergence associated with radial bands, where heavier snowfall was located. Another was the steadiness and vertical coherence of the derived vorticity and convergence patterns within the cyclonic circulation.

On 5 December 1997, the observed reflectivity field remained remarkably steady for nearly 2.5 h as the vortex moved southeastward allowing for the application of the SDD technique. The reflectivity field exhibited a pronounced asymmetric convective structure with at least three well-defined, inward-spiraling radial snowbands, and a distinct weak-reflectivity region or “eye” near the center of cyclonic circulation. The SDD results showed the vortex circulation was composed of a combination of rotation on the meso-β scale and convergence on the meso-γ scale associated with the embedded radial snowbands. Vertical profiles of derived meso-β-scale, area-mean convergence and vorticity suggest that this winter vortex was likely a warm-core system, similar to both tropical cyclones and polar lows.

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