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Françoise Guichard
,
David B. Parsons
,
Jimy Dudhia
, and
James Bresch

Abstract

This study evaluates the predictions of radiative and cloud-related processes of the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5). It is based on extensive comparison of three-dimensional forecast runs with local data from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Southern Great Plains (SGP) site collected at the Central Facility in Lamont, Oklahoma, over a seasonal timescale. Time series are built from simulations performed every day from 15 April to 23 June 1998 with a 10-km horizontal resolution. For the one single column centered on this site, a reasonable agreement is found between observed and simulated precipitation and surface fields time series. Indeed, the model is able to reproduce the timing and vertical extent of most major cloudy events, as revealed by radiative flux measurements, radar, and lidar data. The model encounters more difficulty with the prediction of cirrus and shallow clouds whereas deeper and long-lasting systems are much better captured. Day-to-day fluctuations of surface radiative fluxes, mostly explained by cloud cover changes, are similar in simulations and observations. Nevertheless, systematic differences have been identified. The downward longwave flux is overestimated under moist clear sky conditions. It is shown that the bias disappears with more sophisticated parameterizations such as Rapid Radiative Transfer Model (RRTM) and Community Climate Model, version 2 (CCM2) radiation schemes. The radiative impact of aerosols, not taken into account by the model, explains some of the discrepancies found under clear sky conditions. The differences, small compared to the short timescale variability, can reach up to 30 W m−2 on a 24-h timescale.

Overall, these results contribute to strengthen confidence in the realism of mesoscale forecast simulations. They also point out model weaknesses that may affect regional climate simulations: representation of low clouds, cirrus, and aerosols. Yet, the results suggest that these finescale simulations are appropriate for investigating parameterizations of cloud microphysics and radiative properties, as cloud timing and vertical extension are both reasonably captured.

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Peng-Yun Wang
,
David B. Parsons
, and
Peter V. Hobbs

Abstract

The cloud and precipitation structure and the airflow associated with wavelike rainbands in a cold-frontal zone have been investigated with Doppler radar, instrumented aircraft, rawinsondes and a network of ground stations. The rainbands were oriented perpendicular to the cold front and embedded within wide cold-frontal rainbands. The wavelike rainbands were 20–40 km long, 3–6 km wide, spaced 9–13 km apart and their tops ranged from 3-5 km in height. The radar reflectivities, convergence/divergence and airflow show regular patterns associated with the rainbands.

There is evidence that wavelike rainbands were associated with generating cells aloft. These rainbands may have been initiated by shear instability in the frontal zone, since the resonant mode for such an instability had a similar orientation, movement and spacing to those observed for the rainbands.

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David B. Parsons
,
Carl G. Mohr
, and
Tzvi Gal-Chen

Abstract

Pressure, buoyancy and virtual potential temperature perturbations are calculated from wind fields derived from Doppler radar data taken in a surface cold front. The dynamics of the front are similar to a density current This hypothesis is also suggested by accompanying numerical simulations of cold air outflows. The updraft at the leading edge of the cold air mass is maintained in conjunction with an upward directed pressure force. The average maximum updraft is in excess of 7 m s−1 without any appreciable potential instability present in the “undisturbed” warm-sector sounding.

The buoyancy and virtual potential temperature data reveal a front with a substantial fraction of the cooling taking place within the first 2 km of a frontal zone. Thus, the aspect ratio (width/depth) of the front, even after the filtering associated with the interpolation and retrieval process, is slightly less than one. The frontogenesis for the shear in the along-front wind and the thermal gradient are discussed. The gradient of these quantities in the lower levels is maintained by confluence and eventually destroyed by tilting of the gradients into the horizontal. The thermal fields are locally influenced by diabatic processes in the frontal updraft and behind the front. The cooling taking place in the cold air is apparently related to evaporation and melting of hydrormeteors. The virtual potential temperature reduction with this cooling is in excess of 0.5 K.

Considerable along-front variations in the pressure, wind, and precipitation field occur due to the presence of a 13-km wave. These variations in the wind field are due to the influence of the waves of the rate of frontogenesis experienced by a parcel as it moves through the frontal zone. The primary factor for the changes in frontogenesis in the direction parallel to the surface front is the variation in the confluence term.

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Alan Shapiro
,
Joshua G. Gebauer
, and
David B. Parsons

Abstract

An analytical model is presented for the generation of a Blackadar-like nocturnal low-level jet in a broad baroclinic zone. The flow is forced from below (flat ground) by a surface buoyancy gradient and from above (free atmosphere) by a constant pressure gradient force. Diurnally varying mixing coefficients are specified to increase abruptly at sunrise and decrease abruptly at sunset. With attention restricted to a surface buoyancy that varies linearly with a horizontal coordinate, the Boussinesq-approximated equations of motion, thermal energy, and mass conservation reduce to a system of one-dimensional equations that can be solved analytically. Sensitivity tests with southerly jets suggest that (i) stronger jets are associated with larger decreases of the eddy viscosity at sunset (as in Blackadar theory); (ii) the nighttime surface buoyancy gradient has little impact on jet strength; and (iii) for pure baroclinic forcing (no free-atmosphere geostrophic wind), the nighttime eddy diffusivity has little impact on jet strength, but the daytime eddy diffusivity is very important and has a larger impact than the daytime eddy viscosity. The model was applied to a jet that developed in fair weather conditions over the Great Plains from southern Texas to northern South Dakota on 1 May 2020. The ECMWF Reanalysis v5 (ERA5) for the afternoon prior to jet formation showed that a broad north–south-oriented baroclinic zone covered much of the region. The peak model-predicted winds were in good agreement with ERA5 winds and lidar data from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Southern Great Plains (SGP) central facility in north-central Oklahoma.

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Samuel P. Lillo
,
David B. Parsons
, and
Malaquias Peña

Abstract

A major winter storm took place over Mexico during 7 to 11 March 2016, impacting 28 states and leaving four million families without power. Extensive agricultural damage and livestock deaths were also reported with widespread snow across central and northern Mexico. North of the border, this system resulted in record-breaking flooding and severe weather in Texas and Louisiana. The event was due to a trough that deepened and cut off over central Mexico with 500-hPa heights that were nine standard deviations below normal, well beyond previous records! Motivated by the societal impacts of this event, this study investigates factors that contributed to the extreme trough and influenced its predictability in forecast models. A strong El Niño provided the antecedent conditions, with enhanced tropical convection over the central Pacific, a strengthened subtropical anticyclone, and poleward Rossby wave dispersion. However, unlike past strong El Niños, the North Pacific preceding this event was characterized by significant synoptic-scale Rossby wave activity on the midlatitude jet stream including multiple wave packets tracking around the globe during February and March. The interaction of one of these packets with the subtropical anticyclone aloft resulted in a large anticyclonic wave break over the east Pacific, leading to the amplification of the downstream trough over Mexico. The ability of numerical weather prediction to capture this extreme trough is directly related to the predictability of the Rossby wave packet. These results are also discussed within the context of the relationship between El Niño, Rossby wave activity, and extreme events in western North America.

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Tian-You Yu
,
David Parsons
,
Eiichi Nakakita
,
Toshitaka Tsuda
, and
Hirohiko Ishikawa
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Aaron Johnson
,
Xuguang Wang
,
Kevin R. Haghi
, and
David B. Parsons

Abstract

This paper presents a case study from an intensive observing period (IOP) during the Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field experiment that was focused on a bore generated by nocturnal convection. Observations from PECAN IOP 25 on 11 July 2015 are used to evaluate the performance of high-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting Model forecasts, initialized using the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation (GSI)-based ensemble Kalman filter. The focus is on understanding model errors and sensitivities in order to guide forecast improvements for bores associated with nocturnal convection. Model simulations of the bore amplitude are compared against eight retrieved vertical cross sections through the bore during the IOP. Sensitivities of forecasts to microphysics and planetary boundary layer (PBL) parameterizations are also investigated. Forecasts initialized before the bore pulls away from the convection show a more realistic bore than forecasts initialized later from analyses of the bore itself, in part due to the smoothing of the existing bore in the ensemble mean. Experiments show that the different microphysics schemes impact the quality of the simulations with unrealistically weak cold pools and bores with the Thompson and Morrison microphysics schemes, cold pools too strong with the WDM6 and more accurate with the WSM6 schemes. Most PBL schemes produced a realistic bore response to the cold pool, with the exception of the Mellor–Yamada–Nakanishi–Niino (MYNN) scheme, which creates too much turbulent mixing atop the bore. A new method of objectively estimating the depth of the near-surface stable layer corresponding to a simple two-layer model is also introduced, and the impacts of turbulent mixing on this estimate are discussed.

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Hristo G. Chipilski
,
Xuguang Wang
, and
David B. Parsons

Abstract

A novel object-based algorithm capable of identifying and tracking convective outflow boundaries in convection-allowing numerical models is presented in this study. The most distinct feature of the proposed algorithm is its ability to seamlessly analyze numerically simulated density currents and bores, both of which play an important role in the dynamics of nocturnal convective systems. The unified identification and classification of these morphologically different phenomena is achieved through a multivariate approach combined with appropriate image processing techniques. The tracking component of the algorithm utilizes two dynamical constraints, which improve the object association results in comparison to methods based on statistical assumptions alone. Special attention is placed on some of the outstanding challenges regarding the formulation of the algorithm and possible ways to address those in future research. Apart from describing the technical details behind the algorithm, this study also introduces specific algorithm applications relevant to the analysis and prediction of bores. These applications are illustrated for a retrospective case study simulated with a convection-allowing ensemble prediction system. The paper highlights how the newly developed algorithm tools naturally form a foundation for understanding the initiation, structure, and evolution of bores and convective systems in the nocturnal environment.

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Manda B. Chasteen
,
Steven E. Koch
, and
David B. Parsons

Abstract

Nocturnal mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) frequently develop over the Great Plains in the presence of a nocturnal low-level jet (LLJ), which contributes to convective maintenance by providing a source of instability, convergence, and low-level vertical wind shear. Although these nocturnal MCSs often dissipate during the morning, many persist into the following afternoon despite the cessation of the LLJ with the onset of solar heating. The environmental factors enabling the postsunrise persistence of nocturnal convection are currently not well understood. A thorough investigation into the processes supporting the longevity and daytime persistence of an MCS was conducted using routine observations, RAP analyses, and a WRF-ARW simulation. Elevated nocturnal convection developed in response to enhanced frontogenesis, which quickly grew upscale into a severe quasi-linear convective system (QLCS). The western portion of this QLCS reorganized into a bow echo with a pronounced cold pool and ultimately an organized leading-line, trailing-stratiform MCS as it moved into an increasingly unstable environment. Differential advection resulting from the interaction of the nocturnal LLJ with the topography of west Texas established considerable heterogeneity in moisture, CAPE, and CIN, which influenced the structure and evolution of the MCS. An inland-advected moisture plume significantly increased near-surface CAPE during the nighttime over central Texas, while the environment over southeastern Texas abruptly destabilized following the commencement of surface heating and downward moisture transport. The unique topography of the southern plains and the close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico provided an environment conducive to the postsunrise persistence of the organized MCS.

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Kevin R. Haghi
,
David B. Parsons
, and
Alan Shapiro

Abstract

This study documents atmospheric bores and other convergent boundaries in the southern Great Plains’ nocturnal environment during the IHOP_2002 summer campaign. Observational evidence demonstrates that convective outflows routinely generate bores. Statistically resampled flow regimes, derived from an adaptation of hydraulic theory, agree well with observations. Specifically, convective outflows within the observed environments are likely to produce a partially blocked flow regime, which is a favorable condition for generating a bore. Once a bore develops, the direction of movement generally follows the orientation of the bulk shear vector between the nose of the nocturnal low-level jet and a height of 1.5 or 2.5 km AGL. This relationship is believed to be a consequence of wave trapping through the curvature of the horizontal wind with respect to height. This conclusion comes after analyzing the profile of the Scorer parameter. Overall, these findings provide an impetus for future investigations aimed at understanding and predicting nocturnal deep convection over this region.

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