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

Abstract

Using data from the 6 July 2015 PECAN case study, this paper provides the first objective assessment of how the assimilation of ground-based remote sensing profilers affects the forecasts of bore-driven convection. To account for the multiscale nature of the phenomenon, data impacts are examined separately with respect to (i) the bore environment, (ii) the explicitly resolved bore, and (iii) the bore-initiated convection. The findings from this work suggest that remote sensing profiling instruments provide considerable advantages over conventional in situ observations, especially when the retrieved data are assimilated at a high temporal frequency. The clearest forecast improvements are seen in terms of the predicted bore environment where the assimilation of kinematic profilers reduces a preexisting bias in the structure of the low-level jet. Data impacts with respect to the other two forecast components are mixed in nature. While the assimilation of thermodynamic retrievals from the Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer (AERI) results in the best convective forecast, it also creates a positive bias in the height of the convectively generated bore. Conversely, the assimilation of wind profiler data improves the characteristics of the explicitly resolved bore, but tends to further exacerbate the lack of convection in the control forecasts. Various dynamical diagnostics utilized throughout this study provide a physical insight into the data impact results and demonstrate that a successful prediction of bore-driven convection requires an accurate depiction of the internal bore structure as well as the ambient environment ahead of it.

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David B. Parsons
,
Melvyn A. Shapiro
,
R. Michael Hardesty
,
Robert J. Zamora
, and
Janet M. Intrieri

Abstract

During spring and early summer, a surface confluence zone, often referred to as the dryline, forms in the midwestern United States between continental and maritime air masses. The dewpoint temperature across the dryline can vary in excess of 18°C in a distance of less than 10 km. The movement of the dryline varies diurnally with boundary layer growth over sloping terrain leading to an eastward apparent propagation of the dryline during the day and a westward advection or retrogression during the evening. In this study, we examine the finescale structure of a retrogressing, dryline using data taken by a Doppler lidar, a dual-channel radiometer, and serial rawinsonde ascents. While many previous studies were unable to accurately measure the vertical motions in the vicinity of the dryline, our lidar measurements suggest that the convergence at the dryline is intense with maximum vertical motions of ∼5 m s−1. The winds obtained from the Doppler lidar Measurements were combined with the equations of motion to derive perturbation fields of pressure and virtual potential temperature θ v . Our observations indicate that the circulations associated with this retrogressing dryline were dominated by hot, dry air riding over a westward moving denser, moist flow in a manner similar to a density current. Gravity waves were observed above the dryline interface. Previous observational and numerical studies have shown that differential heating across the dryline may sometimes enhance regional pressure gradients and thus impact dryline movement. We propose that this regional gradient in surface heating in the presence of a confluent flow results in observed intense wind shifts and large horizontal gradients in θ v across the dryline. The local gradient in θ v influences the movement and flow characteristics of the dryline interface. This study is one of the most complete and novel uses of Doppler lidar to date.

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Robert A. Houze Jr.
,
Peter V. Hobbs
,
David B. Parsons
, and
Paul H. Herzegh

Abstract

No Abstract.

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Robert A. Houze Jr.
,
Peter V. Hobbs
,
Paul H. Herzegh
, and
David B. Parsons

Abstract

Measurements of the size spectra of precipitation particles have been made with Particle Measuring Systems probes aboard an aircraft flying through frontal clouds as part of the CYCLES (Cyclonic Extra-tropical Storms) PROJECT. These measurements were obtained while the aircraft flew through the clouds associated with mesoscale rainbands at temperatures ranging from −42 to +6°C. Particles ≳1.5 mm in diameter closely follow an exponential size distribution. Above the melting level precipitation occurs mainly in the form of ice particles. In this region the mean particle size of the exponential distribution increases with increasing temperature, indicating that the ice particles grow as they drift downward. The variance of the exponential distribution also increases with increasing temperature above the melting level, indicating that the particles grow particularly well by collection as they fall at various speeds. Passage of the failing particles through the melting level is accompanied by a sudden decrease in the mean and variance of the exponential size distribution.

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Ashton Robinson Cook
,
Lance M. Leslie
,
David B. Parsons
, and
Joseph T. Schaefer

Abstract

In recent years, the potential of seasonal outlooks for tornadoes has attracted the attention of researchers. Previous studies on this topic have focused mainly on the influence of global circulation patterns [e.g., El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), North Atlantic Oscillation, or Pacific decadal oscillation] on spring tornadoes. However, these studies have yielded conflicting results of the roles of these climate drivers on tornado intensity and frequency. The present study seeks to establish linkages between ENSO and tornado outbreaks over the United States during winter and early spring. These linkages are established in two ways: 1) statistically, by relating raw counts of tornadoes in outbreaks (defined as six or more tornadoes in a 24-h period in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains), and their destructive potential, to sea surface temperature anomalies observed in the Niño-3.4 region, and 2) qualitatively, by relating ENSO to shifts in synoptic-scale atmospheric phenomena that contribute to tornado outbreaks. The latter approach is critical for interpreting the statistical relationships, thereby avoiding the deficiencies in a few of the previous studies that did not provide physical explanations relating ENSO to shifts in tornado activity. The results suggest that shifts in tornado occurrence are clearly related to ENSO. In particular, La Niña conditions consistently foster more frequent and intense tornado activity in comparison with El Niño, particularly at higher latitudes. Furthermore, it is found that tornado activity changes are tied not only to the location and intensity of the subtropical jet during individual outbreaks but also to the positions of surface cyclones, low-level jet streams, and instability axes.

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Kevin E. Trenberth
,
Aiguo Dai
,
Roy M. Rasmussen
, and
David B. Parsons

From a societal, weather, and climate perspective, precipitation intensity, duration, frequency, and phase are as much of concern as total amounts, as these factors determine the disposition of precipitation once it hits the ground and how much runs off. At the extremes of precipitation incidence are the events that give rise to floods and droughts, whose changes in occurrence and severity have an enormous impact on the environment and society. Hence, advancing understanding and the ability to model and predict the character of precipitation is vital but requires new approaches to examining data and models. Various mechanisms, storms and so forth, exist to bring about precipitation. Because the rate of precipitation, conditional on when it falls, greatly exceeds the rate of replenishment of moisture by surface evaporation, most precipitation comes from moisture already in the atmosphere at the time the storm begins, and transport of moisture by the storm-scale circulation into the storm is vital. Hence, the intensity of precipitation depends on available moisture, especially for heavy events. As climate warms, the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, which is governed by the Clausius–Clapeyron equation, is expected to rise much faster than the total precipitation amount, which is governed by the surface heat budget through evaporation. This implies that the main changes to be experienced are in the character of precipitation: increases in intensity must be offset by decreases in duration or frequency of events. The timing, duration, and intensity of precipitation can be systematically explored via the diurnal cycle, whose correct simulation in models remains an unsolved challenge of vital importance in global climate change. Typical problems include the premature initiation of convection, and precipitation events that are too light and too frequent. These challenges in observations, modeling, and understanding precipitation changes are being taken up in the NCAR “Water Cycle Across Scales” initiative, which will exploit the diurnal cycle as a test bed for a hierarchy of models to promote improvements in models.

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David B. Parsons
,
Kevin R. Haghi
,
Kelton T. Halbert
,
Blake Elmer
, and
Junhong Wang

Abstract

This investigation explores the relationship among bores, gravity waves, and convection within the nocturnal environment through the utilization of measurements taken during the International H2O Project (IHOP_2002) over the Southern Great Plains. The most favorable conditions for deep convection were found to occur within the boundary layer during the late afternoon and early evening hours in association with the diurnal cycle of solar insolation. At night, the layers most favorable for deep convection occur at and above the height of the nocturnal southerly low-level jet in association with distinct maxima in both the southerly and westerly components of the wind. Observations taken during the passage of 13 nocturnal wave disturbances over a comprehensive profiling site show the average maximum and net upward displacements with these waves were estimated to be ~900 and ~660 m, respectively. The lifting was not limited to the stable boundary layer, but reached into the conditionally unstable layers aloft. Since the net upward displacements persisted for many hours as the disturbances propagated away from the convection, areas well in excess of 10 000 km2 are likely impacted by this ascent. This lifting can directly maintain existing convection and aid in the initiation of new convection by reducing the convective inhibition in the vicinity of the active convection. In agreement with past studies, strong ascent in the lowest ~1.5 km was generally consistent with the passage of a bore. However, separate wave responses also occurred well above the bores, and low-frequency gravity waves may explain such disturbances.

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Samuel P. Lillo
,
Steven M. Cavallo
,
David B. Parsons
, and
Christopher Riedel

Abstract

An extreme Arctic cold air outbreak took place across the Midwest, Great Lakes, and Northeast during 29 January to 1 February 2019. The event broke numerous long-standing records with wide-reaching and detrimental societal impacts. This study found that this rare and dangerous cold air outbreak (CAO) was a direct consequence of a tropopause polar vortex (TPV) originating at high latitudes and subsequently tracking southward into the United States. The tropopause depression at the center of this TPV extended nearly to the surface. Simulations using the atmospheric component of the Model for Prediction Across Scales (MPAS) were conducted, revealing excellent predictability at 6–7-day lead times with the strength, timing, and location of the CAO linked to the earlier characteristics of the TPV over the Arctic. Within the middle latitudes, the TPV subsequently developed a tilt with height. Warming and the destruction of potential vorticity also took place as the TPV passed over the Great Lakes initiating a lake-effect snow storm. The climatological investigation of CAOs suggests that TPVs frequently play a role in CAOs over North America with a TPV located within 1000 km of a CAO 85% of the time. These TPVs tended to originate in the northern Canadian Arctic and are ejected equatorward into the Great Lakes/Upper Midwest and then to the Northeast over Labrador. This study also provides insight into how the impact of Arctic circulations on middle latitudes may vary within the framework of a rapidly changing Arctic.

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Hristo G. Chipilski
,
Xuguang Wang
,
David B. Parsons
,
Aaron Johnson
, and
Samuel K. Degelia

Abstract

There is a growing interest in the use of ground-based remote sensors for numerical weather prediction, which is sparked by their potential to address the currently existing observation gap within the planetary boundary layer. Nevertheless, open questions still exist regarding the relative importance of and synergy among various instruments. To shed light on these important questions, the present study examines the forecast benefits associated with several different ground-based profiling networks using 10 diverse cases from the Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field campaign. Aggregated verification statistics reveal that a combination of in situ and remote sensing profilers leads to the largest increase in forecast skill, in terms of both the parent mesoscale convective system and the explicitly resolved bore. These statistics also indicate that it is often advantageous to collocate thermodynamic and kinematic remote sensors. By contrast, the impacts of networks consisting of single profilers appear to be flow-dependent, with thermodynamic (kinematic) remote sensors being most useful in cases with relatively low (high) convective predictability. Deficiencies in the data assimilation method as well as inherent complexities in the governing moisture dynamics are two factors that can further limit the forecast value extracted from such networks.

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Benjamin T. Blake
,
David B. Parsons
,
Kevin R. Haghi
, and
Stephen G. Castleberry

Abstract

Previous studies have documented a nocturnal maximum in thunderstorm frequency during the summer across the central United States. Forecast skill for these systems remains relatively low and the explanation for this nocturnal maximum is still an area of active debate. This study utilized the WRF-ARW Model to simulate a nocturnal mesoscale convective system that occurred over the southern Great Plains on 3–4 June 2013. A low-level jet transported a narrow corridor of air above the nocturnal boundary layer with convective instability that exceeded what was observed in the daytime boundary layer. The storm was elevated and associated with bores that assisted in the maintenance of the system. Three-dimensional variations in the system’s structure were found along the cold pool, which were examined using convective system dynamics and wave theory. Shallow lifting occurred on the southern flank of the storm. Conversely, the southeastern flank had deep lifting, with favorable integrated vertical shear over the layer of maximum CAPE. The bore assisted in transporting high-CAPE air toward its LFC, and the additional lifting by the density current allowed for deep convection to occur. The bore was not coupled to the convective system and it slowly pulled away, while the convection remained in phase with the density current. These results provide a possible explanation for how convection is maintained at night in the presence of a low-level jet and a stable boundary layer, and emphasize the importance of the three-dimensionality of these systems.

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