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Reuben Demirdjian
Richard Rotunno
Bruce D. Cornuelle
Carolyn A. Reynolds
, and
James D. Doyle


An analysis of the influence and sensitivity of moisture in an idealized two-dimensional moist semigeostrophic frontogenesis model is presented. A comparison between a dry (relative humidity RH = 0%) version and a moist (RH = 80%) version of the model demonstrates that the impact of moisture is to increase frontogenesis, strengthen the transverse circulation (u ag, w), generate a low-level potential-vorticity anomaly, and develop a low-level jet. The idealized model is compared with a real case simulated with the full-physics three-dimensional Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS) model, establishing good agreement and thereby confirming that the idealized model retains the essential physical processes relevant for improving understanding of midlatitude frontogenesis. Optimal perturbations of mixing ratio are calculated to quantify the circulation response of the model through the computation of singular vectors, which determines the fastest-growing modes of a linearized version of the idealized model. The vertical velocity is found to respond strongly to initial-condition mixing-ratio perturbations such that small changes in moisture lead to large changes in the ascent. The progression of physical processes responsible for this nonlinear growth is (in order) jet/front transverse circulation → moisture convergence ahead of the front → latent heating at mid- to low elevations → reduction in static stability ahead of the front → strengthening of the transverse circulation, and the feedback cycle repeats. Together, these physical processes represent a pathway by which small perturbations of moisture can have a strong impact on a forecast involving midlatitude frontogenesis.

Open access