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Justin R. Minder, W. Massey Bartolini, Christopher Spence, Newell R. Hedstrom, Peter D. Blanken, and John D. Lenters


Lake-effect snow (LeS) storms are driven by strong turbulent surface layer (SL) and planetary boundary layer (PBL) fluxes of heat and moisture caused by the flow of cold air over relatively warm water. To investigate the sensitivity of simulated LeS to the parameterization of SL and PBL turbulence, high-resolution simulations of two major storms, downwind of Lakes Superior and Ontario, are conducted using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model. Multischeme and parameter sensitivity experiments are conducted. Measurements of overlake fluxes and downwind snowfall are used to evaluate the simulations. Consistent with previous studies, LeS is found to be strongly sensitive to SL and PBL parameterization choices. Simulated precipitation accumulations differ by up to a factor of 2 depending on the schemes used. Differences between SL schemes are the dominant source of this sensitivity. Parameterized surface fluxes of sensible and latent heat can each vary by over 100 W m−2 between SL schemes. The magnitude of these fluxes is correlated with the amount of downwind precipitation. Differences between PBL schemes play a secondary role, but have notable impacts on storm morphology. Many schemes produce credible simulations of overlake fluxes and downwind snowfall. However, the schemes that produce the largest surface fluxes produce fluxes and precipitation accumulations that are biased high relative to observations. For two SL schemes studied in detail, unrealistically large fluxes can be attributed to parameter choices: the neutral stability turbulent Prandtl number and the threshold friction velocity used for defining regimes in the overwater surface roughness calculation.

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