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D. Alex Burrows, Craig R. Ferguson, and Lance F. Bosart

Abstract

The Great Plains (GP) southerly nocturnal low-level jet (GPLLJ) is a dominant contributor to the region’s warm-season (May–September) mean and extreme precipitation, wind energy generation, and severe weather outbreaks—including mesoscale convective systems. The spatiotemporal structure, variability, and impact of individual GPLLJ events are closely related to their degree of upper-level synoptic coupling, which varies from strong coupling in synoptic trough–ridge environments to weak coupling in quiescent, synoptic ridge environments. Here, we apply an objective dynamic classification of GPLLJ upper-level coupling and fully characterize strongly coupled (C) and relatively uncoupled (UC) GPLLJs from the perspective of the ground-based observer. Through composite analyses of C and UC GPLLJ event samples taken from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts’ Coupled Earth Reanalysis of the twentieth century (CERA-20C), we address how the frequency of these jet types, as well as their inherent weather- and climate-relevant characteristics—including wind speed, direction, and shear; atmospheric stability; and precipitation—vary on diurnal and monthly time scales across the southern, central, and northern subregions of the GP. It is shown that C and UC GPLLJ events have similar diurnal phasing, but the diurnal amplitude is much greater for UC GPLLJs. C GPLLJs tend to have a faster and more elevated jet nose, less low-level wind shear, and enhanced CAPE and precipitation. UC GPLLJs undergo a larger inertial oscillation (Blackadar mechanism) for all subregions, and C GPLLJs have greater geostrophic forcing (Holton mechanism) in the southern and northern GP. The results underscore the need to differentiate between C and UC GPLLJs in future seasonal forecast and climate prediction activities.

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