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David Small, Eyad Atallah, and John Gyakum

Abstract

The community of Tuktoyaktuk (Northwest Territories, Canada) along the Beaufort Sea experiences dramatic shoreline erosion during storm surge events that tend to occur during persistent northwesterly wind events in the late summer months (July–September) when the sea ice coverage of the Beaufort Sea reaches its annual minimum. This study compiles the climatology of hourly surface wind, low-level geostrophic wind, and static stability to investigate the physical mechanisms responsible for the high frequency of northwesterly winds observed at Tuktoyaktuk during the late summer. The results link the prevalence of westerly to northwesterly winds at the surface to the high frequency of northwesterly geostrophic winds and a tendency for low static stability. With an environment that favors strong northwesterly geostrophic wind and suggests lower static stability, the high frequency of strong northwesterlies observed at the surface appears to be associated with momentum mixing by turbulent eddies. A composite analysis indicates that persistently strong northwesterly winds are associated with anomalously low pressure northeast of Tuktoyaktuk and high pressure over the Bering Sea and eastern Siberia. The high pressure anomalies over the Bering Sea also extend well to the east along the northern edge of the Brooks Range. An apparent topographic modification of the sea level pressure (SLP) field by cold air trapped to the north of mountains produces the pressure gradient favorable for strong westerly to northwesterly geostrophic winds at Tuktoyaktuk. The results suggest that cold-air damming contributes to the wind regime at Tuktoyaktuk by altering the pressure gradient along the Beaufort coast.

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David Small, Eyad Atallah, and John R. Gyakum

Abstract

A modified blocking index is defined based on vertically integrated potential vorticity. The application of this index identifies blocking activity over the Northern Hemisphere during all seasons. The index is developed by systematically identifying the magnitude and spatial scale that best characterizes persistent anticyclonic circulation anomalies in different seasons. By applying a systematic approach to the detection of blocking, the interannual, seasonal, and intraseasonal patterns of blocking frequency across the Northern Hemisphere are able to be characterized. The results are consistent with previous studies in finding that blocking is more frequent in the cold season months than in the warm season, although the results suggest that blocking occurs much more frequently in the summer and fall than many studies have previously reported. By examining blocking frequency monthly, interesting patterns of intraseasonal variability are found, especially over the central Pacific in August and the eastern Pacific in September and October, where blocking is nearly as frequent as in the winter. Possible explanations for this intraseasonal variability are discussed.

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Eyad H. Atallah and Lance F. Bosart

Abstract

Several recent landfalling tropical cyclones (e.g., Dennis, Floyd, and Irene 1999) have highlighted a need for a refinement in the forecasting paradigms and techniques in the area of quantitative precipitation forecasting. Floyd proved to be a particularly challenging forecast problem as it was accompanied by catastrophic flooding over large regions of the East Coast, in spite of its relatively quick northward movement. The extent and intensity of the precipitation distribution was strongly modulated by the storm's interaction with a midlatitude trough. In an attempt to better understand and quantify the relevant dynamics during this interaction, potential vorticity (PV) and quasigeostrophic perspectives are utilized.

As Floyd approached the East Coast, precipitation shifted to the left of the storm track due to the presence of a deep midlatitude trough in the Ohio valley. The juxtaposition of a cold-core PV anomaly associated with the midlatitude trough and a warm-core PV anomaly associated with Floyd created a strong and tropospheric-deep baroclinic zone along the eastern seaboard. This baroclinic zone provided a region favorable for deep isentropic ascent as the circulation of Floyd approached, resulting in prolific precipitation production. The latent heat release associated with this precipitation in turn acted to enhance outflow ridging north of Floyd, which was underpredicted by current numerical models. The enhanced outflow ridge resulted in enhanced jet-streak dynamics and a restructuring of the tilt of the midlatitude trough in a manner favorable for excessive precipitation production. Furthermore, the uplifting of the dynamic tropopause in southwesterly flow ahead of Floyd in response to ascent and differential diabatic heating resulted in a tropopause fold, a feature usually associated with upper-level fronts and differential subsidence in northwesterly flow.

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Dorothy Durnford, John Gyakum, and Eyad Atallah

Abstract

Satellites are uniquely capable of providing uniform data coverage globally. Motivated by such capability, this study builds on a previously described methodology that generates numerical weather prediction (NWP) model initial conditions (ICs) from satellite total column ozone (TCO) data. The methodology is based on three principal steps: 1) conversion of TCO to mean potential vorticity (MPV) via linear regression, 2) conversion of two-dimensional MPV to three-dimensional potential vorticity (PV) via vertical mapping onto average PV profiles, and 3) inversion of the three-dimensional PV field to obtain model-initializing height, temperature, and wind fields in the mid- and upper troposphere. The overall accuracy of the process has been significantly increased through a substantial reworking of the details of this previous version. For instance, in recognition of the fact that TCO ridges tend to be less reliable than troughs, the authors vertically map an MPV field that is a synthesis of ozone-derived MPV troughs and analysis MPV ridges. The vertical mapping procedure itself produces a more physical three-dimensional PV field by eliminating unrealistically strong features at upper levels.

It is found that the ozone-influenced upper-level initializing fields improve the quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) of the 24–25 January 2000 East Coast snowstorm for two of the three (re)analyses. Furthermore, the best QPF involves ozone-influenced upper-level initializing fields. Its high threat scores reflect a superior placement, amplitude, and structure. This best QPF is apparently superior to a forecast of the same case where TCO data were assimilated using four-dimensional variational data assimilation.

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Alain Roberge, John R. Gyakum, and Eyad H. Atallah

Abstract

Significant cool season precipitation along the western coast of North America is often associated with intense water vapor transport (IWVT) from the Pacific Ocean during favorable synoptic-scale flow regimes. These relatively narrow and intense regions of water vapor transport can originate in either the tropical or subtropical oceans, and sometimes have been referred to as Pineapple Express events in previous literature when originating near Hawaii. However, the focus of this paper will be on diagnosing the synoptic-scale signatures of all significant water vapor transport events associated with poleward moisture transport impacting the western coast of Canada, regardless of the exact points of origin of the associated atmospheric river. A trajectory analysis is used to partition the events as a means of creating coherent and meaningful synoptic-scale composites. The results indicate that these IWVT events can be clustered by the general area of origin of the majority of the saturated parcels impacting British Columbia and the Yukon Territories. IWVT events associated with more zonal trajectories are characterized by a strong and mature Aleutian low, whereas IWVT events associated with more meridional trajectories are often characterized by an anticyclone situated along the California or Oregon coastline, and a relatively mature poleward-traveling cyclone, commonly originating in the central North Pacific.

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Shawn M. Milrad, John R. Gyakum, and Eyad H. Atallah

Abstract

The 19–21 June 2013 Alberta flood was the costliest (CAD $6 billion) natural disaster in Canadian history. The flood was caused by a combination of above-normal spring snowmelt in the Canadian Rockies, large antecedent precipitation, and an extreme rainfall event on 19–21 June that produced rainfall totals of 76 mm in Calgary and 91 mm in the foothills. As is typical of flash floods along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, rapidly rising streamflow proceeded to move downhill (eastward) into Calgary.

A meteorological analysis traces an antecedent Rossby wave train across the North Pacific Ocean, starting with intense baroclinic development over East Asia on 11 June. Subsequently, downstream Rossby wave development occurred across the North Pacific; a 1032-hPa subtropical anticyclone located northeast of Hawaii initiated a southerly atmospheric river into Alaska, which contributed to the development of a cutoff anticyclone over Alaska and a Rex block (ridge to the north, cyclone to the south) in the northeastern North Pacific. Upon breakdown of the Rex block, lee cyclogenesis occurred in Montana and strong easterly upslope flow was initiated in southern Alberta.

The extreme rainfall event was produced in association with a combination of quasigeostrophically and orographically forced ascent, which acted to release conditional and convective instability. As in past Front Range flash floods, moisture flux convergence and positive θ e advection were collocated with the heavy rainfall. Backward trajectories show that air parcels originated in the northern U.S. plains, suggesting that evapotranspiration from the local land surface may have acted as a moisture source.

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Kevin A. Bowley, John R. Gyakum, and Eyad H. Atallah

Abstract

Rossby wave breaking (RWB) events are a common feature on the dynamic tropopause and act to modulate synoptic-scale jet dynamics. These events are characterized on the dynamic tropopause by an irreversible overturning of isentropes and are coupled to troposphere-deep vertical motions and geopotential height anomalies. Prior climatologies have focused on the poleward streamer, the equatorward streamer, or the reversal in potential temperature gradient between the streamers, resulting in differences in the frequencies of RWB. Here, a new approach toward cataloging these events that captures both streamers is applied to the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Reanalysis-2 dataset for 1979–2011. Anticyclonic RWB (AWB) events are found to be nearly twice as frequent as cyclonic RWB (CWB) events. Seasonal decompositions of the annual mean find AWB to be most common in summer (40% occurrence), which is likely due to the Asian monsoon, while CWB is most frequent in winter (22.5%) and is likely due to the equatorward shift in mean baroclinicity. Trends in RWB from 1980 to 2010 illustrate a westward shift in North Pacific AWB during winter and summer (up to 0.4% yr−1), while CWB in the North Pacific increases in winter and spring (up to 0.2% yr−1). These changes are hypothesized to be associated with localized changes in the two-way interaction between the jet and RWB. The interannual variability of AWB and CWB is also explored, and a notable modality to the frequency of RWB is found that may be attributable to known low-frequency modes of variability including the Arctic Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the Pacific–North American pattern.

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Melissa Gervais, Eyad Atallah, John R. Gyakum, and L. Bruno Tremblay

Abstract

An important aspect of understanding the impacts of climate change on society is determining how the distribution of weather regimes will change. Arctic amplification results in greater warming over the Arctic compared to the midlatitudes, and this study examines how patterns of Arctic air masses will be affected. The authors employ the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble (CESM-LE) RCP 8.5, consisting of 30 ensemble members run through the twenty-first century. Self-organizing maps are used to define archetypes of 850-hPa equivalent potential temperature anomalies with respect to a changing climate and assess changes in their frequency of occurrence. In the model, a pattern with negative anomalies over the central Arctic becomes less frequent in the future. There is also an increase in the frequency of patterns associated with an amplified ridge (trough) with positive (negative) anomalies over western (eastern) North America. It is hypothesized that the increase in frequency of such patterns is the result of enhanced forcing of baroclinic waves owing to reduced sea ice over the western Arctic. There is also a decline in patterns that have anomalously high over the North Atlantic, a pattern that is associated with intense ridging in the 500-hPa flow over the North Atlantic and colder over Europe. The authors relate the decrease of these patterns to an enhancement of the North Atlantic jet induced by a warming deficit in the North Atlantic Ocean.

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Christopher D. McCray, Eyad H. Atallah, and John R. Gyakum

Abstract

Freezing rain can cause severe impacts, particularly when it persists for many hours. In this paper, we present the climatology of long-duration (6 or more hours) freezing rain events in the United States and Canada from 1979 to 2016. We identify three focus regions from this climatology and examine the archetypal thermodynamic evolution of events in each region using surface and radiosonde observations. Long-duration events occur most frequently in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, where freezing rain typically begins as lower-tropospheric warm-air advection develops the warm layer aloft. This warm-air advection and the latent heat of fusion released when rain freezes at the surface erode the cold layer, and freezing rain transitions to rain once the surface temperature reaches 0°C. In the southeastern United States, a larger percentage of events are of long duration than elsewhere in North America. Weak surface cold-air advection and evaporative cooling in the particularly dry onset cold layers there prevent surface temperatures from rising substantially during events. Finally, the south-central United States has a regional maximum in the occurrence of the top 1% of events by duration (18 or more hours), despite the relative rarity of freezing rain there. These events are associated with particularly warm/deep onset warm layers, with persistent low-level cold-air advection maintaining the cold layer. The thermodynamic evolutions we have identified highlight characteristics that are key to supporting persistent freezing rain in each region and may warrant particular attention from forecasters tasked with predicting these events.

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Shawn M. Milrad, Eyad H. Atallah, and John R. Gyakum

Abstract

Quantitative precipitation forecasting (QPF) continues to be a significant challenge in operational forecasting, particularly in regions susceptible to extreme precipitation events. St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada (CYYT), is affected frequently by such events, particularly in the cool season (October–April).

The 50 median events in the extreme (>33.78 mm during a 48-h period) precipitation event category are selected for further analysis. A manual synoptic typing is performed on these 50 events, using two separate methodologies to partition events. The first method utilizes a Lagrangian backward air parcel trajectory analysis and the second method utilizes the evolution of dynamically relevant variables, including 1000–700-hPa horizontal temperature advection, 1000–700-hPa (vector) geostrophic frontogenesis, and 700–400-hPa absolute vorticity advection.

Utilizing the first partitioning method, it is found that south cases are characterized by a strong anticyclone downstream of St. John’s, southwest events are synoptically similar to the overall extreme composite and are marked by a strong cyclone that develops in the Gulf of Mexico, while west events are characterized by a weak Alberta clipper system that intensifies rapidly upon reaching the Atlantic Ocean. The second partitioning method suggests that while cyclone events are dominated by the presence of a rapidly developing cyclone moving northeastward toward St. John’s, frontal events are characterized by the presence of a strong downstream anticyclone and deformation zone at St. John’s.

It is the hope of the authors that the unique methodology and results of the synoptic typing in this paper will aid forecasters in identifying certain characteristics of future precipitation events at St. John’s and similar stations.

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