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John D. Horel

Abstract

The annual cycle in sea surface temperature (SST), surface wind and other atmospheric variables in the tropical Pacific are described. The primary data sets of SST and surface wind are derived from ship observations in the Pacific between 29°N and 29°S during the period 1946–76.

The annual cycle in SST away from the equator can be attributed to the annual cycle in solar heating. However, in the eastern equatorial Pacific, the annual cycle in SST undergoes systematic longitudinal changes in phase and amplitude. Near the coast of Peru, the warmest temperatures occur during March, while further west along the equator, the warmest temperatures occur progressively later and with diminished amplitude. The annual cycle in surface wind convergence along the equator displays similar changes with longitude.

The annual cycle in surface wind is dominated by the meridional migrations of the trade wind belts. Near the equator, the amplitude of the annual cycle in meridional wind is larger than that in zonal wind with the zonal flow (relative to the annual mean) directed into the summer hemisphere. The annual cycles in wind speed and pressure gradient are shown to be kinematically consistent. The annual cycles in rainfall, surface wind convergence, and satellite-derived outgoing infrared radiation and albedo exhibit many similarities in the regions dominated by tropical convection.

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John D. Horel

Abstract

The persistence of the planetary-scale circulation during the Northern Hemisphere winters from 1965/66 to 1981/82 is documented. National Meteorological Center analyses of 500 mb geopotential height for the Northern Hemisphere poleward of 20°N are used. Instead of constructing auto-correlation maps based on lime series at grid points, time series are constructed that show the pattern correlations between daily hemispheric maps. These time series provide information on the day-to-day changes in persistence of the winter circulation and allow comparisons of the intraseasonal and interannual variability of persistence.

The hemispheric circulation is usually quite persistent from day-to-day; correlations between successive maps usually fall within the range 0.7 to 0.9. As the time between the maps is increased the correlations between these maps decreases at a rate faster than that expected of an autoregressive (red-noise) process. The hemispheric circulation rarely resembles closely the circulation a few days before unless synoptic scale waves are removed.

Subjectively defined criteria are used to identify quasi-stationary regimes i.e. periods during which the planetary-scale circulation is more persistant than usual. A total of 58 regimes encompassing 25% of the 2040 days am identified. Multiple regimes are evident during several winter. The quasi-stationary regimes exhibit considerable diversity in their spatial configurations. Comparison of the regimes using principal component analysis suggests that the most frequently reoccurring regime consists of a superposition of a wavenumber 3 pattern at roughly 50°N upon zonally symmetric components at middle and polar latitudes of opposing signs. However, this principal component explains only 17% 6f the variance contained in the 58 regimes.

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John D. Horel

Abstract

The principal components derived by Wallace and Gutzler (1981) from a 500 mb height data set are linearly transformed using the varimax method. Their data set consists of 45 winter months of National Meteorological Center analyses of Northern Hemisphere 500 mb height. The linear transformation (or rotation) of the principal components emphasizes the strongest relationships within the 500 mb height data set; hence, spatial patterns associated with the rotated principal components are simpler to interpret than the spatial patterns associated with the unrotated components. The teleconnection patterns identified by Wallace and Gutzler (1981) on the basis of the negative extrema approach closely resemble several of the spatial patterns of the rotated principal components.

In order to show the seasonal dependence of the rotated principal components, an expanded data set consisting of 30 years of 500 mb height data is used. Most of the teleconnection patterns derived from the 90 winter month data set are “seesaws” with the southernmost center of high correlation located in the subtropics. In some cases, additional centers of high correlation are located downstream of the two primary centers. The spatial patterns associated with the rotated principal components based on 90 summertime months are analogous to those for the wintertime months but are displaced northward along with the displacement of the time mean jet streams and storm-track regions.

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John D. Horel
and
John M. Wallace

Abstract

Atmospheric phenomena associated with the Southern Oscillation are examined, with emphasis on vertical structure and teleconnections to middle latitudes. This paper is specifically concerned with the interannual variability of seasonal means for the Northern Hemisphere winter during the period 1951–78. Among the variables considered are sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific, precipitation at selected equatorial Pacific stations, a “Southern Oscillation Index” of sea level pressure, 200 mb height and tropospheric mean temperature at stations throughout the tropics, and Northern Hemisphere geopotential height fields. Selected statistics derived from surface data also are examined for the period 1910–45. Results are presented in the form of time series and correlation statistics for the variables listed above.

Results concerning the relationships between sea surface temperature, sea level pressure and rainfall are consistent with the major conclusions of previous studies by J. Bjerknes and others. Fluctuations in mean tropospheric temperature and 200 mb height are shown to vary simultaneously with equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature fluctuations, not only in the Pacific sector, but at stations throughout the tropics. The zonally symmetric component of these 200 mb height fluctuations is considerably larger than the Southern Oscillation in 1000 mb height, and the corresponding fluctuations in the mean temperature of the tropical troposphere are on the order of nearly 1 K.

The correlations between the tropical time series and Northern Hemisphere geopotential height fields exhibit well-defined teleconnection patterns. Warm episodes in equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature tend to be accompanied by below-normal heights in the North Pacific and the south–eastern United States and above-normal heights over western Canada.

Recent theoretical work by Opsteegh and Van den Dool (1980), Hoskins and Karoly (1981) and Webster (1981) on Rossby wave propagation on a sphere provides a basis for understanding the teleconnection in terms of the distribution of sea surface temperature and rainfall in the equatorial Pacific. The theory successfully explains several characteristics of the observed teleconnection patterns, including their horizontal scale and shape, their vertical structure and their seasonal dependence.

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Kenneth Sassen
and
John D. Horel

Abstract

Over an unusually brief three-day period in early August 1989, spectacular twilight effects indicative of a stratospheric volcanic cloud were seen at Salt Lake City, Utah. Concurrent polarization lidar observations detected an aerosol layer at altitudes between 14 and 16 km in the vicinity of the tropopause. Trajectory analyses indicate that the aerosol source was the relatively minor 19 July volcanic eruption of Santiaguito in Guatemala. Materials injected into the lower stratosphere by this eruption were transported initially by tropical easterlies and then by a subtropical jet stream to the locale. The sulfuric acid droplet cloud that formed during transport was affected locally by tropopause folds that promoted stratospheric-tropospheric exchanges. Although lidar depolarization analysis suggests that the ensuing cloud microphysical processes were usually dominated by acid droplet crystallization effects caused by ammonia gas absorption (yielding 0.1–0.2 linear depolarization ratios), there is also evidence for ice crystals at the coldest temperatures (∼−64°C) and for homogeneous droplets. Cloud optical thickness estimates are 0.01–0.02. Mesoscale cloud bands were observed visually near sunset and also occasionally during daylight, another unusual characteristic for volcanic clouds.

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Neil P. Lareau
and
John D. Horel

Abstract

High-resolution idealized numerical simulations are used to examine the turbulent removal of cold-air pools commonly observed in mountain valleys and basins. A control simulation with winds aloft increasing from 0.5 to 20 m s−1 over 20 h combined with typical cold-air pool stratification illustrates the interplay over time of lowering of the top of the cold-air pool, spillover downstream of the valley from the upper reaches of the cold-air pool, wavelike undulations affecting the cold-air pool’s depth and stratification across the valley, and smaller temporal- and spatial-scale Kelvin–Helmholtz waves within the uppermost layers of the cold-air pool. The heat budget within the cold-air pool demonstrates the nearly compensating effects of vertical and horizontal advection combined with turbulent heating of the upper portion of the cold-air pool and cooling in the layers immediately above the cold-air pool. Sensitivities of turbulent mixing in cold-air pools to stratification and upstream terrain are examined. Although the characteristics of the turbulent mixing differ as the stratification and topography are modified, a bulk parameter [the cold-air pool Froude number (Fr)] characterizes the onset and amplification of turbulent mixing and the time of cold-air pool removal. When Fr > 1, Kelvin–Helmholtz waves and turbulent heat fluxes commence. Turbulent heat flux and wave activity increase until Fr = 2, after which the cold-air pool breaks down and is removed from the valley. The rate of cold-air pool removal is proportional to its strength; that is, a strong inversion generates larger heat fluxes once turbulent erosion is underway.

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Kevin M. Craft
and
John D. Horel

Abstract

Desert playas, such as those in northern Utah, form a landscape often in stark contrast to surrounding mountain ranges due to their minimal topographic relief, lack of vegetation, and saline soils. Dry highly reflective halite surfaces, which make up many of the desert playas in northern Utah, are generally characterized by a surface albedo over 40%. However, their albedo can be reduced abruptly to less than 20% by flooding due to rainfall, runoff from surrounding higher terrain, or surface winds transporting shallow water across the playas. A weather station installed during September 2016 to study the Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF) in northern Utah provides estimates of surface albedo that can be related to cycles of flooding and desiccation of the halite surface. The normalized difference water index (NDWI) derived from the MODIS MOD09A1 land surface reflectance product estimates the fractional coverage of surface water over the BSF. NDWI values computed over 8-day periods from 2000 to 2018 highlight year-to-year and seasonal variations in playa flooding events over the BSF. Periods of playa flooding were observed with both ground-based observations and NDWI with sharp reductions in albedo when the surface is flooded.

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John D. Horel
and
Xia Dong

Abstract

This study estimates whether surface observations of temperature, moisture, and wind at some stations in the continental United States are less critical than others for specifying weather conditions in the vicinity of those stations. Two-dimensional variational analyses of temperature, relative humidity, and wind were created for selected midday hours during summer 2008. This set of 8925 control analyses was derived from 5-km-resolution background fields and Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) and National Weather Service (NWS) observations within roughly 4° × 4° latitude–longitude domains. Over 570 000 cross-validation experiments were completed to assess the impact of removing each RAWS and NWS station. The presence of observational assets within relatively close proximity to one another is relatively common. The sensitivity to removing temperature, relative humidity, or wind observations varies regionally and depends on the complexity of the surrounding terrain and the representativeness of the observations. Cost savings for the national RAWS program by removing a few stations may be possible. However, nearly all regions of the country remain undersampled, especially mountainous regions of the western United States frequently affected by wildfires.

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John D. Horel
and
Carlos R. Mechoso

Abstract

The persistence of the planetary-scale simulation over the North Pacific Ocean is investigated during 18 Northern Hemisphere winters from 1965/66 to 1982/83. Quasi-stationary flow patterns dominate 20 periods during the 6 El Niño winters. In contrast, 29 such periods are observed during the remaining 12 winters. Nearly all of the quasi-stationary episodes during El Niño winters exhibit negative 500 mb geopotential height anomalies in the Gulf of Alaska-Aleutian Island region. During the other 12 winters, episodes characterized by positive height anomalies in that region occur as frequently as those exhibiting negative height anomalies.

The observed persistence of the planetary circulation is contrasted to that simulated by the UCLA general circulation model. Ten winters of model output are analyzed: during five winters, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are prescribed to evolve through their climatological seasonal cycle while during the other five winters, SST anomalies corresponding to idealized or observed El Niño conditions are added to the climatological field. The model atmosphere has less intraseasonal variability, and quasi-stationary events are less frequent than observed. However, the model is successful in simulating the observed preponderance of quasi-stationary regimes which exhibit below-normal 500 mb geopotential height anomalies in the Gulf of Alaska during winters with positive SST anomalies in the equatorial Pacific. The evolution of the model's quasi-stationary events suggests that they result directly from dynamical processes in midlatitudes, but their characteristics are apparently affected by SST conditions.

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Neil P. Lareau
and
John D. Horel

Abstract

The position and variability of storm tracks across western North America are examined during the October–April cool seasons spanning 1989–2010. The location and intensity of storms are represented by strong synoptic-scale ascent, which is diagnosed by the alternative balance omega equation applied to ECMWF Re-Analysis Interim data. This dynamically filtered method removes poorly resolved updrafts arising from subsynoptic-scale phenomena such as convection and mountain waves. The resulting vertical motions are illustrated for the case of a strong storm traversing the western United States.

Summary statistics of synoptic-scale ascent are compiled over months, seasons, and the entire 21-yr period. Locations exhibiting high mean values of ascent are deemed to represent storm tracks. The climatological-mean storm track exhibits a sinusoidal shape across the eastern Pacific and western North America. The composite evolution of strong storms moving along specific segments of the storm track show regional differences (e.g., storms poleward of 50°N tend to result from progressive low-amplitude troughs progressing through the mean planetary ridge, while storms over the western United States are initiated by digging troughs that temporarily suppress the mean ridge).

Seasonal shifts in the storm track are pronounced and exhibit coherent regional patterns. Interannual variations in synoptic-scale ascent indicate meridional shifts in position as well as changes in the degree of amplification within the dominant sinusoidal storm track. These changes in structure are related to the phase of ENSO: El Niño (La Niña) winters favor zonal (amplified) and southern (northern) storm tracks.

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