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UNDERSTANDING UTAH WINTER STORMS

The Intermountain Precipitation Experiment

David M. Schultz
,
W. James Steenburgh
,
R. Jeffrey Trapp
,
John Horel
,
David E. Kingsmill
,
Lawrence B. Dunn
,
W. David Rust
,
Linda Cheng
,
Aaron Bansemer
,
Justin Cox
,
John Daugherty
,
David P. Jorgensen
,
José Meitín
,
Les Showell
,
Bradley F. Smull
,
Keli Tarp
, and
Marilu Trainor

Winter storms and their prediction are of increasing importance throughout the region of the United States with the fastest growing population, the Intermountain West. Such storms can produce heavy orographic snowfall, lake-effect snowbands, and even lightning. Unfortunately, precipitation forecast skill is lower over the Intermountain West than other regions of the country because of the complex topography, the lack or limited utility of upstream and in situ data, and insufficient understanding of storm and precipitation processes.

The Intermountain Precipitation Experiment (IPEX) is a research program designed to improve the understanding, analysis, and prediction of precipitation over the complex topography of the Intermountain West. The field phase of this research program was held in northern Utah in February 2000. During this time, seven storms were observed, including the heaviest snowfall to strike the Wasatch Mountains in two years, a tornadic bow echo associated with a strong cold front, a mesoscale snowband in Tooele Valley, and three other storms with locally heavy orographic snowfall and complex mesoscale circulations. Some of these storms were electrified and produced lightning.

This paper reviews the weather of the Intermountain West, describes the experimental setup and the outreach activities of IPEX, and presents preliminary results from the field phase. Finally, lessons learned in planning and executing this field program are discussed.

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