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Paul J. Neiman
,
F. Martin Ralph
,
Robert L. Weber
,
Taneil Uttal
,
Louisa B. Nance
, and
David H. Levinson

Abstract

Through the integrated analysis of remote sensing and in situ data taken along the Front Range of Colorado, this study describes the interactions that occurred between a leeside arctic front and topographically modulated flows. These interactions resulted in nonclassical frontal behavior and structure across northeastern Colorado. The shallow arctic front initially advanced southwestward toward the Front Range foothills, before retreating eastward. Then, a secondary surge of arctic air migrated westward into the foothills. During its initial southwestward advance, the front exhibited obstacle-like, density-current characteristics. Its initial advance was interrupted by strong downslope northwesterly flow associated with a high-amplitude mountain wave downstream of the Continental Divide, and by a temporal decrease in the density contrast across the front due to diurnal heating in the cold air and weak cold advection in the warm air. The direction and depth of flow within the arctic air also influenced the frontal propagation.

The shallow, obstacle-like front actively generated both vertically propagating and vertically trapped gravity waves as it advanced into the downslope northwesterly flow, resulting in midtropospheric lenticular wave clouds aloft that tracked with the front. Because the front entered a region where strong downslope winds and mountain waves extended downstream over the high plains, the wave field in northeastern Colorado included both frontally forced and true mountain-forced gravity waves. A sequence of Scorer parameter profiles calculated from hourly observations reveals a sharp contrast between the prefrontal and postfrontal wave environments. Consequently, analytic resonant wave mode calculations based on the Scorer parameter profiles reveal that the waves supported in the postfrontal regime differed markedly from those supported in the prefrontal environment. This result is consistent with wind profiler observations that showed the amplitude of vertical motions decreasing substantially through 16 km above mean sea level (MSL) after the shallow frontal passage.

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