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Luke Bard
and
David A. R. Kristovich

Abstract

One of the most notable ways the Laurentian Great Lakes impact the region’s climate is by augmenting snowfall in downwind locations during autumn and winter months. Among many negative consequences, this surplus of snow can cause substantial property damage to homes and can escalate the number of traffic accident–related injuries and fatalities. The consensus among several previous studies is that lake-effect snowfall increased during the twentieth century in various locations in the Great Lakes region. The goal of this study is to better understand variability and long-term trends in Lake Michigan’s lake-contribution snowfall (LCS). LCS accounts for both lake-effect and lake-enhanced events. In addition, this study updates findings from previous investigations using snowfall observations found by a recent study to be appropriate for climate studies. It is demonstrated that considerable variability exists in 5-yr periods of LCS east and south of Lake Michigan from 1920 to 2005. A general increase in LCS from the early 1920s to the 1950–80 period at locations typically downwind of the lake was found. Thereafter, LCS decreased through the early 2000s, indicating a distinct trend reversal that is not reported by earlier studies. The reasons for this reversal are unclear. The reversal is consistent with observed increasing minimum temperatures during winter months after the 1970s, however.

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David A. R. Kristovich
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David A. R. Kristovich
Open access
Roscoe R. Braham Jr.
and
David A. R. Kristovich

Abstract

Aircraft measurements of vertical air motions are used in a process of conditional sampling to select updraft and downdraft cores during a period of strong lake-effect convection. Corresponding measurements of temperature and moisture are used to calculate the buoyancies of the cores and to evaluate the dependence of the calculated buoyancy on the horizontal extent of core environment used in the calculations. Results suggest that calculated buoyancies are relatively insensitive to the definition of core environment.

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Sudheer R. Bhimireddy
and
David A. R. Kristovich

Abstract

This study evaluates the methods of identifying the height zi of the top of the convective boundary layer (CBL) during winter (December and January) over the Great Lakes and nearby land areas using observations taken by the University of Wyoming King Air research aircraft during the Lake-Induced Convection Experiment (1997/98) and Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (2013/14) field campaigns. Since CBLs facilitate vertical mixing near the surface, the most direct measurement of zi is that above which the vertical velocity turbulent fluctuations are weak or absent. Thus, we use zi from the turbulence method as the “reference value” to which zi from other methods, based on bulk Richardson number (Ri b ), liquid water content, and vertical gradients of potential temperature, relative humidity, and water vapor mixing ratio, are compared. The potential temperature gradient method using a threshold value of 0.015 K m−1 for soundings over land and 0.011 K m−1 for soundings over lake provided the estimates of zi that are most consistent with the turbulence method. The Ri b threshold-based method, commonly used in numerical simulation studies, underestimated zi . Analyzing the methods’ performance on the averaging window z avg we recommend using z avg = 20 or 50 m for zi estimations for lake-effect boundary layers. The present dataset consists of both cloudy and cloud-free boundary layers, some having decoupled boundary layers above the inversion top. Because cases of decoupled boundary layers appear to be formed by nearby synoptic storms, we recommend use of the more general term, elevated mixed layers.

Significance Statement

The depth zi of the convective atmospheric boundary layer (CBL) strongly influences precipitation rates during lake-effect snowstorms (LES). However, various zi approximation methods produce significantly different results. This study utilizes extensive concurrently collected observations by project aircraft during two LES field studies [Lake-Induced Convection Experiment (Lake-ICE) and OWLeS] to assess how zi from common estimation methods compare with “reference” zi derived from turbulent fluctuations, a direct measure of CBL mixing. For soundings taken both over land and lake; with cloudy or cloud-free conditions, potential temperature gradient (PTG) methods provided the best agreement with the reference zi . A method commonly employed in numerical simulations performed relatively poorly. Interestingly, the PTG method worked equally well for “coupled” and elevated decoupled CBLs, commonly associated with nearby cyclones.

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David A. R. Kristovich
and
Ronald A. Steve III

Abstract

Lake-effect cloud bands over each of the North American Great Lakes were studied, using five winters of visible satellite data (1988–93) in order to better document the frequency of mesoscale boundary layer flows that led to their development. Several cloud-band classifications, based on boundary layer circulations identified by past authors, were used. The two most common cloud features over the Great Lakes were widespread lake-effect clouds, usually exhibiting multiple wind-parallel bands, and single or double bands parallel to the long axis of the lakes. Wind-parallel bands of lake-cited clouds have been shown in previous studies to form in the updraft regions of boundary layer roll vortices. Cloud bands parallel to the long axis of each of the Great Lakes have been shown to be organized primarily by land breezes.

October–March frequencies revealed that clouds were more prevalent over the western lakes (Superior, Michigan, and Huron) than over the eastern lakes (Erie, Ontario) due to differences in the frequencies of lake-induced clouds. The frequency of clouds due to larger-scale systems did not vary appreciably from lake to lake. Lake-induced cloudiness ranged from about 16% of the days over Lake Ontario to about 30% of the days over Lake Superior. Widespread cloudiness was the most frequent lake-effect cloud organization over the Great Lakes, with the exception of Lake Ontario where they occurred about as often as shore-parallel bands. However, their frequency decreased from west to east, with wind-parallel bands occurring nearly twice as often over Lake Superior as over Lake Erie. Bands parallel to the long axis of the lakes were much more common over the eastern lakes than the western lakes. Variations in monthly mean convection band frequencies were documented. Observed frequencies were consistent with the annual cycle of air-lake temperature difference and wind direction trends.

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Neil F. Laird
and
David A. R. Kristovich

Abstract

An investigation of sensible and latent heat fluxes and their relation to synoptic weather events was performed using hourly meteorological measurements from National Data Buoy Center buoy 45003, located in northern Lake Huron, during April–November of 1984. Two temporal heat flux regimes were found to exist over Lake Huron. The first period extended from April through July and was characterized by periods of modest negative (downward) heat fluxes. The second regime was marked by periods of large positive (upward) heat fluxes and occurred from August through November. This later period accounted for 95%–100% of both the total positive sensible and latent heat fluxes. In addition, a comparison of the seasonal evolution of sensible and latent heat fluxes showed the transition from the negative to the positive flux regime occurred 10–20 days earlier for latent heat flux than for sensible heat flux. A notable, statistically significant increase of the surface heat flux variability from the negative to positive flux regimes with a general decrease in the near-surface atmospheric stability during the positive flux regime was found. During both flux regimes, the magnitude of surface sensible and latent heat fluxes remained coupled to transient synoptic-scale weather events. On average, the occurrences of minimum (maximum) heat fluxes preceded time periods of low (high) sea level pressure by 0–3 h during the negative flux regime. For the positive flux regime, maximum (minimum) surface heat fluxes followed the passage of low (high) pressure by approximately 24 h. In addition, maximum (minimum) sensible and latent heat fluxes preceded synoptic high (low) pressure by approximately 16 h. Typical synoptic surface weather patterns were identified for both significant positive and negative heat flux events, time periods when the atmosphere–lake heat exchange was maximized.

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David A. R. Kristovich
and
Michael L. Spinar

Abstract

Lake-effect snowstorms are important parts of the climate of the U.S. Upper Midwest, with significant economic and societal impacts on communities close to the Great Lakes. Some impacts, particularly those on air and ground transportation, depend critically on the time of day that lake-effect precipitation occurs. This study utilizes hourly precipitation data collected near Lakes Superior and Michigan to determine the diurnal behavior of lake-effect precipitation frequency. Precipitation data from approximately 200 lake-effect days during 1988–93, identified by a previous study based on visible satellite data, are examined. A distinct morning maximum and afternoon/evening minimum in lake-effect precipitation frequency was observed, with the largest variations at sites within the snowbelt regions. The relative importance of several factors known to influence lake-effect precipitation development was examined to gain insight into the physical mechanisms controlling the diurnal evolution of lake-effect precipitation.

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Neil F. Laird
and
David A. R. Kristovich

Abstract

Forecasters in the Great Lakes region have for several decades recognized a general relationship of wind speed and overlake fetch to lake-effect snowstorm morphology. A recent study using idealized mesoscale model simulations of lake-effect conditions over circular and elliptical lakes showed the ratio of wind speed to maximum fetch distance (U/L) may be used to effectively predict lake-effect snowstorm morphology. The current investigation provides an assessment of the U/L criteria using observational datasets. Previously published Great Lakes lake-effect snowstorm observational studies were used to identify events of known mesoscale morphology. Hindcasts of nearly 640 lake-effect events were performed using historical observations with U/L as the predictor.

Results show that the quantity U/L contains important information on the different mesoscale lake-effect morphologies; however, it provides only a limited benefit when being used to predict mesoscale morphology in real lake-effect situations. The U/L criteria exhibited the greatest probability of detecting lake-effect shoreline band events, often the most intense, but also experienced a relatively large number of false hindcasts. For Lakes Erie and Ontario the false hindcasts and biases were reduced and shoreline band events that occurred under higher wind speed conditions were better identified.

In addition, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory ice cover digital dataset was used in combination with observations from past events to assess the impact of ice cover on the use of U/L as a predictor of lake-effect morphology. Results show that hindcasts using the U/L criteria were slightly improved when the reduction of open-water areas due to lake ice cover was taken into account.

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Jason M. Keeler
and
David A. R. Kristovich

Abstract

Predictions of lake and sea breezes are particularly important in large coastal population centers because of the circulations’ influence on heat-wave relief, energy use, precipitation, and dispersion of pollutants. While recent numerical modeling studies have suggested that sea or lake breezes should move more slowly through urban areas than in the surrounding suburbs because of urban heat island (UHI) circulations, there have been few quantitative observational studies to evaluate these results. This study utilizes high-resolution Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) observations to determine the effect of the UHI on lake-breeze frontal movement through Chicago, Illinois, and nearby suburban areas. A total of 44 lake-breeze cases from the April–September 2005 period were examined. The inland movement of the lake-breeze front (LBF) was calculated by tracking “fine lines” of radar reflectivity along several cross sections perpendicular to the Lake Michigan shoreline. The average inland propagation speed of the LBF was 5.0 km h−1; there was substantial spatial and temporal variability in LBF propagation, however. Chicago’s UHI magnitude on lake-breeze days exhibited an average nighttime maximum urban–rural temperature difference near 4.5°C and an afternoon minimum near 0°C. The observed daytime UHI magnitude did not have a significant relationship with lake-breeze frontal movement through Chicago. However, the maximum magnitude of the nighttime UHI preceding lake-breeze development was found to be strongly related to a decrease in speed of LBF movement through Chicago’s southwest (inland) suburbs. This relationship is consistent with previous studies of the diurnal evolution of UHI circulations and may represent a useful method for predicting lake-breeze inland movement.

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