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Peter G. Veals
and
W. James Steenburgh

Abstract

Lake-effect snowstorms east of Lake Ontario are frequently intense and contribute to substantial seasonal accumulations, especially over the Tug Hill Plateau (hereafter Tug Hill), which rises at a gentle 1.25% slope to ~500 m above lake level. Using a variety of datasets including radar imagery from the KTYX (Fort Drum, New York) WSR-88D, this paper examines the characteristics of lake-effect precipitation east of Lake Ontario over 13 cool seasons (16 September 2001–15 May 2014). During this period, days with at least 2 h of lake effect account for 61%–76% of the mean cool-season snowfall and 24%–37% of the mean cool-season liquid precipitation. Mean monthly lake-effect frequency and snowfall peak in December and January. The highest lake-effect frequency and snowfall occur over the western and upper Tug Hill, with an arm of relatively high lake-effect frequency and snowfall extending to the southeast shore of Lake Ontario. To the east (lee), lake-effect frequency and snowfall decrease abruptly over the Black River valley, although relatively high frequency and snowfall extend downstream into the western Adirondack Mountains. Broad coverage and long-lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) bands dominate the lake-effect morphology throughout the region. There is no diurnal modulation of lake-effect frequency during winter, but weak modulation in fall and spring, especially of LLAP bands.

Collectively, these results quantify the role that lake effect plays in the cool-season hydroclimate east of Lake Ontario. The increase in lake-effect frequency and snowfall over Tug Hill suggest an inland/orographic intensification of many lake-effect systems, with evidence for shadowing in the lee.

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Peter G. Veals
,
W. James Steenburgh
, and
Leah S. Campbell

Abstract

The factors affecting the inland and orographic enhancement of lake-effect precipitation are poorly understood, yet critical for operational forecasting. Here we use nine cool seasons (16 November–15 April) of radar data from the Montague/Ft. Drum, New York (KTYX), WSR-88D, the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR), and observations from the Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS) field campaign to examine variations in lake-effect precipitation enhancement east of Lake Ontario and over the Tug Hill Plateau (hereafter Tug Hill). Key factors affecting the inland and orographic enhancement in this region include the strength of the incident boundary layer flow, the intensity of the lake-induced convective available potential energy (LCAPE), and the mode of the lake-effect system. Stronger flow favors higher precipitation rates, a precipitation maximum displaced farther downwind, and greater inland and orographic enhancement. The effects of LCAPE depend upon the strength of the flow. During periods of weak flow, higher LCAPE favors lower precipitation rates, a maximum closer to the shoreline, and lesser inland and orographic enhancement. During periods of strong flow, higher LCAPE favors higher precipitation rates, a maximum displaced farther downwind, and greater inland and orographic enhancement. Banded (nonbanded) modes favor higher (lower) precipitation rates, lesser (greater) inland and orographic enhancement, and a maximum closer to the shoreline (over Tug Hill). These results, for both manually measured and radar-estimated precipitation, are robust when many lake-effect events are considered, but substantial variability exists during individual events.

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Peter G. Veals
,
W. James Steenburgh
,
Sento Nakai
, and
Satoru Yamaguchi

Abstract

The Hokuriku region along the west coast of the Japanese island of Honshu receives exceptionally heavy snowfall accumulations, exceeding 500 cm from December to February near sea level and 1300 cm at high elevation sites, much of which is produced by sea-effect systems. Though the climatological enhancement of snowfall is large, the lowland–upland snowfall distribution within individual storms is highly variable, presenting a challenge for weather forecasting and climate projections. Utilizing data from a C-band surveillance radar, the ERA5 reanalysis, and surface precipitation observations, we examine factors affecting the inland and orographic enhancement during sea-effect periods in the Hokuriku region during nine winters (December–February) from December 2007 to February 2016. The distribution and intensity of precipitation exhibits strong dependence on flow direction due to three-dimensional terrain effects. For a given flow direction, higher values of boundary layer wind speed and sea-induced CAPE favor higher precipitation rates, a maximum displaced farther inland and higher in elevation, and a larger ratio of upland to lowland precipitation. These characteristics are also well represented by the nondimensional mountain height H ^ , with H ^ < 1 associated with a precipitation maximum over the high elevations and a larger ratio of upland to lowland precipitation, and H ^ > 1 having the opposite effect. Nevertheless, even in high enhancement periods, precipitation rates decline as one moves inland from the first major mountain barrier, even over high terrain. These results highlight how the interplay between sea-effect and orographic processes modulates the distribution and intensity of precipitation in an area of complex and formidable topography.

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Peter G. Veals
,
W. James Steenburgh
,
Sento Nakai
, and
Satoru Yamaguchi

Abstract

A prolonged period of winter monsoonal flow brought heavy sea-effect snowfall to the Hokuriku region along the west coast of the Japanese island of Honshu from 2 to 7 February 2010. Snowfall in some locations exceeded 140 cm, but the distribution within the event was highly variable. We examine the factors contributing to these variations using data from a Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) C-band surveillance radar, JMA soundings, surface precipitation observations, and a Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulation. There were three distinct periods during the event. Period 1 featured relatively weak flow with precipitation confined mainly to the coast and lowlands. Precipitation maxima were located where the flow ascended: 1) over terrain-blocked air, 2) at the foot of a high flow-normal barrier, or 3) relatively unimpeded over the lower mountain ranges. Flow strengthened during period 2, yielding stronger vertical velocities over the terrain with precipitation maxima shifting inland and to higher elevation. The flow strengthened further in period 3, with the precipitation maxima shifting higher in elevation and into the lee, with almost no precipitation falling in the lowlands. Thus, greater inland penetration and enhancement of precipitation occurred as the flow speed increased, but additional factors such as the subcloud sublimation of hydrometeors and the convective instability also contribute to differences between periods 2 and 3. These results illustrate the importance of incident flow strength in modulating the distribution and enhancement of snowfall in global lake- and sea-effect regions.

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Brice E. Coffer
,
Lindsay C. Maudlin
,
Peter G. Veals
, and
Adam J. Clark

Abstract

This study evaluates 24-h forecasts of dryline position from an experimental 4-km grid-spacing version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) run daily at the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), as well as the 12-km grid-spacing North America Mesoscale Model (NAM) run operationally by the Environmental Modeling Center of NCEP. For both models, 0000 UTC initializations are examined, and for verification 0000 UTC Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) analyses are used. For the period 1 April–30 June 2007–11, 116 cases containing drylines in all three datasets were identified using a manual procedure that considered specific humidity gradient magnitude, temperature, and 10-m wind. For the 24-h NAM forecasts, no systematic east–west dryline placement errors were found, and the majority of the east–west errors fell within the range ±0.5° longitude. The lack of a systematic bias was generally present across all subgroups of cases categorized according to month, weather pattern, and year. In contrast, a systematic eastward bias was found in 24-h NSSL-WRF forecasts, which was consistent across all subgroups of cases. The eastward biases seemed to be largest for the subgroups that favored “active” drylines (i.e., those associated with a progressive synoptic-scale weather system) as opposed to “quiescent” drylines that tend to be present with weaker tropospheric flow and have eastward movement dominated by vertical mixing processes in the boundary layer.

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Leah S. Campbell
,
W. James Steenburgh
,
Peter G. Veals
,
Theodore W. Letcher
, and
Justin R. Minder

Abstract

Improved understanding of the influence of orography on lake-effect storms is crucial for weather forecasting in many lake-effect regions. The Tug Hill Plateau of northern New York (hereafter Tug Hill), rising 500 m above eastern Lake Ontario, experiences some of the most intense snowstorms in the world. Herein the authors investigate the enhancement of lake-effect snowfall over Tug Hill during IOP2b of the Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS) field campaign. During the 24-h study period, total liquid precipitation equivalent along the axis of maximum precipitation increased from 33.5 mm at a lowland (145 m MSL) site to 62.5 mm at an upland (385 m MSL) site, the latter yielding 101.5 cm of snow. However, the ratio of upland to lowland precipitation, or orographic ratio, varied with the mode of lake-effect precipitation. Strongly organized long-lake-axis parallel bands, some of which formed in association with the approach or passage of upper-level short-wave troughs, produced the highest precipitation rates but the smallest orographic ratios. Within these bands, radar echoes were deepest and strongest over Lake Ontario and the coastal lowlands and decreased in depth and median intensity over Tug Hill. In contrast, nonbanded broad-coverage periods exhibited the smallest precipitation rates and the largest orographic ratios, the latter reflecting an increase in the coverage and frequency of radar echoes over Tug Hill. These findings should aid operational forecasts and, given the predominance of broad-coverage lake-effect periods during the cool season, help explain the climatological snowfall maximum found over the Tug Hill Plateau.

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Justin R. Minder
,
Theodore W. Letcher
,
Leah S. Campbell
,
Peter G. Veals
, and
W. James Steenburgh

Abstract

A pronounced snowfall maximum occurs about 30 km downwind of Lake Ontario over the 600-m-high Tug Hill Plateau (hereafter Tug Hill), a region where lake-effect convection is affected by mesoscale forcing associated with landfall and orographic uplift. Profiling radar data from the Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems field campaign are used to characterize the inland evolution of lake-effect convection that produces the Tug Hill snowfall maximum. Four K-band profiling Micro Rain Radars (MRRs) were aligned in a transect from the Ontario coast onto Tug Hill. Additional observations were provided by an X-band profiling radar (XPR). Analysis is presented of a major lake-effect storm that produced 6.4-cm liquid precipitation equivalent (LPE) snowfall over Tug Hill. This event exhibited strong inland enhancement, with LPE increasing by a factor of 1.9 over 15-km horizontal distance. MRR profiles reveal that this enhancement was not due to increases in the depth or intensity of lake-effect convection. With increasing inland distance, echoes transitioned from a convective toward a stratiform morphology, becoming less intense, more uniform, more frequent, and less turbulent. An inland increase in echo frequency (possibly orographically forced) contributes somewhat to snowfall enhancement. The XPR observations reproduce the basic vertical structure seen by the MRRs while also revealing a suppression of snowfall below 600 m AGL upwind of Tug Hill, possibly associated with subcloud sublimation or hydrometeor advection. Statistics from 29 events demonstrate that the above-described inland evolution of convection is common for lake-effect storms east of Lake Ontario.

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