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Lynn A. McMurdie and Brian Ancell

Abstract

The predictability of North Pacific cyclones can vary widely, from highly accurate prediction of storm intensity and location to forecast position errors of hundreds of kilometers and central pressure errors of tens of hectopascals. In this study, a Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) ensemble Kalman filter is used to investigate predictability of landfalling cyclones on the west coast of North America over two winter seasons (2008/09 and 2009/10). Predictability is defined as the ensemble spread of cyclone central pressure at the final forecast time (24 h) where large spread means low predictability. Both ensemble spread and ensemble initial-condition sensitivity are examined for a wide variety of cyclones that occurred during the two seasons. Storms that are deepening and track from the southwest exhibit the largest ensemble initial-condition sensitivity and highest ensemble spread compared to decaying storms and storms that track from other directions. Storms that end south of 40°N, typically slow moving storms from the northwest, exhibit higher predictability regardless of whether or not they are deepening or decaying. Cyclones with large ensemble spread and low sensitivity are mature cyclones whose low predictability likely results from large initial-condition spread instead of large perturbation growth. These results highlight particular synoptic situations and cyclone characteristics that are associated with low predictability and can potentially be used to improve forecasts through improved observational coverage.

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Lynn A. McMurdie and Kristina B. Katsaros

Abstract

With the atmospheric water-vapor content information available from the SEASAT and Nimbus-7 Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometers (SMMR), differences in water-vapor distribution between cyclonic storms in different regions of the global ocean can be examined in more detail than previously possible from radiosondes. SMMR-derived integrated water vapor is a robust and dependable variable of the same accuracy as integrated radiosonde soundings. In this study, maximum and minimum water-vapor content in the vicinity of cold fronts of 80 storms that occurred in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Southern oceans are compared. North Atlantic storms were found to have significantly higher maximum and minimum water-vapor content near cold fronts on average than North Pacific or Southern ocean storms for both the warm and cold seasons. These differences are attributed to warmer sea surface temperatures and air temperatures in the North Atlantic, and higher baroclinity and consequently stronger upward motion in North Atlantic storms. Additionally, some of the differences may be attributed to the fact that the North Atlantic storms generally occur at lower latitudes than the storms in the other regions. Furthermore, the North Pacific storms were found to have significantly higher maximum and minimum water-vapor content near cold fronts on average than the Southern Ocean storms for both the warm and cold seasons. These differences are attributable to warmer sea surface temperatures in the North Pacific during the warm season, and to less moisture transport by Southern Ocean storms and the poleward location of the Southern Ocean storms compared to North Pacific storms during the cold season. Two examples of water-vapor content in a South Atlantic storm are given to contrast with the Southern Ocean cases. The South Atlantic storm had much higher maximum water-vapor content near the cold front than most Southern Ocean storms.

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Lynn A. McMurdie and Krishna B. Katsaros

Abstract

Patterns in the horizontal distribution of integrated water vapor, integrated liquid water and rainfall rate derived from the Seasat Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR) during a 10–12 September 1978 North Pacific cyclone are studied. These patterns are compared with surface analyses, ship reports, radiosonde data, and GOES-West infrared satellite imagery. The SMMR data give a unique view of the large mesoscale structure of a midlatitude cyclone. The water vapor distribution is found to have characteristic patterns related to the location of the surface fronts throughout the development of the cyclone. An example is given to illustrate that SMMR data could significantly improve frontal analysis over data-sparse oceanic regions. The distribution of integrated liquid water agrees qualitatively well with corresponding cloud patterns in satellite imagery and appears to provide a means to distinguish where liquid water clouds exist under a cirrus shield. Ship reports of rainfall intensity agree qualitatively very well with SMMR-derived rainrates. Areas of mesoscale rainfall, on the order of 50 km × 50 km or greater are detected using SMMR derived rainrates.

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Joseph P. Zagrodnik, Lynn McMurdie, and Robert Conrick

Abstract

High-resolution numerical model simulations of six different cases during the 2015/16 Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) are used to examine dynamic and microphysical precipitation processes on both the full barrier-scale and smaller sub-barrier-scale ridges and valleys. The degree to which stratiform precipitation within midlatitude cyclones is modified over the coastal Olympic Mountains range was found to be strongly dependent on the synoptic environment within a cyclone’s prefrontal and warm sectors. In prefrontal sectors, barrier-scale ascent over stably stratified flow resulted in enhanced ice production aloft at the coast and generally upstream of higher terrain. At low levels, stable flow orientated transverse to sub-barrier-scale windward ridges generated small-scale mountain waves, which failed to produce enough cloud water to appreciably enhance precipitation on the scale of the windward ridges. In moist-neutral warm sectors, the upstream side of the barrier exhibited broad ascent oriented along the windward ridges with lesser regions of adjacent downward motion. Significant quantities of cloud water were produced over coastal foothills with further production of cloud water on the lower-windward slopes. Ice production above the melting layer occurred directly over the barrier where the ice particles were further advected downstream by cross-barrier winds and spilled over into the lee. The coastal foothills were found to be essential for the production and maintenance of cloud water upstream of the primary topographic barrier, allowing additional time for hydrometeors to grow to precipitation size by autoconversion and collection before falling out on the lower-windward slopes.

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Lynn A. McMurdie, Gad Levy, and Kristina B. Katsaros

Abstract

Fields of divergence calculated from the Seasat-A Satellite Scatterometer winds and fields of integrated water vapor and rainrate from the Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer on Seasat are constructed for three different midlatitude cyclones. These storms include an explosively deepening cyclone that occurred in the North Atlantic (also known as the Queen Elizabeth II cyclone), a storm that occurred in the North Pacific, and a Southern Ocean storm. In all three cases, the regions of convergence and atmospheric water (vapor and rain) are consistent with each other and help to define features of each storm. The vertical distribution of moisture is inferred for one case using both the convergence pattern and the integrated water vapor field. In another, interpretation of the convergence field in a data gap region is aided by the water vapor field. In all three cases, surface low pressure centers, fronts, and even frontal waves are clearly evident as areas of convergence, and increased water vapor and rainrate.

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Zachary S. Bruick, Kristen L. Rasmussen, Angela K. Rowe, and Lynn A. McMurdie

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is known to have teleconnections to atmospheric circulations and weather patterns around the world. Previous studies have examined connections between ENSO and rainfall in tropical South America, but little work has been done connecting ENSO phases with convection in subtropical South America. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) has provided novel observations of convection in this region, including that convection in the lee of the Andes Mountains is among the deepest and most intense in the world with frequent upscale growth into mesoscale convective systems. A 16-yr dataset from the TRMM PR is used to analyze deep and wide convection in combination with ERA-Interim reanalysis storm composites. Results from the study show that deep and wide convection occurs in all phases of ENSO, with only some modest variations in frequency between ENSO phases. However, the most statistically significant differences between ENSO phases occur in the three-dimensional storm structure. Deep and wide convection during El Niño tends to be taller and contain stronger convection, while La Niña storms contain stronger stratiform echoes. The synoptic and thermodynamic conditions supporting the deeper storms during El Niño is related to increased convective available potential energy, a strengthening of the South American low-level jet (SALLJ), and a stronger upper-level jet stream, often with the equatorward-entrance region of the jet stream directly over the convective storm locations. These enhanced synoptic and thermodynamic conditions provide insight into how the structure of some of the most intense convection on Earth varies with phases of ENSO.

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