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Michael Tjernström, Caroline Leck, P. Ola G. Persson, Michael L. Jensen, Steven P. Oncley, and Admir Targino
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Michael Tjernström, Caroline Leck, P. Ola G. Persson, Michael L. Jensen, Steven P. Oncley, and Admir Targino

An atmospheric boundary layer experiment into the high Arctic was carried out on the Swedish icebreaker Oden during the summer of 2001, with the primary boundary layer observations obtained while the icebreaker drifted with the ice near 89°N during 3 weeks in August. The purposes of the experiment were to gain an understanding of atmospheric boundary layer structure and transient mixing mechanisms, in addition to their relationships to boundary layer clouds and aerosol production. Using a combination of in situ and remote sensing instruments, with temporal and spatial resolutions previously not deployed in the Arctic, continuous measurements of the lower-troposphere structure and boundary layer turbulence were taken concurrently with atmospheric gas and particulate chemistry, and marine biology measurements.

The boundary layer was strongly controlled by ice thermodynamics and local turbulent mixing. Near-surface temperatures mostly remained between near the melting points of the sea- and freshwater, and near-surface relative humidity was high. Low clouds prevailed and fog appeared frequently. Visibility outside of fog was surprisingly good even with very low clouds, probably due to a lack of aerosol particles preventing the formation of haze. The boundary layer was shallow but remained well mixed, capped by an occasionally very strong inversion. Specific humidity often increased with height across the capping inversion.

In contrast to the boundary layer, the free troposphere often retained its characteristics from well beyond the Arctic. Elevated intrusions of warm, moist air from open seas to the south were frequent. The picture that the Arctic atmosphere is less affected by transport from lower latitudes in summer than the winter may, thus, be an artifact of analyzing only surface measurements. The transport of air from lower latitudes at heights above the boundary layer has a major impact on the Arctic boundary layer, even very close to the North Pole. During a few week-long periods synoptic-scale weather systems appeared, while weaker and shallower mesoscale fronts were frequent. While frontal passages changed the properties of the free troposphere, changes in the boundary layer were more determined by local effects that often led to changes contrary to those aloft. For example, increasing winds associated with a cold front often led to a warming of the near-surface air by mixing and entrapment.

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Abhay Devasthale, Joseph Sedlar, Brian H. Kahn, Michael Tjernström, Eric J. Fetzer, Baijun Tian, Joao Teixeira, and Thomas S. Pagano


Arctic sea ice is declining rapidly and its annual ice extent minima reached record lows twice during the last decade. Large environmental and socioeconomic implications related to sea ice reduction in a warming world necessitate realistic simulations of the Arctic climate system, not least to formulate relevant environmental policies on an international scale. However, despite considerable progress in the last few decades, future climate projections from numerical models still exhibit the largest uncertainties over the polar regions. The lack of sufficient observations of essential climate variables is partly to blame for the poor representation of key atmospheric processes, and their coupling to the surface, in climate models.

Observations from the hyperspectral Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on board the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Aqua satellite are contributing toward improved understanding of the vertical structure of the atmosphere over the poles since 2002, including the lower troposphere. This part of the atmosphere is especially important in the Arctic, as it directly impacts sea ice and its short-term variability. Although in situ measurements provide invaluable ground truth, they are spatially and temporally inhomogeneous and sporadic over the Arctic. A growing number of studies are exploiting AIRS data to investigate the thermodynamic structure of the Arctic atmosphere, with applications ranging from understanding processes to deriving climatologies—all of which are also useful to test and improve parameterizations in climate models. As the AIRS data record now extends more than a decade, a select few of many such noteworthy applications of AIRS data over this challenging and rapidly changing landscape are highlighted here.

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Anthony J. Prenni, Jerry Y. Harrington, Michael Tjernström, Paul J. DeMott, Alexander Avramov, Charles N. Long, Sonia M. Kreidenweis, Peter Q. Olsson, and Johannes Verlinde

Mixed-phase stratus clouds are ubiquitous in the Arctic and play an important role in climate in this region. However, climate and regional models have generally proven unsuccessful at simulating Arctic cloudiness, particularly during the colder months. Specifically, models tend to underpredict the amount of liquid water in mixed-phase clouds. The Mixed-Phase Arctic Cloud Experiments (M-PACE), conducted from late September through October 2004 in the vicinity of the Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) North Slope of Alaska field site, focused on characterizing low-level Arctic stratus clouds. Ice nuclei (IN) measurements were made using a continuous-flow ice thermal diffusion chamber aboard the University of North Dakota's Citation II aircraft. These measurements indicated IN concentrations that were significantly lower than those used in many models. Using the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS), we show that these low IN concentrations, as well as inadequate parameterizations of the depletion of IN through nucleation scavenging, may be partially responsible for the poor model predictions. Moreover, we show that this can lead to errors in the modeled surface radiative energy budget of 10–100 Wm2. Finally, using the measured IN concentrations as input to RAMS and comparing to a mixed-phase cloud observed during M-PACE, we show excellent agreement between modeled and observed liquid water content and net infrared surface flux.

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David P. Rogers, Clive E. Dorman, Kathleen A. Edwards, Ian M. Brooks, W. Kendall Melville, Stephen D. Burk, William T. Thompson, Teddy Holt, Linda M. Ström, Michael Tjernström, Branko Grisogono, John M. Bane, Wendell A. Nuss, Bruce M. Morley, and Allen J. Schanot

Some of the highlights of an experiment designed to study coastal atmospheric phenomena along the California coast (Coastal Waves 1996 experiment) are described. This study was designed to address several problems, including the cross-shore variability and turbulent structure of the marine boundary layer, the influence of the coast on the development of the marine layer and clouds, the ageostrophy of the flow, the dynamics of trapped events, the parameterization of surface fluxes, and the supercriticality of the marine layer.

Based in Monterey, California, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) C-130 Hercules and the University of North Carolina Piper Seneca obtained a comprehensive set of measurements on the structure of the marine layer. The study focused on the effects of prominent topographic features on the wind. Downstream of capes and points, narrow bands of high winds are frequently encountered. The NCAR-designed Scanning Aerosol Backscatter Lidar (SABL) provided a unique opportunity to connect changes in the depth of the boundary layer with specific features in the dynamics of the flow field.

An integral part of the experiment was the use of numerical models as forecast and diagnostic tools. The Naval Research Laboratory's Coupled Ocean Atmosphere Model System (COAMPS) provided high-resolution forecasts of the wind field in the vicinity of capes and points, which aided the deployment of the aircraft. Subsequently, this model and the MIUU (University of Uppsala) numerical model were used to support the analysis of the field data.

These are some of the most comprehensive measurements of the topographically forced marine layer that have been collected. SABL proved to be an exceptionally useful tool to resolve the small-scale structure of the boundary layer and, combined with in situ turbulence measurements, provides new insight into the structure of the marine atmosphere. Measurements were made sufficiently far offshore to distinguish between the coastal and open ocean effects. COAMPS proved to be an excellent forecast tool and both it and the MIUU model are integral parts of the ongoing analysis. The results highlight the large spatial variability that occurs directly in response to topographic effects. Routine measurements are insufficient to resolve this variability. Numerical weather prediction model boundary conditions cannot properly define the forecast system and often underestimate the wind speed and surface wave conditions in the nearshore region.

This study was a collaborative effort between the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Thomas Spengler, Ian A. Renfrew, Annick Terpstra, Michael Tjernström, James Screen, Ian M. Brooks, Andrew Carleton, Dmitry Chechin, Linling Chen, James Doyle, Igor Esau, Paul J. Hezel, Thomas Jung, Tsubasa Kohyama, Christof Lüpkes, Kelly E. McCusker, Tiina Nygård, Denis Sergeev, Matthew D. Shupe, Harald Sodemann, and Timo Vihma
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