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Louis W. Uccellini, Ralph A. Petersen, Paul J. Kocin, Keith F. Brill, and James J. Tuccillo


A series of numerical simulations is presented for the February 1979 Presidents' Day cyclone in order to understand more fully the roles played by upper-level jet streaks the oceanic planetary boundary layer (PBL), and latent heat release in the development of a low-level jet (LU) and secondary cyclogenesis along the East Coast of the United States. Mesoscale model simulations with and without sensible and latent heating show that the diabatic processes, along with the jet streak circulation patterns, contribute to the enhancement of the low-level winds and the initial development of the coastal cyclone. However. none of the mechanisms acting alone is sufficient to yield a satisfactory simulation of the LIJ and secondary cyclogenesis. Furthermore, the model-based diagnostic analyses indicate that a synergistic interaction must exist among these processes to account for the substantial increase in the magnitude of the low-level winds and the decrease in the sea level pressure that mark the secondary cyclogenesis for this case.

The following sequence is derived from the model diagnostic study: 1) Temporally increasing divergence along the axis of an upper-tropospheric jet streak located near the crest of an upper-level ridge is associated with the development of an indirect circulation that spans the entire depth of the troposphere and is displaced to the anticyclonic side of the jet. The lower branch of the indirect circulation appears to extend northwestward from the oceanic PBL up sloping isentropic surfaces toward 700 mb over the Appalachian Mountains. 2) Sensible heating and associated moisture flux within the oceanic PBL warm and moisten the lower branch of the indirect circulation, enhancing precipitation rates and latent heat release west of the coastline. 3) The combination of a shallow direct circulation associated with a developing coastal front, sloping lower-tropospheric isentropic surfaces just to the west of the coastline, and latent heat release contributes to a vertical displacement of parcels within the lower branch of the indirect circulation as they cross the coastline. 4) The vertical displacement of the parcels in a baroclinic environment (in which the pressure gradient force changes with height) results in the rapid increase in the magnitude of the ageostrophic wind and associated unbalanced flow. This imbalance contributes to parcel acceleration resulting in the formation of a LLJ in the lower branch of the indirect circulation over a 2 to 4 h period. 5) The increasing wind speed associated with the developing LLJ is, in turn, responsible for an increase in the horizontal mass flux divergence in the entrance region of the LLJ. The increase in the mass flux divergence in the lower troposphere just above the boundary layer makes a significant contribution to the decreasing sea-level pressure that constitutes the initial development phase of the secondary cyclone along the coast.

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Louis W. Uccellini, Paul J. Kocin, Ralph A. Petersen, Carlyle H. Wash, and Keith F. Brill


The Presidents' Day cyclone of 18–19 February 1979 was an intense and rapidly developing storm which produced heavy snowfall along the East Coast of the United States. An analysis of the cyclone is presented which isolates three jet streaks that appear to have played important roles in the development of two separate areas of heavy snow. One area of heavy snow developed prior to cyclogenesis and is linked, in part, to an increasingly unbalanced subtropical jet streak (STJ) and a noticeably ageostrophic low-level jet. The second area of heavy snow developed in conjunction with the explosive cyclogenesis off the East Coast as a polar jet streak and midtropospheric trough propagated toward the coastal region from the north-central United States.

This paper examines the STJ in detail. The maximum wind speeds associated with the STJ increased by 15 to 20 m s-1 between 1200 GMT 17 and 1200 GMT 18 February 1979 as the jet propagated from the south-central toward the eastern United States. During the 24 h period, the flow in the STJ became increasingly supergeostrophic and apparently unbalanced. Ageostrophic wind speeds increased to greater than 30 m s-1, with a significant cross-contour component directed toward lower values of the Montgomery streamfunction, as the flow along the STJ became increasingly divergent with time. The increased wind speed, ageostrophic flow, and divergence along the axis of the STJ are linked to the increasing confluence in the entrance region of the jet streak and the decreasing wavelength of the trough-ridge system in which the jet streak was embedded. The upper level divergence and upward vertical motion near the axis of the STJ along with the moisture transport associated with the LLJ are found to be important factors in the development of the first area of heavy snow.

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Steven E. Koch, William C. Skillman, Paul J. Kocin, Peter J. Wetzel, Keith F. Brill, Dennis A. Keyser, and Michael C. McCumber


A large number of predictions from a regional numerical weather prediction model known as the Mesoscale Atmospheric Simulation System (MASS 2.0) am verified against routinely collected observations to determine the model's predictive skill and its most important systematic errors at the synoptic scale. The model's forecast fields are smoothed to obtain synoptic-scale fields that can be compared objectively with the observation. A total of 23 (28) separate 12 h (24 h) forecasts of atmospheric flow patterns over the United States are evaluated from real-time simulations made during the period 2 April-2 July 1982. The model's performance is compared to that of the National Meteorological Centers operational Limited-area Fine Mesh (LFM) model for this period. Temporal variations in normalized forecast skill statistics are synthesized with the mean spatial distribution of daily model forecast errors in order to determine synoptic-scale systematic errors.

The mesoscale model produces synoptic-scale forecasts at an overall level of performance equivalent to that of the LFM model. Lower tropospheric mass fields are, for the most part, predicted significantly better by the MASS 2.0 model, but it is outperformed by the LFM at and above 500 mb. The greatest improvement made by the mesoscale model is a 73% reduction of cold bias in LFM forecasts of the 1000–500 mb thickness field, primarily over the western United States. The LFM bias is the combined result of model overforecasts of surface anticyclone intensity and underforecasts of surface cyclone intensity and nearby 500 mb geopotential heights.

The poorer forecasts by the MASS 2.0 model in the middle and upper troposphere result primarily from a systematic mass loss which occurs only under a certain synoptic flow pattern termed the mass loss regime. Problems with specification of the lateral boundary conditions and, to a lesser extent, erroneous computation of the map factor seemed to contribute most to the systematic mass loss. This error is very significant since MASS 2.0 performance either equaled or surpassed that of the LFM model in forecasts of virtually every meteorological field studied when mass loss regime days were excluded from the sample.

Two other important systematic errors in MASS model forecasts are investigated. Underforecasts of moisture over the Gulf Coast states are found to be due in large part to a negative bias in the moisture initialization. Also, overforecasts of surface cyclone intensity and 1000–500 mb thickness values over the Plains states are traced to excessive latent beating resulting from the absence of a cumulus parameterization scheme in the model. Awareness of these synoptic-scale forecasts errors enables more effective use to be made of the (unfiltered) mesoscale forecast fields, which are evaluated in the companion paper by Koch.

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