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Alicia C. Wasula, Lance F. Bosart, and Kenneth D. LaPenta

Abstract

Forecasters have surmised that prominent mountain ranges and river valleys in eastern New York and western New England (e.g., Hudson and Mohawk River valleys; Adirondack, Catskill, Green, and Berkshire Mountains) affect convective initiation and subsequent severe weather distribution. The purpose of this research is to document the climatology of severe weather in this region with respect to the terrain and the synoptic-scale flow direction. The area of study was subdivided into overlapping 0.5° grid boxes, and the number of severe weather reports from the database (1950–98) was tabulated for each box. These severe weather reports were then normalized and contoured over a terrain map. A logarithmic correction factor was applied to the data in order to minimize potential population bias effects. The results of this correction were compared with cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning strikes (independent of population bias) from 1989 to 1998 (1990 missing) for severe weather days in the same region. The severe weather and CG lightning database also was stratified by 700-hPa flow direction into northwest and southwest flow regimes to see if subtle terrain influences on the severe weather distribution could be detected. Regions where the CG lightning and severe weather stratifications agree well include the southern Adirondacks, Berkshires, and the Litchfield Hills of northwest Connecticut. Regions where discrepancies exist between the two stratifications include the Catskills and the mid–Hudson valley. The results of both severe weather and lightning stratifications show that there are preferred regions of upstate New York and western New England for both CG lightning and severe weather to occur depending on the 700-hPa flow direction.

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Lance F. Bosart and, Alicia C. Wasula, Walter H. Drag, and Keith W. Meier

Abstract

This paper begins with a review of basic surface frontogenesis concepts with an emphasis on fronts located over sloping terrain adjacent to mountain barriers and fronts located in large-scale baroclinic zones close to coastlines. The impact of cold-air damming and differential diabatic heating and cooling on frontogenesis is considered through two detailed case studies of intense surface fronts. The first case, from 17 to 18 April 2002, featured the westward passage of a cold (side-door) front across coastal eastern New England in which 15°–20°C temperature decreases were observed in less than one hour. The second case, from 28 February to 4 March 1972, featured a long-lived front that affected most of the United States from the Rockies to the Atlantic coast and was noteworthy for a 50°C temperature contrast between Kansas and southern Manitoba, Canada.

In the April 2002 case most of New England was initially covered by an unusually warm, dry air mass. Dynamical anticyclogenesis over eastern Canada set the stage for a favorable pressure gradient to allow chilly marine air to approach coastal New England from the east. Diabatic cooling over the chilly (5°–8°C) waters of the Gulf of Maine allowed surface pressures to remain relatively high offshore while diabatic heating over the land (31°–33°C temperatures) enabled surface pressures to fall relative to over the ocean. The resulting higher pressures offshore resulted in an onshore cold push. Frontal intensity was likely enhanced prior to leaf out and grass green-up as virtually all of the available insolation went into sensible heating.

The large-scale environment in the February–March 1972 case favored the accumulation of bitterly cold arctic air in Canada. Frontal formation occurred over northern Montana and North Dakota as the arctic air moved slowly southward in conjunction with surface pressure rises east of the Canadian Rockies. The arctic air accelerated southward subsequent to lee cyclogenesis–induced pressure falls ahead of an upstream trough that crossed the Rockies. The southward acceleration of the arctic air was also facilitated by dynamic anticyclogenesis in southern Canada beneath a poleward jet-entrance region. Frontal intensity varied diurnally in response to differential diabatic heating. Three types of cyclogenesis events were observed over the lifetime of the event: 1) low-amplitude frontal waves with no upper-level support, 2) low-amplitude frontal waves that formed in a jet-entrance region, and 3) cyclones that formed ahead of advancing upper-level troughs. All cyclones were either nondeveloping or weak developments despite extreme baroclinicity, likely the result of large atmospheric static stability in the arctic frontal zone and unfavorable alongfront stretching deformation. Significant frontal–mountain interactions were observed over the Rockies and the Appalachians.

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Alicia C. Wasula, Lance F. Bosart, Russell Schneider, Steven J. Weiss, Robert H. Johns, Geoffrey S. Manikin, and Patrick Welsh

Abstract

The 22–23 February 1998 central Florida tornado outbreak was one of the deadliest and costliest in Florida’s history; a number of long-track tornadoes moved across the Florida peninsula after 0000 UTC 23 February 1998. In the 12–24 h prior to 0000 UTC 23 February, a vigorous upper-level synoptic system was tracking across the southeast United States, and a north–south-oriented convective band located ahead of the cold front was moving eastward across the Gulf of Mexico. Strong vertical wind shear was present in the lowest 1 km, due to a ∼25 m s−1 low-level jet at 925 hPa and south-southeasterly surface flow over the Florida peninsula. Further, CAPE values across the central Florida peninsula exceeded 2500 J kg−1. Upon making landfall on the Florida peninsula, the convective band rapidly intensified and developed into a line of tornadic supercells. This paper examines the relationship between a diabatically induced front across the central Florida peninsula and the rapid development of tornadic supercells in the convective band after 0000 UTC 23 February. Results suggest that persistent strong frontogenesis helped to maintain the front and enhanced ascent in the warm, moist unstable air to the south of the east–west-oriented front on the Florida peninsula, thus allowing the updrafts to rapidly intensify as they made landfall. Further, surface observations from three key locations along the surface front suggest that a mesolow moved eastward along the front just prior to the time when supercells developed. It is hypothesized that the eastward-moving mesolow may have caused the winds in the warm air to the south of the surface front to back to southeasterly and create a favorable low-level wind profile in which supercells could rapidly develop.

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