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David H. Bromwich
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David H. Bromwich

Prominent warm signatures of strong, negatively buoyant, katabatic airstreams are present at thermal infrared wavelengths as a result of intense vertical mixing and drift-snow transport within stable boundary layers. These tracers are used to illustrate several aspects of the behavior of katabatic winds in the Ross Sea sector of the Antarctic. The satellite features are compared with surface-based observations whenever possible. Converging surface-wind signatures upslope from Terra Nova Bay are shown to closely follow the observed time-averaged streamlines of drainage airflow. The satellite-observed core of the katabatic airstream descends to sea level via a direct route, but complex three-dimensional trajectories are manifested in marginal regions. Katabatic winds propagating horizontally for hundreds of kilometers over the southwestern Ross Sea do not exhibit the expected influence of the Coriolis force. Katabatic signatures are shown to be climatological features over the Ross Ice Shelf which closely follow surface wind measurements. An approximate proportionality appears to exist between average signature size over the shelf and the magnitude of katabatic mass transport from the plateau.

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David H. Bromwich

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Two years of automatic weather station (AWS) observations and satellite images have been used to study mesoscale cyclogenesis along the Transantarctic Mountains. Twice-daily regional sea-level pressure analyses revealed the frequent formation of mesoscale cyclones adjacent to two regions where the discharge of cold boundary-layer air from east Antarctica is concentrated: near Terra Nova Bay/Franklin Island and Byrd Glacier. Between one and two new vortices on average formed each week in the former location with weak frequency maxima in December–March and August–September. There was a large difference between the cyclogenetic activity in the two years. The AWS array expanded in 1985 and resolved another cyclogenetic area near Byrd Glacier. This feature was half as active as the Franklin Island area and exhibited many of the same characteristics. About half of the Byrd Glacier cyclones developed simultaneously with vortices near Franklin Island.

These developments are the result of a dry baroclinic process with marked baroclinicity and weak cyclonic vorticity appearing to be boundary-layer prerequisites. There is little consistent upper-air support associated with the cyclogeneses, but such factors often play a key role in subsequent storm evolution. The evidence suggests that synoptic forcing plays a significant genetic role via troughs attached to, but ahead of, maritime cyclones centered to the northwest of the Ross Sea.

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David H. Bromwich

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Three years of automatic weather station observations for the months of February to April show that intense katabatic winds persistently blow across the western shore of Terra Nova Bay. The data demonstrate that the anomalously strong katabatic winds of Adelie Land are not unique, and thus strongly support the proposition that most of the cold boundary layer air from the ice sheet crosses the coastline in a small number of narrow zones. Furthermore the observations prove that katabatic winds can routinely blow for substantial distances across flat terrain in marked contrast to the abrupt dissipation previously monitored just offshore from East Antarctica. Winter wind conditions onset suddenly in mid-February and are characterized by negligible directional variations and by speeds mostly ranging between 10 and 30 m s−1.

Katabatic winds at Terra Nova Bay both affect and are affected by the regional atmospheric circulation. This katabatic airflow is a time-averaged source of cold boundary layer air for the western Ross Sea. Maximum thermal contrast with the regional temperature field occurs between January and June. Temperature observations suggest that the katabatic winds at Inexpressible Island am primarily of the boratype throughout the year. Strong southerly geostrophic winds over the western Ross Sea appear to suppress the katabatic outflow during winter while weak zonal pressure gradients coincide with intensified katabatic drainage. This relationship is suggested to arise because clouds modulate the radiative production of cold surface air over the interior of the ice sheet.

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David H. Bromwich
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Zhong Liu and David H. Bromwich

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The surface wind pattern over the ice sheets of Antarctica is irregular with marked areas of airflow confluence near the coastal margins. Where cold air from a large interior area of the ice sheet converges (a confluence zone), an anomalously large supply of air is available to feed the coastal katabatic winds, which, as a result, are intensified and more persistent. The confluence zone inland of Siple Coast, West Antarctica, differs from its East Antarctic counterparts in that the terrain slopes become gentler rather than steeper as the coast is approached. In addition, synoptic processes exert substantially more impact on the behavior of the surface winds.

A month-long field program to study the dynamics of the springtime katabatic wind confluence zone has been carried out near Siple Coast. Two sites, Upstream B (83.5°S, 136.1°W) and South Camp (84.5°S, 134.3°W), were established roughly perpendicular to the downslope direction. The field program involved the use of the ground-based remote sensing equipment (sodar and RASS) along with conventional surface and balloon observations. Previous analyses revealed the cross-sectional structure of the confluence zone as consisting of a more buoyant West Antarctic katabatic airflow overlying a less buoyant katabatic airflow originating from East Antarctica.

The force balances inside the confluence zone are here investigated for three situations: mean (all available wind profiles from balloon launches), and two extreme cases (light and strong winds). A linear regression method is used to estimate the mean vertical wind shears and horizontal temperature gradients. The vertical wind shears are used to examine whether or not the airflows are in geostrophic balance. The results are 1) the airflow above the surface at both sites is in geostrophic balance for the three situations; 2) inside the West Antarctic katabatic wind zone, there are three forces in the north–south direction—the restoring pressure gradient force associated with blocking of the katabatic and synoptic winds, the downslope buoyancy force, and the synoptic pressure gradient force associated with the time-averaged low in the South Pacific Ocean; 3) above the West Antarctic katabatic wind layer, the observed easterly wind is due to the synoptic pressure gradient force associated with the low; 4) inside the East Antarctic katabatic wind zone, in addition to the above three forces, there is the downslope buoyancy force associated with the inversion; and 5) large-scale transient synoptic systems strongly influence the downslope wind speed and the boundary layer depth, resulting in the light and strong wind cases.

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Zhong Liu and David H. Bromwich

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The blocking effect of Ross Island and Hut Point peninsula, Antarctica, has been investigated since the early part of this century. Due to lack of continuous measurements of boundary-layer winds, the investigations were limited to an overall description of the blocking effect with no information on the diurnal variation or the detailed vertical structure of the approaching airflow.

An acoustic sounder (sodar) was deployed during the 1990/91 austral summer season at Williams Field in the upwind area south of Ross Island, Antarctica. Such equipment can continuously measure three-dimensional winds from a few tens of meters above the surface up to an altitude of several hundred meters, thus providing a new opportunity to study the dynamics of the stably stratified planetary boundary layer.

In addition to confirming earlier work, the sodar winds show a significant diurnal variation of the blocking effect, which amplifies with height. Such variation is dominated by the changes in the upstream air mass in which katabatic airflow from Byrd, Mulock, and Skelton glaciers plays a central role.

Through case studies, the breakdown of the prevailing wind regime in the Ross Island area was associated with the influence of meso- and synoptic-scale pressure gradients on the katabatic airflow approaching from the south and with very localized geostrophic winds deflected around the topography of Ross Island.

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David H. Bromwich and Zhong Liu

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A month-long field program to study the springtime katabatic wind confluence zone (where katabatic winds converge) has been carried out near Siple Coast, West Antarctica. Based on previous observations and numerical studies, two surface camps, Upstream B (83.5°8, 136.1°W) and South Camp (84.5°S, 134.3°W), were established. Ground-based remote sensing equipment (sodar and RASS), along with conventional observations, were used. Combining the analyses of surface observations and wind and temperature profiles at the above camps, the following picture for the cross-sectional structure of the confluence zone emerges. A relatively cold katabatic airflow, which probably comes from Fast Antarctica, occupies the layer between the surface and roughly 500 m ACL. Low-level jets are present below 200 m AGL and are stronger near the Transantarctic Mountains. Diurnal variation is present in this cold drainage flow and decreases toward the Transantarctic Mountains. Weak-inversion-layer tops are found near 500 m AGL, which is roughly equal to the depth of the cold katabatic flow. The warmer West Antarctic katabatic airflow overlies the cold drainage flow from East Antarctica and has a depth of approximately 1000 m at Upstream B and more than 1500 m at South Camp; this is caused by blocking of the converging West Antarctic airflow by the Transantarctic Mountains. This warm flow originates near the surface far upslope in the vicinity of Byrd Station (80°S, 120°W). A baroclinic zone, formed where the two drainage flows are horizontally adjacent, appears to become unstable with sonar frequency to generate mesoscale cyclones.

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Bruce P. Briegleb and David H. Bromwich

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Present-day Arctic and Antarctic radiation budgets of the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate Model version 3 (CCM3) are presented. The CCM3 simulation is from a prescribed and interannually varying sea surface temperature integration from January 1979 through August 1993. Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) data from 1985 through 1989 are used for validation of top-of-atmosphere (TOA) absorbed shortwave radiation (ASR) and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR). Summer ASR in both polar regions is less than the observations by about 20 W m−2. While the annual mean OLR in both polar regions is only 2–3 W m−2 less than the ERBE data, the seasonal amplitude in OLR of 40 W m−2 is smaller than the observed of 55–60 W m−2. The annual polar TOA radiation balance is smaller than observations by 5–10 W m−2. Compared to selected model and observational surface data, downward shortwave (SW) is too small by 50–70 W m−2 and downward longwave (LW) too large by 10–30 W m−2. Surface downward LW in clear atmospheres is too small by 10–20 W m−2. The absence of sea-ice melt ponds results in 10–20 W m−2 too much SW absorption during early summer and from 20 to 40 W m−2 too little during late summer. Summer cloud covers are reasonably well simulated, but winter low cloud cover is too high by 0.5–0.7 compared to surface cloud observations. Comparison with limited satellite and in situ observations indicates cloud water path (CWP) is too high by about a factor of 2. While cloud particle sizes are approximately in the range of observed values, regional variation between maritime and continental droplet sizes is too strong over coastlines. Despite several improvements in CCM3 radiation physics, the accuracy of polar TOA annual radiation balance is degraded against the ERBE data compared to CCM2. Improvement in CCM3 polar radiation budgets will require improved simulation of CWP, clear sky LW, and sea ice albedo.

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Bruce P. Briegleb and David H. Bromwich

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Present-day Arctic and Antarctic climate of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Climate Model version 3 (CCM3) is presented. The CCM3 simulation is from a prescribed and interannually varying sea surface temperature integration from January 1979 through August 1993. Observations from a variety of sources, including the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts analyses, rawinsonde, and surface station data, are used for validation of CCM3’s polar climate during this period. Overall, CCM3 can simulate many important polar climatic features and in general is an incremental improvement over CCM2.

The 500-hPa polar vortex minima are too deep by 50–100 m and too zonally symmetric. The Arctic sea level pressure maximum is displaced poleward, while the Icelandic region minimum is extended toward Europe, and the Aleutian region minimum is extended toward Asia. The Antarctic circumpolar trough of low sea level pressure is slightly north of the observed position and is 2–3 hPa too low. Antarctic katabatic winds are similar to observations in magnitude and regional variation. The Antarctic surface wind stress is estimated to be 30%–50% too strong in some regions. Polar tropospheric temperatures are 2°–4°C colder than observations, mostly in the summer season. Low-level winter inversions over the Arctic Ocean are only 3°–4°C, rather than the observed 10°C. In the Antarctic midcontinent they are around 25°–30°C (about 5° stronger than observed) and continue to be stronger than observed along the coast. Although water vapor column is uniformly low by 10%–20% compared to analyses in both polar regions, the regional patterns of minima over Greenland and the East Antarctic plateau are well represented. Annual 70° to pole CCM3 values are 5.8 kg m−2 for the Arctic and 1.7 kg m−2 for the Antarctic. The regional distribution of precipitation minus evaporation compares reasonably with analyses. The annual 70° to pole values are 18.1 cm yr−1, which are close to the most recent observational estimates of 16 to 18 cm yr−1 in the Arctic and 18.4 ± 3.7 cm yr−1 in the Antarctic. In both polar regions, summer surface energy budgets are estimated to be low by roughly 20 W m−2.

Suggestions as to causes of simulation deficiencies are 1) polar heat sinks that are too strong; 2) inadequate representation of sea-ice–atmosphere heat exchange, due to lack of fractional coverage of sea ice of variable thickness; 3) effects of low horizontal resolution; and 4) biased extrapolar influence.

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