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David Medvigy, Robert L. Walko, Martin J. Otte, and Roni Avissar

Abstract

Numerical models have long predicted that the deforestation of the Amazon would lead to large regional changes in precipitation and temperature, but the extratropical effects of deforestation have been a matter of controversy. This paper investigates the simulated impacts of deforestation on the northwest United States December–February climate. Integrations are carried out using the Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Model (OLAM), here run as a variable-resolution atmospheric GCM, configured with three alternative horizontal grid meshes: 1) 25-km characteristic length scale (CLS) over the United States, 50-km CLS over the Andes and Amazon, and 200-km CLS in the far-field; 2) 50-km CLS over the United States, 50-km CLS over the Andes and Amazon, and 200-km CLS in the far-field; and 3) 200-km CLS globally. In the high-resolution simulations, deforestation causes a redistribution of precipitation within the Amazon, accompanied by vorticity and thermal anomalies. These anomalies set up Rossby waves that propagate into the extratropics and impact western North America. Ultimately, Amazon deforestation results in 10%–20% precipitation reductions for the coastal northwest United States and the Sierra Nevada. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada experiences declines of up to 50%. However, in the coarse-resolution simulations, this mechanism is not resolved and precipitation is not reduced in the northwest United States. These results highlight the need for adequate model resolution in modeling the impacts of Amazon deforestation. It is concluded that the deforestation of the Amazon can act as a driver of regional climate change in the extratropics, including areas of the western United States that are agriculturally important.

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David Medvigy, Robert L. Walko, Martin J. Otte, and Roni Avissar

Abstract

This work continues the presentation and evaluation of the Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Model (OLAM), focusing on the model’s ability to represent radiation and precipitation. OLAM is a new, state-of-the-art earth system model, capable of user-specified grid resolution and local mesh refinement. An objective optimization of the microphysics parameterization is carried out. Data products from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) and the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) are used to construct a maximum likelihood function, and thousands of simulations using different values for key parameters are carried out. Shortwave fluxes are found to be highly sensitive to both the density of cloud droplets and the assumed shape of the cloud droplet diameter distribution function. Because there is considerable uncertainty in which values for these parameters to use in climate models, they are targeted as the tunable parameters of the objective optimization procedure, which identified high-likelihood volumes of parameter space as well as parameter uncertainties and covariances. Once optimized, the model closely matches observed large-scale radiative fluxes and precipitation. The impact of model resolution is also tested. At finer characteristic length scales (CLS), smaller-scale features such as the ITCZ are better resolved. It is also found that the Amazon was much better simulated at 100- than 200-km CLS. Furthermore, a simulation using OLAM’s variable resolution functionality to cover South America with 100-km CLS and the rest of the world with 200-km CLS generates a precipitation pattern in the Amazon similar to the global 100-km CLS run.

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F. Martin Ralph, Paul J. Neiman, Teddie L. Keller, David Levinson, and Len Fedor

Abstract

Although considerable understanding of mountain waves has been gained with the aid of the steady-state assumption, it is clear that mountain waves evolve over time. Group velocity arguments indicate that this evolution can occur in less than 1 h. This study uses observations of trapped lee waves to measure the rate at which their horizontal wavelengths change, including a detailed analysis of two events in which such changes are clearly documented. In one case, Doppler lidar observations show a steady increase in horizontal wavelength of 6% h−1 over 4 h and clearly illustrates the relationship between the wave clouds and wave motions. In a second case, visible satellite imagery reveals an increase in wavelength of 14% h−1, which is related to temporal changes in vertical air motions measured by wind profilers within the wave field. Hourly vertical profiles of wind and virtual temperature measured by radio acoustic sounding systems (RASS) and wind profilers reveal important changes in the wave environment. These data were used to initialize a two-dimensional nonlinear nonhydrostatic numerical model with soundings representing five times over 8 h. Each simulation produced trapped lee waves. The simulations support the conclusion that the observed increase in wavelength resulted from changes in the wave environment. Uncertainty in the predicted wavelength due to using measurements within the trapped lee waves as initial conditions is shown to be small in this case. The wind profiler and RASS measurement accuracies are adequate to measure changes leading to trapped lee wave nonstationarity.

The results from these two case studies are combined with evidence of nonstationarity found in earlier papers and additional events documented here using visible satellite imagery. These 24 observations of nonstationarity indicate that the horizontal wavelength of trapped lee waves can change by as much as 30% h−1. The average of all events, most of which occurred at midday, is a 9% h−1 temporal increase. It is suggested that the deepening of the mixed layer thins the elevated stable layer that is a key part of the waveguide and that this thinning causes the systematic temporal increase of the horizontal wavelength.

While this study focused on trapped lee waves, it can be inferred that vertically propagating waves can also change significantly over a few hours. Because aircraft measurements of vertical momentum flux profiles typically require 2–5 h to complete, and stationarity is required over that time, it is recommended that steadiness should be measured rather than assumed in such studies.

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Graeme L. Stephens, Martin Wild, Paul W. Stackhouse Jr., Tristan L’Ecuyer, Seiji Kato, and David S. Henderson

Abstract

Four different types of estimates of the surface downwelling longwave radiative flux (DLR) are reviewed. One group of estimates synthesizes global cloud, aerosol, and other information in a radiation model that is used to calculate fluxes. Because these synthesis fluxes have been assessed against observations, the global-mean values of these fluxes are deemed to be the most credible of the four different categories reviewed. The global, annual mean DLR lies between approximately 344 and 350 W m−2 with an error of approximately ±10 W m−2 that arises mostly from the uncertainty in atmospheric state that governs the estimation of the clear-sky emission. The authors conclude that the DLR derived from global climate models are biased low by approximately 10 W m−2 and even larger differences are found with respect to reanalysis climate data. The DLR inferred from a surface energy balance closure is also substantially smaller that the range found from synthesis products suggesting that current depictions of surface energy balance also require revision. The effect of clouds on the DLR, largely facilitated by the new cloud base information from the CloudSat radar, is estimated to lie in the range from 24 to 34 W m−2 for the global cloud radiative effect (all-sky minus clear-sky DLR). This effect is strongly modulated by the underlying water vapor that gives rise to a maximum sensitivity of the DLR to cloud occurring in the colder drier regions of the planet. The bottom of atmosphere (BOA) cloud effect directly contrast the effect of clouds on the top of atmosphere (TOA) fluxes that is maximum in regions of deepest and coldest clouds in the moist tropics.

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Steven E. Koch, Martin Fengler, Phillip B. Chilson, Kimberly L. Elmore, Brian Argrow, David L. Andra Jr., and Todd Lindley

Abstract

The potential value of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for monitoring the preconvective environment and providing useful information in real time to weather forecasters for evaluation at a National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office are addressed. The general goal was to demonstrate whether a combination of fixed-wing and rotary-wing UAS can provide detailed, accurate, and useful measurements of the boundary layer important for determining the potential for convection initiation (CI). Two field operations were held: a validation study in which the UAS data were compared with collocated measurements made by mobile rawinsondes and ground-based remote sensing systems and a real-time experiment held to evaluate the potential value of the UAS observations in an operationally relevant environment. Vertical profile measurements were made by the rotary-wing UAS at two mesonet sites every 30 min up to 763 m (2500 ft) AGL in coordination with fixed-wing UAS transects between the sites. The results showed the ability of the fixed-wing UAS to detect significant spatial gradients in temperature, moisture, and winds. Although neither of two different types of rotary-wing UAS measurements were able to strictly meet the requirements for sensor accuracy, one of the systems came very close to doing so. UAS sensor accuracy, methods for retrieving the winds, and challenges in assessing the representativeness of the observations are highlighted. Interesting mesoscale phenomena relevant to CI forecasting needs are revealed by the UAS. Issues needing to be overcome for UAS to ever become a NOAA operational observing system are discussed.

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Paul J. Neiman, F. Martin Ralph, Robert L. Weber, Taneil Uttal, Louisa B. Nance, and David H. Levinson

Abstract

Through the integrated analysis of remote sensing and in situ data taken along the Front Range of Colorado, this study describes the interactions that occurred between a leeside arctic front and topographically modulated flows. These interactions resulted in nonclassical frontal behavior and structure across northeastern Colorado. The shallow arctic front initially advanced southwestward toward the Front Range foothills, before retreating eastward. Then, a secondary surge of arctic air migrated westward into the foothills. During its initial southwestward advance, the front exhibited obstacle-like, density-current characteristics. Its initial advance was interrupted by strong downslope northwesterly flow associated with a high-amplitude mountain wave downstream of the Continental Divide, and by a temporal decrease in the density contrast across the front due to diurnal heating in the cold air and weak cold advection in the warm air. The direction and depth of flow within the arctic air also influenced the frontal propagation.

The shallow, obstacle-like front actively generated both vertically propagating and vertically trapped gravity waves as it advanced into the downslope northwesterly flow, resulting in midtropospheric lenticular wave clouds aloft that tracked with the front. Because the front entered a region where strong downslope winds and mountain waves extended downstream over the high plains, the wave field in northeastern Colorado included both frontally forced and true mountain-forced gravity waves. A sequence of Scorer parameter profiles calculated from hourly observations reveals a sharp contrast between the prefrontal and postfrontal wave environments. Consequently, analytic resonant wave mode calculations based on the Scorer parameter profiles reveal that the waves supported in the postfrontal regime differed markedly from those supported in the prefrontal environment. This result is consistent with wind profiler observations that showed the amplitude of vertical motions decreasing substantially through 16 km above mean sea level (MSL) after the shallow frontal passage.

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Robert J. Dumont, Cynthia A. Nelson, Donald G. Caviness, Carl D. Thormeyer, David L. Martin, and John J. Pereira

The United States has several meteorological, oceanographic, and satellite operational processing centers (OPCs) in the military and civilian sectors. Separate cooperative and complementary military and civilian OPCs provide sufficient redundancy for backup purposes; permit the development of state-of-the-art forecasting schemes, such as the ensemble technique; and ensure the diverse environmental needs of military and civilian users are met with the most efficient use of resources. The effective collaboration of the military and civilian OPCs has resulted in the development of a truly national meteorological and oceanographic resource not attainable within any single agency.

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Paul J. Neiman, F. Martin Ralph, Allen B. White, David D. Parrish, John S. Holloway, and Diana L. Bartels

Abstract

Experimental observations from coastal and island wind profilers, aircraft, and other sensors deployed during the California Land-falling Jets Experiment of 1997/98 and the Pacific Land-falling Jets Experiment of 2000/01–2003/04 were combined with observations from operational networks to document the regular occurrence and characteristic structure of shallow (∼400–500 m deep), cold airstreams flowing westward through California’s Petaluma Gap from the Central Valley to the coast during the winter months. The Petaluma Gap, which is the only major air shed outlet from the Central Valley, is ∼35–50 km wide and has walls extending, at most, a modest 600–900 m above the valley floor. Based on this geometry, together with winter meteorological conditions typical of the region (e.g., cold air pooled in the Central Valley and approaching extratropical cyclones), this gap is predisposed to generating westward-directed ageostrophic flows driven by along-gap pressure differences. Two case studies and a five-winter composite analysis of 62 gap-flow cases are presented here to show that flows through the Petaluma Gap significantly impact local distributions of wind, temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric pollutants. These gap flows preferentially occur in pre-cold-frontal conditions, largely because sea level pressure decreases westward along the gap in a stably stratified atmosphere in advance of approaching cold-frontal pressure troughs. Airstreams exiting the Petaluma Gap are only several hundred meters deep and characterized by relatively cold, easterly flow capped by a layer of enhanced static stability and directional vertical wind shear. Airborne air-chemistry observations collected offshore by the NOAA P-3 aircraft illustrate the fact that gap-flow events can transport pollutants from inland to the coast, and that they can contribute to coastally blocked airstreams. The strongest gap-flow cases occur when comparatively deep midtropospheric troughs approach the coast, while the weak cases are tied to anticyclonic conditions aloft. Low-level cold-frontal pressure troughs approaching the coast are stronger and possess a greater along-gap pressure gradient for the strong gap-flow cases. These synoptic characteristics are dynamically consistent with coastal wind profiler observations of stronger low-level gap flow and winds aloft, and greater rainfall, during the strong gap-flow events. However, gap flow, on average, inhibits rainfall at the coast.

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Steve Keighton, Douglas K. Miller, David Hotz, Patrick D. Moore, L. Baker Perry, Laurence G. Lee, and Daniel T. Martin

Abstract

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy tracked along the eastern U.S. coastline and made landfall over New Jersey after turning sharply northwest and becoming posttropical while interacting with a complex upper-level low pressure system that had brought cold air into the Appalachian region. The cold air, intensified by the extreme low pressure tracking just north of the region, combined with deep moisture and topographically enhanced ascent to produce an unusual and high-impact early season northwest flow snow (NWFS) that has no analog in recent history. This paper investigates the importance of the synoptic-scale pattern, forcing mechanisms, moisture characteristics (content, depth, and likely sources), and low-level winds, as well as the evolution of some of these features compared to more typical NWFS events in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Several other aspects of the Sandy snowfall event are investigated, including low-level stability and mountain wave formation as manifested in vertical profiles and radar observations. The importance to operational forecasters of recognizing and understanding these factors and differences from more common NWFS events is also discussed.

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Scott St. George, David M. Meko, Martin-Philippe Girardin, Glen M. MacDonald, Erik Nielsen, Greg T. Pederson, David J. Sauchyn, Jacques C. Tardif, and Emma Watson

Abstract

Ring-width data from 138 sites in the Canadian Prairie Provinces and adjacent regions are used to estimate summer drought severity during the past several hundred years. The network was divided into five regional groups based on geography, tree species, and length of record: the eastern Rockies, northern Saskatchewan, central Manitoba, southern Manitoba, and northwestern Ontario. Regional tree-ring records are primarily related to summer moisture and drought conditions, and are less responsive to droughts caused by deficits in winter precipitation. These summer-sensitive data are not linearly related to major modes of climate variability, including ENSO and the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), which primarily affect the climate of western Canada during winter. Extended drought records inferred from tree rings indicate that drought on the Canadian Prairies has exhibited considerable spatial heterogeneity over the last several centuries. For northern Saskatchewan and northwestern Ontario, intervals of persistently low tree growth during the twentieth century were just as long as or longer than low-growth intervals in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. Longer records from southern Alberta suggest that the most intense dry spell in that area during the last 500 yr occurred during the 1720s. At the eastern side of the prairies, the longest dry event is centered around 1700 and may coincide with low lake stands in Manitoba, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Although the Canadian Prairies were dry at times during the 1500s, there is no regional analog to the sixteenth-century “megadroughts” that affected much of the western United States and northern Mexico.

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