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Eric P. James and Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

Climatological characteristics of mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) occurring in the state of Oklahoma during the late spring and summer of four years are investigated. The MCV cases are selected based on vortex detection by an objective algorithm operating on analyses from the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) model. Consistent with a previous study, true MCVs represent only about 20% of the mesoscale relative vorticity maxima detected by the algorithm. The MCVs have a broad range of radii and intensities, and their longevities range between 1 and 54 h. Their median radius is about 200 km, and their median midlevel relative vorticity is 1.2 × 10−4 s−1. There appears to be no significant relationship between MCV longevity and intensity. Similar to past estimates, approximately 40% of the MCVs generate secondary convection within their circulations.

The mean synoptic-scale MCV environment is determined by the use of a RUC-based composite analysis at four different stages in the MCV life cycle, defined based on vortex detection by the objective algorithm. MCV initiation is closely tied to the diurnal cycle of convection over the Great Plains, with MCVs typically forming in the early morning, near the time of maximum extent of nocturnal mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Features related to the parent MCSs, including upper-level divergent outflow, midlevel convergence, and a low-level jet, are prominent in the initiating MCV composite. The most significant feature later in the MCV life cycle is a persistent mesoscale trough in the midlevel height field. The potential vorticity (PV) structure of the composite MCV consists of a midlevel maximum and an upper-level minimum, with some extension of elevated PV into the lower troposphere as the vortex matures. The environment immediately downshear of the MCV is more conducive to secondary convection than the environment upshear of the MCV.

This midlatitude MCV climatology represents an extension of past individual case studies by providing mean characteristics of a large MCV population; these statistics are suitable for the verification of MCV simulations. Also presented is the first high-resolution composite analysis of the MCV environment at different stages of the MCV life cycle, which will aid in identifying and forecasting these systems.

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Eric P. James and Stanley G. Benjamin

Abstract

A set of observation system experiments (OSEs) over three seasons using the hourly updated Rapid Refresh (RAP) numerical weather prediction (NWP) assimilation–forecast system identifies the importance of the various components of the North American observing system for 3–12-h RAP forecasts. Aircraft observations emerge as the strongest-impact observation type for wind, relative humidity (RH), and temperature forecasts, permitting a 15%–30% reduction in 6-h forecast error in the troposphere and lower stratosphere. Major positive impacts are also seen from rawinsondes, GOES satellite cloud observations, and surface observations, with lesser but still significant impacts from GPS precipitable water (PW) observations, satellite atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs), and radar reflectivity observations. A separate experiment revealed that the aircraft-related RH forecast improvement was augmented by 50% due specifically to the addition of aircraft moisture observations. Additionally, observations from en route aircraft and those from ascending or descending aircraft contribute approximately equally to the overall forecast skill, with the strongest impacts in the respective layers of the observations. Initial results from these OSEs supported implementation of an improved assimilation configuration of boundary layer pseudoinnovations from surface observations, as well as allowing the assimilation of satellite AMVs over land. The breadth of these experiments over the three seasons suggests that observation impact results are applicable to general forecasting skill, not just classes of phenomena during limited time periods.

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Eric P. James and Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

Surface pressure manifestations of mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) that traversed Oklahoma during the periods May–August 2002–05 are studied using the Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D), the Oklahoma Mesonet, and the NOAA Profiler Network data. Forty-five MCVs that developed from mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) have been investigated, 28 (62%) of which exhibit mesolows detectable at the surface. Within this group, three distinct patterns of precipitation organization and associated mesolow evolution have been identified. The remaining 17 (38%) of the cases do not contain a surface mesolow. Two repeating patterns of precipitation organization are identified for the latter group.

The three categories of MCVs possessing a surface mesolow are as follows. Nineteen are classified as “rear-inflow-jet MCVs,” and tend to form within large and intense asymmetric MCSs. Rear inflow into the MCS, enhanced by the development of an MCV on the left-hand side relative to system motion, produces a rear-inflow notch and a distinct surface wake low at the back edge of the stratiform region. Hence, the surface mesolow and MCV are displaced from one another. Eight are classified as “collapsing-stratiform-region MCVs.” These MCVs arise from small asymmetric MCSs. As the stratiform region of the MCS weakens, a large mesolow appears beneath its dissipating remnants due to broad subsidence warming, and at the same time the midlevel vortex spins up due to column stretching. One case, called a “vertically coherent MCV,” contains a well-defined surface mesolow and associated cyclonic circulation, apparently due to the strength of the midlevel warm core and the weakness of the low-level cold pool. In these latter two cases, the surface mesolow and MCV are approximately collocated.

Within the group of MCVs without a surface mesolow, 14 are classified as “remnant-circulation MCVs” containing no significant precipitation or surface pressure effects. Finally, three are classified as “cold-pool-dominated MCVs;” these cases contain significant precipitation but no discernible surface mesolow.

This study represents the first systematic analysis of the surface mesolows associated with MCVs. The pattern of surface pressure and winds accompanying MCVs can affect subsequent convective development in such systems. Extension of the findings herein to tropical oceans may have implications regarding tropical cyclogenesis.

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Dennis P. Lettenmaier, Eric F. Wood, and James R. Wallis

Abstract

Spatial patterns in trends of four monthly variables: average temperature, precipitation, streamflow, and average of the daily temperature range were examined for the continental United States for the period 1948–88. The data used are a subset of the Historical Climatology Network (1036 stations) and a stream gage network of 1009 stations. Trend significance was determined using the nonparametric seasonal Kendall's test on a monthly and annual basis, and a robust slope estimator was used for determination of trend magnitudes. A bivariate test was used for evaluation of relative changes in the variables, specifically, streamflow relative to precipitation, streamflow relative to temperature, and precipitation relative to temperature.

Strong trends were found in all of the variables at many more stations than would be expected due to chance. There is a strong spatial and seasonal structure in the trend results. For instance, although annual temperature increases were found at many stations, mostly in the North and West, there were almost as many downtrends, especially in the South and East. Among the most important trend patterns are (a) increases in March temperature at almost half of the stations; (b) increases in precipitation from September through December at as many as 25 percent of the stations, mostly in the central part of the country; (c) strong increases in streamflow in the period November–April at a maximum of almost half of the stations, with the largest trend magnitudes in the north-central states; (d) changes in the temperature range (mostly downward) at a large number of stations beginning in late spring and continuing through winter, affecting as many as over half of the stations. The observed trends in streamflow are not entirely consistent with the changes in the climatic variables and may be due to a combination of climatic and water management effects.

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Eric P. James, Stanley G. Benjamin, and Brian D. Jamison

Abstract

Weather observations from commercial aircraft constitute an essential component of the global observing system and have been shown to be the most valuable observation source for short-range numerical weather prediction (NWP) systems over North America. However, the distribution of aircraft observations is highly irregular in space and time. In this study, we summarize the recent state of aircraft observation coverage over the globe and provide an updated quantification of its impact upon short-range NWP forecast skill. Aircraft observation coverage is most dense over the contiguous United States and Europe, with secondary maxima in East Asia and Australia/New Zealand. As of late November 2019, 665 airports around the world had at least one daily ascent or descent profile observation; 400 of these come from North American or European airports. Flight reductions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a 75% reduction in aircraft observations globally as of late April 2020. A set of data denial experiments with the latest version of the Rapid Refresh NWP system for recent winter and summer periods quantifies the statistically significant positive forecast impacts of assimilating aircraft observations. A special additional experiment excluding approximately 80% of aircraft observations reveals a reduction in forecast skill for both summer and winter amounting to 30%–60% of the degradation seen when all aircraft observations are excluded. These results represent an approximate quantification of the NWP impact of COVID-19-related commercial flight reductions, demonstrating that regional NWP guidance is degraded as a result of the decreased number of aircraft observations.

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Eric A. Hendricks, Wayne H. Schubert, Richard K. Taft, Huiqun Wang, and James P. Kossin

Abstract

The asymmetric dynamics of potential vorticity mixing in the hurricane inner core are further advanced by examining the end states that result from the unforced evolution of hurricane-like vorticity rings in a nondivergent barotropic model. The results from a sequence of 170 numerical simulations are summarized. The sequence covers a two-dimensional parameter space, with the first parameter defining the hollowness of the vortex (i.e., the ratio of eye to inner-core relative vorticity) and the second parameter defining the thickness of the ring (i.e., the ratio of the inner and outer radii of the ring). In approximately one-half of the cases, the ring becomes barotropically unstable, and there ensues a vigorous vorticity mixing episode between the eye and eyewall. The output of the barotropic model is used to (i) verify that the nonlinear model approximately replicates the linear theory of the fastest-growing azimuthal mode in the early phase of the evolution, and (ii) characterize the end states (defined at t = 48 h) that result from the nonlinear chaotic vorticity advection and mixing. It is found that the linear stability theory is a good guide to the fastest-growing exponential mode in the numerical model. Two additional features are observed in the numerical model results. The first is an azimuthal wavenumber-2 deformation of the vorticity ring that occurs for moderately thick, nearly filled rings. The second is an algebraically growing wavenumber-1 instability (not present in the linear theory because of the assumed solution) that is observed as a wobbling eye (or the trochoidal oscillation for a moving vortex) for thick rings that are stable to all exponentially growing instabilities. Most end states are found to be monopoles. For very hollow and thin rings, persistent mesovortices may exist for more than 15 h before merging to a monopole. For thicker rings, the relaxation to a monopole takes longer (between 48 and 72 h). For moderately thick rings with nearly filled cores, the most likely end state is an elliptical eyewall. In this nondivergent barotropic context, both the minimum central pressure and maximum tangential velocity simultaneously decrease over 48 h during all vorticity mixing events.

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Eric A. Hendricks, James D. Doyle, Stephen D. Eckermann, Qingfang Jiang, and P. Alex Reinecke

Abstract

During austral winter, and away from orographic maxima or “hot spots,” stratospheric gravity waves in both satellite observations and Interim European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) data reveal enhanced amplitudes in a broad midlatitude belt extending across the Southern Ocean from east of the Andes to south of New Zealand. The peak latitude of this feature slowly migrates poleward from 50° to 60°S. Wave amplitudes are much weaker across the midlatitude Pacific Ocean. These features of the wave field are in striking agreement with diagnostics of baroclinic growth rates in the troposphere associated with midlatitude winter storm tracks and the climatology of the midlatitude jet. This correlation suggests that these features of the stratospheric gravity wave field are controlled by geographical variations of tropospheric nonorographic gravity wave sources in winter storm tracks: spontaneous adjustment emission from the midlatitude winter jet, frontogenesis, and convection.

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Daniel P. Brown, John L. Beven, James L. Franklin, and Eric S. Blake

Abstract

The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season is summarized and the year’s tropical cyclones are described. Sixteen named storms formed in 2008. Of these, eight became hurricanes with five of them strengthening into major hurricanes (category 3 or higher on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale). There was also one tropical depression that did not attain tropical storm strength. These totals are above the long-term means of 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. The 2008 Atlantic basin tropical cyclones produced significant impacts from the Greater Antilles to the Turks and Caicos Islands as well as along portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast. Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, and Paloma hit Cuba, as did Tropical Storm Fay. Haiti was hit by Gustav and adversely affected by heavy rains from Fay, Ike, and Hanna. Paloma struck the Cayman Islands as a major hurricane, while Omar was a major hurricane when it passed near the northern Leeward Islands. Six consecutive cyclones hit the United States, including Hurricanes Dolly, Gustav, and Ike. The death toll from the Atlantic tropical cyclones is approximately 750.

A verification of National Hurricane Center official forecasts during 2008 is also presented. Official track forecasts set records for accuracy at all lead times from 12 to 120 h, and forecast skill was also at record levels for all lead times. Official intensity forecast errors in 2008 were below the previous 5-yr mean errors and set records at 72–120 h.

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David S. Trossman, Brian K. Arbic, David N. Straub, James G. Richman, Eric P. Chassignet, Alan J. Wallcraft, and Xiaobiao Xu

Abstract

Motivated by the substantial sensitivity of eddies in two-layer quasigeostrophic (QG) turbulence models to the strength of bottom drag, this study explores the sensitivity of eddies in more realistic ocean general circulation model (OGCM) simulations to bottom drag strength. The OGCM results are interpreted using previous results from horizontally homogeneous, two-layer, flat-bottom, f-plane, doubly periodic QG turbulence simulations and new results from two-layer, β-plane QG turbulence simulations run in a basin geometry with both flat and rough bottoms. Baroclinicity in all of the simulations varies greatly with drag strength, with weak drag corresponding to more barotropic flow and strong drag corresponding to more baroclinic flow. The sensitivity of the baroclinicity in the QG basin simulations to bottom drag is considerably reduced, however, when rough topography is used in lieu of a flat bottom. Rough topography reduces the sensitivity of the eddy kinetic energy amplitude and horizontal length scales in the QG basin simulations to bottom drag to an even greater degree. The OGCM simulation behavior is qualitatively similar to that in the QG rough-bottom basin simulations, in that baroclinicity is more sensitive to bottom drag strength than are eddy amplitudes or horizontal length scales. Rough topography therefore appears to mediate the sensitivity of eddies in models to the strength of bottom drag. The sensitivity of eddies to parameterized topographic internal lee wave drag, which has recently been introduced into some OGCMs, is also briefly discussed. Wave drag acts like a strong bottom drag in that it increases the baroclinicity of the flow, without strongly affecting eddy horizontal length scales.

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John L. Beven II, Lixion A. Avila, Eric S. Blake, Daniel P. Brown, James L. Franklin, Richard D. Knabb, Richard J. Pasch, Jamie R. Rhome, and Stacy R. Stewart

Abstract

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active of record. Twenty-eight storms occurred, including 27 tropical storms and one subtropical storm. Fifteen of the storms became hurricanes, and seven of these became major hurricanes. Additionally, there were two tropical depressions and one subtropical depression. Numerous records for single-season activity were set, including most storms, most hurricanes, and highest accumulated cyclone energy index. Five hurricanes and two tropical storms made landfall in the United States, including four major hurricanes. Eight other cyclones made landfall elsewhere in the basin, and five systems that did not make landfall nonetheless impacted land areas. The 2005 storms directly caused nearly 1700 deaths. This includes approximately 1500 in the United States from Hurricane Katrina—the deadliest U.S. hurricane since 1928. The storms also caused well over $100 billion in damages in the United States alone, making 2005 the costliest hurricane season of record.

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