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Gary M. Lackmann

Abstract

Although Rochester, New York (ROC), is not located in a climatogically favored region for extreme [i.e., ≥30 cm (12 in.) 24 h−1] lake-effect snow (LES), significant [i.e., ≥15 cm (6 in.) 24 h−1] LES can occur there under specific synoptic regimes. The purposes of this study are to document synoptic conditions that are associated with significant LES in ROC and to examine a specific event in which the passage of an upper disturbance combined with a lower-tropospheric trough to produce a surprise western New York snowstorm on 26–27 November 1996.

A database of 127 events in which 2-day ROC snowfall exceeded 15 cm (6 in.) was constructed for the years 1963 through 1992, inclusive. Each event was categorized as “LES” or “non-LES” on the basis of air–lake temperature difference, wind direction, and synoptic setting. Of the 127 events, 32 were classified as LES. Composites based on this 32-case sample reveal a mobile upper trough that moves from the western Great Lakes 48 h prior to the snowfall event to northern Maine 24 h after the event. All 32 cases were accompanied by either a mobile upper trough or a closed low at the 500-hPa level.

An unexpected snowstorm on 26–27 November 1996 resulted in accumulations of up to 30 cm (12 in.) in parts of western New York. Nonclassical LES structures developed in a rapidly changing synoptic environment that was characterized by the passage of an intense upper-tropospheric disturbance. Model forecasts underestimated the strength of this disturbance and also the intensity of lower-tropospheric troughing over and north of Lake Ontario. The upper trough is hypothesized to have increased the inversion altitude and relative humidity in the lower troposphere, and likely contributed to the strength of lower-tropospheric troughing near Lake Ontario. Cyclonic isobaric curvature accompanying the surface trough enhanced lower-tropospheric ascent through Ekman pumping and increased the overwater fetch for boundary layer air parcels traversing Lake Ontario. Comparison of Eta Model forecasts with analyses suggests that problems with model initialization and diabatic boundary layer processes both contributed to forecast errors.

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Gary M. Lackmann

Abstract

Previous studies have documented a feedback mechanism involving the cyclonic low-level jet (LLJ), poleward moisture flux and flux convergence, and condensational heating. Increased water vapor content and potentially heavier precipitation accompanying climate warming suggest the hypothesis that this feedback could strengthen with warming, contributing to amplification of precipitation extremes beyond what the thermodynamically controlled vapor increase would provide. Here, this hypothesis is tested with numerical simulations of a severe flooding event that took place in early May 2010 in the south-central United States.

Control simulations with a mesoscale model capture the main features of the May 2010 flooding event. A pseudo–global warming approach is used to modify the current initial, surface, and boundary conditions by applying thermodynamic changes projected by an ensemble of GCMs for the A2 emission scenario. The observed synoptic pattern of the flooding event is replicated but with modified future thermodynamics, allowing isolation of thermodynamic changes on the moisture feedback. This comparison does not indicate a strengthening of the LLJ in the future simulation. Analysis of the lower-tropospheric potential vorticity evolution reveals that the southern portion of the LLJ over the Gulf of Mexico in this event was strengthened through processes involving the terrain of the Mexican Plateau; this aspect is largely insensitive to climate change. Despite the lack of LLJ strengthening, precipitation in the future simulation increased at a super Clausius–Clapeyron rate because of strengthened convective updrafts.

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Gary M. Lackmann

Abstract

To what extent did large-scale thermodynamic climate change contribute to the intensity and unusual track of Hurricane Sandy, which affected the U.S. mid-Atlantic region in late October 2012? How much of an impact would projected future climate change have on a storm such as Sandy? These questions are investigated using an ensemble of high-resolution numerical simulations in conjunction with analyzed and projected changes from a suite of general circulation models (GCMs). Simulations initialized with current analyses from the midpoint of Sandy’s life cycle, while the system was centered near the Bahamas, adequately replicate the observed intensity and track of Sandy. Initial and boundary condition data are then altered with thermodynamic change fields obtained from a five-member GCM ensemble, allowing hypothetical replication of the synoptic weather pattern that accompanied Hurricane Sandy, but for large-scale thermodynamic conditions corresponding to the 1880s and for projections to the twenty-second century. The past ensemble produces a slightly weaker storm that makes landfall south of the observed location. The future ensemble depicts a significantly more intense system that makes landfall farther north, near Long Island, New York. Within the limitations of the methods used, it is suggested that climate change to date exerted only a modest influence on the intensity and track of Sandy. The strengthening in the simulations run with projected future warming is consistent with increased condensational heating; changes in the synoptic steering flow also appear to result from diabatic processes. The questions of how climate change affected Sandy’s genesis and early life cycle, changes in the frequency of this type of synoptic pattern, and changes in impacts related to coastal development and sea level rise are not considered here.

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Gary M. Lackmann

Abstract

An elongated cold-frontal maximum in the lower-tropospheric potential vorticity (PV) field accompanies some midlatitude cyclones. These PV maxima are often of diabatic origin, and are hypothesized to contribute substantially to the strength of the low-level jet (LLJ) and moisture transport in the cyclone warm sector. Diagnosis of a representative cyclone event from the central United States during February 1997 is presented with the goals of (i) elucidating the mechanisms of development and propagation of the cold-frontal PV band, and (ii) clarifying the relation between this PV maximum and the LLJ.

A confluent upper trough and modest surface cyclone followed a track from the south-central United States northeastward into southern Ontario between 26 and 28 February 1997, accompanied by flooding and widespread straight-line wind damage. A LLJ, with maximum wind speeds in excess of 35 m s−1, was positioned at the western extremity of the cyclone warm sector, immediately east of an elongated PV maximum in the lower troposphere. Results of an Ertel PV budget confirm the importance of latent heat release to the development and eastward propagation of the PV band. Cancellation was observed between the vertical PV advection, which yielded negative (positive) tendencies beneath (above) the cold-frontal PV maximum, and the nonadvective PV tendency, which was positive (negative) beneath (above) the level of maximum heating. The nonadvective PV flux is directed opposite the absolute vorticity vector; therefore vertical wind shear (associated with westward-tilting absolute vorticity vectors) led to eastward nonadvective propagation of the PV maximum. Quasigeostrophic PV inversion indicates that the cold-frontal PV maximum contributed between 15% and 40% to the strength of the LLJ within the cyclone warm sector. The results of this study suggest that a complex interdependence can exist between cold-frontal rainbands, lower-tropospheric PV maxima, the LLJ, and warm-sector moisture transport. The implications of this linkage for numerical weather forecasting are discussed.

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Chunyong Jung and Gary M. Lackmann

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This study uses small ensembles of convection-allowing, quasi-idealized simulations to examine the response of North Atlantic tropical cyclones (TCs) undergoing extratropical transition (ET) to climate change. Using HURDAT2 and ERA5 reanalysis data over a 40-year period from 1979 to 2018, we developed storm-relative composite fields for past North Atlantic recurving, oceanic ET events. The quasi-idealized present-day simulations are initialized from these composites and run in an aquaplanet domain. A pseudo-global warming approach is used for future simulations: Thermodynamic changes between late 21st century and 20th century, derived from an ensemble of 20 CMIP5 GCMs under the RCP8.5 scenario, are added to the present-day initial and lateral boundary conditions. The composite-initialized present-day simulations exhibit realistic ET characteristics. Future simulations show greater intensity, heavier precipitation, and stronger downstream midlatitude wave train development relative to the present-day case. Specifically, the future ET event is substantially stronger before ET completion, though the system undergoes less reintensification after ET completion. Reductions in lower-tropospheric baroclinicity associated with Arctic amplification could contribute to this result. The future simulation exhibits 3-hourly ensemble-mean precipitation rate increases ranging from ~23% to ~50%, depending on ET phase and averaging radius. In addition, larger eddy kinetic energy accompanies the future storm, partly created by increased baroclinic conversion, resulting in stronger amplification of downstream energy maxima via intensified ageostrophic geopotential flux convergence and divergence. These results suggest that future TCs undergoing ET could have greater potential to cause high impact weather in Western Europe through both direct and remote processes.

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Gary M. Lackmann and Gregory Thompson

Abstract

Environments that accompany mesoscale snowbands in extratropical cyclones feature strong midlevel frontogenesis and weak symmetric stability, conditions conducive to vigorous ascent. Prior observational and numerical studies document the occurrence of upward vertical velocities in excess of 1 m s−1 near the comma head of winter cyclones. These values roughly correspond to the terminal fall velocity of snow; snow lofting has been measured directly with vertically pointing radars. Here, we investigate the occurrence of lower-tropospheric snow lofting near mesoscale bands and its contribution to snowfall heterogeneity. We test the hypothesis that hydrometeor lofting substantially influences snowfall distributions by analyzing the vertical snow flux in case-study simulations, by computing snow trajectories, and by testing sensitivity of simulated snowbands to parameterized snow terminal fall velocity and advection. These experiments confirm the presence of upward snow flux in the lower troposphere upstream of simulated mesoscale snowbands for two events (27 January 2015 and 2 February 2016). The band of lower-tropospheric lofting played a more important role in the January 2015 case relative to the February 2016 event. Lofting enhances the horizontal advection of snow by increasing hydrometeor residence time aloft, influencing the surface snowfall distribution. Experimental simulations illustrate that while lofting and advection influence the snow distribution, these processes reduce snowfall heterogeneity, contrary to our initial hypothesis. Our findings indicate that considerable horizontal displacement can occur between the locations of strongest ascent and heaviest surface snowfall. Numerical forecasts of snowbands are sensitive to formulations of terminal fall velocity of snow in microphysical parameterizations due to this lofting and transport process.

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Chunyong Jung and Gary M. Lackmann

Abstract

Tropical cyclones (TCs) undergoing strong extratropical transition (ET) can produce adverse societal impacts in areas that rarely experience direct TC impacts. This, in conjunction with projected environmental changes in climatological ET regions, motivates the investigation of possible future changes in ET characteristics. We utilize a small ensemble of numerical model simulations to examine how warming affects the ET of Hurricane Irene. To assess the effects of climate change, we use the pseudo-global warming method in which thermodynamic changes, derived from an ensemble of 20 CMIP5 GCMs, are applied to analyzed initial and lateral boundary conditions of model simulations. We find increased storm intensity in the future simulations, both in reduced minimum sea level pressure and strengthened 10-m wind speed. Storm-centered composites indicate a strengthening of tropospheric potential vorticity near the center of Irene, consistent with enhanced latent heat release. The results also demonstrate that Irene’s precipitation in the warmed simulations increases at a rate that exceeds Clausius–Clapeyron scaling, owing to enhanced moisture flux convergence and an additional contribution from increased surface evaporation. The duration of the transition process increased in the warmed simulations due to a weakened midtropospheric trough and reduced vertical wind shear and meridional SST gradient with a slower northward translation. These results suggest that transitioning storms may exhibit an increased ability to extend TC-like conditions poleward, and motivates additional research.

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Kelly M. Mahoney and Gary M. Lackmann

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Operational forecasters in the southeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States have noted a positive quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) bias in numerical weather prediction (NWP) model forecasts downstream of some organized, cold-season convective systems. Examination of cold-season cases in which model QPF guidance exhibited large errors allowed identification of two representative cases for detailed analysis. The goals of the case study analyses are to (i) identify physical mechanisms through which the upstream convection (UC) alters downstream precipitation amounts, (ii) determine why operational models are challenged to provide accurate guidance in these situations, and (iii) suggest future research directions that would improve model forecasts in these situations and allow forecasters to better anticipate such events. Two primary scenarios are identified during which downstream precipitation is altered in the presence of UC for the study region: (i) a fast-moving convective (FC) scenario in which organized convective systems oriented parallel to the lower-tropospheric flow are progressive relative to the parent synoptic system, and appear to disrupt poleward moisture transport, and (ii) a situation characterized by slower-moving convection (SC) relative to the parent system. Analysis of a representative FC case indicated that moisture consumption, stabilization via convective overturning, and modification of the low-level flow to a more westerly direction in the postconvective environment all appear to contribute to the reduction of downstream precipitation. In the FC case, operational Eta Model forecasts moved the organized UC too slowly, resulting in an overestimate of downstream moisture transport. A 4-km explicit convection model forecast from the Weather Research and Forecasting model produced a faster-moving upstream convective system and improved downstream QPF. In contrast to the FC event, latent heat release in the primary rainband is shown to enhance the low-level jet ahead of the convection in the SC case, thereby increasing moisture transport into the downstream region. A negative model QPF bias was observed in Eta Model forecasts for the SC event. Suggestions are made for precipitation forecasting in UC situations, and implications for NWP model configuration are discussed.

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Gary M. Lackmann and Richard M. Yablonsky

Abstract

When water vapor is converted to cloud and precipitation and subsequently removed to the surface via precipitation, there is a corresponding hydrostatic pressure decrease due to the reduction of mass in the overlying column. Pressure changes resulting from the addition or removal of water vapor are currently neglected in most meteorological applications. However, in heavily precipitating systems such as tropical cyclones, where precipitation rates may exceed 250 mm day−1, the pressure equivalent of the precipitation mass sink is not negligible (∼25 hPa day−1). Pressure decreases due to this mechanism are most pronounced in the lower troposphere, particularly below the melting level. The resulting unbalanced pressure-gradient force can enhance convergence, which precludes full realization of the pressure decrease but may contribute to vorticity generation and moisture convergence.

The importance of the precipitation mass sink is investigated for the case of Hurricane Lili (2002) through the computation of mass and potential vorticity (PV) budgets and numerical sensitivity experiments. The precipitation mass reaching the surface within 100 km of the storm center is of the same order as the mass loss needed to explain the area-averaged pressure decrease during the intensification stage of Lili. The PV is altered by precipitation mass flux divergence across isentropic layers. A volume-integrated PV budget reveals that the mass sink term is small in comparison to the latent heating term, although the latter exhibits large cancellation. Comparison of a control simulation from the Eta Model to an experimental simulation in which the precipitation mass sink effect is included demonstrates that the mass sink mechanism contributes to lower pressure, stronger wind speeds, and heavier precipitation. The sea level pressure near the storm center in the mass sink simulation is generally 2–5 hPa deeper relative to the control simulation, with 10-m wind speed differences of 5 to 15 kt. The mass sink simulation exhibits a stronger cyclonic PV tower, especially above the melting level, and a stronger troposphere–deep cyclonic circulation relative to the control simulation. The analysis presented indicates that the precipitation mass sink mechanism, though not dominant, is not negligible for tropical cyclones.

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Kelly M. Mahoney and Gary M. Lackmann

Abstract

The sensitivity of numerical model forecasts of coastal cyclogenesis and frontogenesis to the choice of model cumulus parameterization (CP) scheme is examined for the 17 February 2004 southeastern U.S. winter weather event. This event featured a complex synoptic and mesoscale environment, as the presence of cold-air damming, a developing coastal surface cyclone, and an upper-level trough combined to present a daunting winter weather forecast scenario. The operational forecast challenge was further complicated by erratic numerical model predictions. The most poignant area of disagreement between model runs was the treatment of a coastal cyclone and an associated coastal front, features that would affect the location and timing of precipitation and influence the precipitation type. At the time of the event, it was hypothesized that the Betts–Miller–Janjić (BMJ) CP scheme was dictating the location and intensity of the initial coastal cyclone center in operational Eta Model forecasts. For this reason, forecasts for this case were rerun with the workstation Eta Model using the Kain–Fritsch (KF) CP scheme to further examine the sensitivity to this parameterization choice. Results confirm that the model CP scheme played a major role in the forecast for this case, affecting the quantitative precipitation forecast as well as the strength, location, and structure of coastal cyclogenesis and coastal frontogenesis. The Eta Model forecast using the KF CP scheme produced a relatively uniform distribution of convective precipitation oriented along the axis of an inverted trough and strong coastal front. In contrast, the BMJ forecasts resulted in a weaker coastal front and the development of multiple distinct closed cyclonic circulations in association with more localized convective precipitation centers. An additional BMJ forecast in which the shallow mixing component of the scheme was disabled bore a closer semblance to the KF forecasts relative to the original BMJ forecast. Suggestions are provided to facilitate the identification of CP-driven cyclones using standard operational model output parameters.

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