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William Rudisill, Alejandro Flores, and James McNamara

Abstract

Snow’s thermal and radiative properties strongly impact the land surface energy balance and thus the atmosphere above it. Land surface snow information is poorly known in mountainous regions. Few studies have examined the impact of initial land surface snow conditions in high-resolution, convection-permitting numerical weather prediction models during the midlatitude cool season. The extent to which land surface snow influences atmospheric energy transport and subsequent surface meteorological states is tested using a high-resolution (1 km) configuration of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model, for both calm conditions and weather characteristic of a warm late March atmospheric river. A set of synthetic but realistic snow states are used as initial conditions for the model runs and the resulting differences are compared. We find that the presence (absence) of snow decreases (increases) 2-m air temperatures by as much as 4 K during both periods, and that the atmosphere responds to snow perturbations through advection of moist static energy from neighboring regions. Snow mass and snow-covered area are both important variables that influence 2-m air temperature. Finally, the meteorological states produced from the WRF experiments are used to force an offline hydrologic model, demonstrating that snowmelt rates can increase/decrease by factor of 2 depending on the initial snow conditions used in the parent weather model. We propose that more realistic representations of land surface snow properties in mesoscale models may be a source of hydrometeorological predictability

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Douglas L. Kane, James P. McNamara, Daqing Yang, Peter Q. Olsson, and Robert E. Gieck

Abstract

Rainfall-generated floods in the Arctic are rare and seldom documented. The authors were fortunate in July 1999 to monitor such a flood on the Upper Kuparuk River in response to a 50-h duration rainfall event that produced a watershed average in excess of 80 mm. Atmospheric conditions prevailed that allowed moist air to move northward over areas of little or no vertical relief from the North Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean. Cyclogenesis occurred along the quasi-stationary front separating maritime and continental air masses along the arctic coast. This low-pressure system propagated southward (inland) over the 142-km2 headwater basin of the Kuparuk River in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range; a treeless area underlain by continuous permafrost. This research catchment was instrumented with a stream gauging station, two major and six minor meteorological stations, for a total of eight shielded rain gauges. The peak instantaneous flow was estimated at 100 m3 s−1 and was about 3 times greater than any previously measured flood peak. Historically in the Arctic, annual peak floods occur following snowmelt when the snowpack that has accumulated for 8–9 months typically melts in 7–14 days. The shallow active layer, that surficial layer that freezes and thaws each year over the continuous permafrost, has limited subsurface storage when only thawed to a depth of 40 cm (at the time of the flood). Typically for this area, the ratio of runoff volume to snowmelt volume is near 0.67 or greater and the ratio for cumulative summer runoff and rainfall averages around 0.5 or greater. For the storm discussed here the runoff ratio was 0.73. These high runoff ratios are due to the role of permafrost limiting the potential subsurface storage and the steep slopes of this headwater basin.

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