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Daniel R. Cheresnick and Jeffrey B. Basara
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Jordan Christian, Katarina Christian, and Jeffrey B. Basara

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The purpose of this study was to quantify dipole events (a drought year followed by a pluvial year) for various spatial scales including the nine Oklahoma climate divisions and the author-defined regions of the U.S. Southern Great Plains (SGP), High Plains (HP), and Northern Great Plains (NGP). Analyses revealed that, on average, over twice as many standard deviation (STDEV) dipoles existed in the latter half of the dataset (1955–2013) relative to the first half (1896–1954), suggesting that dramatic increases in precipitation from one year to the next within the Oklahoma climate divisions are increasing with time. For the larger regions within the Great Plains of the United States, the percent chance of a significant pluvial year following a significant drought year was approximately 25% of the time for the SGP and NGP and approximately 16% of the time for the HP. The STDEV dipole analyses further revealed that the frequency of dipoles was consistent between the first and second half of the dataset for the NGP and HP but was increasing with time in the SGP. The temporal periods of anomalous precipitation during relative pluvial years within the STDEV dipole events were unique for each region whereby October occurred most frequently (70%) within the SGP, September occurred most frequently (60%) within the HP, and May occurred most frequently (62%) within the NGP.

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Jeffrey B. Basara and Todd M. Crawford

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The Oklahoma Mesonet, an automated network of 115 meteorological observing stations, includes soil moisture monitoring devices at 60 locations. The Campbell Scientific model 229-L matric potential (water potential) sensor was chosen for operational use based on its capability to perform as a fully automated soil water measuring device. Extensive laboratory calibrations were performed on each sensor to ensure the quality of the matric potential measurements.

Examination of the data from the Norman site during July 1997 revealed significant inconsistencies between near-surface (5 and 25 cm) measurements of soil moisture and deep-layer (60 and 75 cm) measurements of soil moisture. In particular, a heavy precipitation event was followed by only a small increase in near-surface soil water potential values, while a much larger increase occurred in the deep-layer values. It is theorized that an installation flaw is the cause for these inconsistencies. A solution is proposed in the hope that future efforts to measure soil moisture will not be hindered by similar problems.

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James E. Hocker and Jeffrey B. Basara

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Oklahoma is a region that is well known for its high frequency of severe thunderstorms, which vary in activity, mode, and coverage. In particular, this region experiences a significant number of highly organized supercell thunderstorms that pose hazards such as high winds, large hail, and tornadoes. This demonstration study focuses on the development and analysis of a 10-yr sample of supercell storms resulting from organized severe weather events in Oklahoma. Geographic information systems (GIS) were used as the primary tool to develop and analyze the 10-yr supercell dataset. The use of GIS technologies within the field of meteorology has increased dramatically in recent years and will likely continue as additional atmospheric science data formats become available in popular GIS software packages such as the Environmental Systems Research Institute’s ArcGIS series. For this specific study, GIS served as a critical component for developing individual georeferenced storm features and analyzing the life span and characteristics of 943 supercell thunderstorms. The results of a series of spatial storm frequency, initiation, termination, and direction analyses are presented. Results revealed that for the period spanning 1994–2003 supercell storms resulting from organized severe weather events were most frequent across several regions, including east-central Oklahoma, southwest Oklahoma, and west-central through northeast Oklahoma, with an overall mean track from the southwest to northeast. Supercell tracks were predominantly southwesterly during the first 5 months of the year, northwesterly from June through September, and once again southwesterly from October through the end of the year. A final set of analyses and examples illustrate the utility of storm feature–based climatologies.

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Eric D. Hunt, Jeffrey B. Basara, and Cynthia R. Morgan

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The El Reno Oklahoma Mesonet (ELRE) site is one of a few Oklahoma Mesonet sites that has measured inversions of 10°C or greater between 1.5 and 9 m. Historical analyses revealed that strong inversions at ELRE have occurred because of rapid cooling near the surface shortly after sunset when conditions are calm, clear, and dry. In addition, ELRE is a very well sited station and is located on very slightly sloped terrain with no obstructions nearby. Four Portable Automated Research Micrometeorological Stations (PARMS) were deployed along a transect orthogonal to ELRE for 3 months in the spring of 2005 to quantify the micrometeorological processes that caused rapid cooling and subsequent strong inversions to form. One-minute data collected from the PARMS and ELRE during the study verified the variability and duration of strong inversion events. Analyses from the field study also revealed that significant horizontal and vertical differences in air temperature and wind speed existed during periods of differential wind speeds between the PARMS and ELRE.

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Bradley G. Illston, Jeffrey B. Basara, Christopher Weiss, and Mike Voss

The WxChallenge, a project developed at the University of Oklahoma, brings a state-of-the-art, fun, and exciting forecast contest to participants at colleges and universities across North America. The challenge is to forecast the maximum and minimum temperatures, precipitation, and maximum wind speeds for select locations across the United States over a 24-h prediction period. The WxChallenge is open to all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as higher-education faculty, staff, and alumni. Through the use of World Wide Web interfaces accessible by personal computers, tablet computer, and smartphones, the WxChallenge provides a state-of-the-art portal to aid participants in submitting forecasts and alleviate many of the administrative issues (e.g., tracking and scoring) faced by local managers and professors.

Since its inception in 2006, 110 universities have participated in the contest and it has been utilized as part of the curricula for 140 classroom courses at various institutions. The inherently challenging nature of the WxChallenge has encouraged its adoption as an educational tool. As its popularity has grown, professors have seen the utility of the Wx-Challenge as a teaching aid and it has become an instructional resource of many meteorological classes at institutions for higher learning. In addition to evidence of educational impacts, the competition has already begun to leave a cultural and social mark on the meteorological learning experience.

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Jessica M. Erlingis, Jonathan J. Gourley, and Jeffrey B. Basara

Abstract

This study uses backward trajectories derived from North American Regional Reanalysis data for 19 253 flash flood reports during the period 2007–13 published by the National Weather Service to assess the origins of air parcels for flash floods in the conterminous United States. The preferred flow paths for parcels were evaluated seasonally and for six regions of interest: the West Coast, Arizona, the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Flash Flood Alley in south-central Texas, the Missouri Valley, and the Appalachians. Parcels were released from vertical columns in the atmosphere at times and locations where there were reported flash floods; these were traced backward in time for 5 days. The temporal and seasonal cycles of flood events in these regions are also explored. The results show the importance of trajectories residing for long periods over oceanic regions such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The flow is generally unidirectional with height in the lower layers of the atmosphere. The trajectory paths from oceanic genesis regions to inland hotspots and their orientation with height provide clues that can assist in the diagnosis of impending flash floods. Part II of this manuscript details the land–atmosphere interactions along the trajectory paths.

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Jessica M. Erlingis, Jonathan J. Gourley, and Jeffrey B. Basara

Abstract

Backward trajectories were derived from North American Regional Reanalysis data for 19 253 flash flood reports published by the National Weather Service to determine the along-path contribution of the land surface to the moisture budget for flash flood events in the conterminous United States. The impact of land surface interactions was evaluated seasonally and for six regions: the West Coast, Arizona, the Front Range, Flash Flood Alley, the Missouri Valley, and the Appalachians. Parcels were released from locations that were impacted by flash floods and traced backward in time for 120 h. The boundary layer height was used to determine whether moisture increases occurred within the boundary layer or above it. Moisture increases occurring within the boundary layer were attributed to evapotranspiration from the land surface, and surface properties were recorded from an offline run of the Noah land surface model. In general, moisture increases attributed to the land surface were associated with anomalously high surface latent heat fluxes and anomalously low sensible heat fluxes (resulting in a positive anomaly of evaporative fraction) as well as positive anomalies in top-layer soil moisture. Over the ocean, uptakes were associated with positive anomalies in sea surface temperatures, the magnitude of which varies both regionally and seasonally. Major oceanic surface-based source regions of moisture for flash floods in the United States include the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California, while boundary layer moisture increases in the southern plains are attributable in part to interactions between the land surface and the atmosphere.

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Oliver T. Millin, Jason C. Furtado, and Jeffrey B. Basara

Abstract

Wintertime cold air outbreaks (CAOs) in the Great Plains of the United States (US) have significant socioeconomic, environmental, and infrastructural impacts; the events of December 1983 and February 2021 are key examples of this. Previous studies have investigated CAOs in other parts of North America, particularly the eastern US, but the development of CAOs in the Great Plains and their potential sub-seasonal to seasonal (S2S) predictability have yet to be assessed. This study firstly identifies 37 large-scale CAOs in the Great Plains between 1950 and 2021, before examining their characteristics, evolution, and driving mechanisms. These events occur under two dominant weather regimes at event onset: one set associated with anomalous ridging over Alaska and the other set associated with anomalous pan-Arctic ridging. Alaskan ridge CAOs evolve quickly (i.e., on synoptic timescales) and involve stratospheric wave reflection. Conversely, Arctic high CAOs are preceded by weak stratospheric polar vortex conditions several weeks prior to the event. Both categories of CAOs feature anomalous upward wave activity flux from Siberia, with downward wave activity flux over Canada seen only in the Alaskan ridge CAOs. The rapid development of the Alaskan ridge CAOs, also linked with a North Pacific wave train and anomalous wave activity flux from the central Pacific, suggests that these events could be forced by tropical modes of variability. These findings present evidence that different forcing mechanisms, with contrasting timescales, may produce distinct sources of predictability for these CAOs on the S2S timescale.

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Ryann A. Wakefield, David D. Turner, and Jeffrey B. Basara

Abstract

Land–atmosphere feedbacks are a critical component of the hydrologic cycle. Vertical profiles of boundary layer temperature and moisture, together with information about the land surface, are used to compute land–atmosphere coupling metrics. Ground-based remote sensing platforms, such as the Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer (AERI), can provide high-temporal-resolution vertical profiles of temperature and moisture. When collocated with soil moisture, surface flux, and surface meteorological observations such as at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Southern Great Plains site, it is possible to observe both the terrestrial and atmospheric legs of land–atmosphere feedbacks. In this study, we compare a commonly used coupling metric computed from radiosonde-based data with that obtained from the AERI to characterize the accuracy and uncertainty in the metric derived from the two distinct platforms. This approach demonstrates the AERI’s utility where radiosonde observations are absent in time and/or space. Radiosonde- and AERI-based observations of the convective triggering potential and low-level humidity index (collectively referred to as CTP-HIlow) were computed during the 1200 UTC observation time and displayed good agreement during both the 2017 and 2019 warm seasons. Radiosonde- and AERI-derived metrics diagnosed the same atmospheric preconditioning based upon the CTP-HIlow framework a majority of the time. When retrieval uncertainty was considered, even greater agreement was found between radiosonde- and AERI-derived classification. The AERI’s ability to represent this coupling metric well enabled novel exploration of temporal variability within the overnight period in CTP and HIlow. Observations of CTP-HIlow computed within a few hours of 1200 UTC were essentially equivalent; however, with greater differences in time there arose greater differences in CTP and HIlow.

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