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Jonathan E. Martin

Abstract

A numerical model-based analysis of the quasigeostrophic forcing for ascent in the occluded quadrant of three cyclones is presented based upon a natural coordinate partitioning of the Q vector into its along- and across-isentrope components, Q s and Q n , respectively. The Q n component describes the geostrophic contribution to the rate of change of the magnitude of p θ (traditional frontogenesis), whereas the Q s component describes the geostrophic contribution to the rate of change of direction of p θ (rotational frontogenesis). It is shown that convergence of Q s simultaneously creates the isobaric thermal ridge characteristic of the thermal structure of occluded cyclones and provides the predominant dynamical support for ascent within the occluded quadrant. The absence of significant Q n convergence there suggests that quasigeostrophic (Q-G) frontogenesis plays a subordinate role both in forcing vertical motions and in affecting three-dimensional structural changes in the occluded sector of post-mature phase midlatitude cyclones.

A cyclonically ascending, cloud- and precipitation-producing airstream that originates in the warm-sector boundary layer and flows through the trowal portion of the occluded structure is supported by the upward vertical motions implied by the identified Q-G forcing. This airstream is referred to as the “trowal airstream” and it is shown to be responsible for the production of the “wrap around” cloud and precipitation commonly associated with occluded systems. The relationship of the trowal airstream to previously identified cloud and precipitation producing airflows in cyclones is discussed.

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Jonathan E. Martin

Abstract

The recent suggestion that lower-tropospheric cyclogenesis is predominantly a result of column stretching associated with the updraft portion of the shearwise quasigeostrophic (QG) vertical motion is quantified through direct calculation of 900-hPa height tendencies via the QG vorticity equation. Comparison of the separate lower-tropospheric height tendencies associated with the shearwise and transverse portions of QG omega in a robust cyclogenesis event demonstrates that the shearwise updraft drives the largest part (>80%) of the cyclogenetic height falls at least through the end of the mature stage of the life cycle. The lower-tropospheric height falls and vorticity production near the sea level pressure minimum of the occluded surface cyclone are driven nearly equally by shearwise and transverse updrafts.

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Jonathan E. Martin

Abstract

Separate vector expressions for the rate of change of direction of the potential temperature gradient vector resulting from the geostrophic vorticity and geostrophic deformation, referred to as Q VR and Q DR, respectively, are derived. The evolution of the thermal structure and forcing for quasigeostrophic vertical motion in an occluded cyclone are investigated by examining the distributions of Q VR and Q DR and their respective convergences.

The dynamics of two common structural transformations observed in the evolution of occluded cyclones are revealed by consideration of these separate forcings. First, the tendency for the sea level pressure minimum to deepen northward and/or westward into the cold air west of the triple point is shown to be controlled by the convergence of Q VR, which is mathematically equivalent to thermal wind advection of geostrophic vorticity, a well-accepted mechanism for forcing of synoptic-scale vertical motion. Second, the lengthening of the occluded thermal ridge and surface occluded front are forced by the nonfrontogenetic geostrophic deformation, which rotates the cold frontal zone cyclonically while it rotates the warm frontal zone anticyclonically. The net result is a squeezing together of the two frontal zones along the thermal ridge and a lengthening of the occluded thermal ridge. The associated convergence of Q DR along the axis of the the thermal ridge also forces vertical motion on a frontal scale. This vertical motion accounts for the clouds and precipitation often observed to extend from the triple point westward to the sea level pressure minimum in the northwest quadrant of occluding cyclones.

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Jonathan E. Martin

Abstract

It is a common diagnostic, synoptic practice to consider the Trenberth–Sutcliffe approximation to the quasigeostrophic (QG) omega equation, which relates upward vertical motion to regions of cyclonic vorticity advection by the thermal wind. Use of this approximate form of the QG omega equation requires the neglect of the so-called deformation term, which is often described as important only in frontal regions. Here, an alternative expression for the deformation term is derived that clearly illustrates its relationship to the mathematical forcing function in the Q-vector form of the QG omega equation.

The magnitude of the deformation term in the middle troposphere is traced throughout the life cycle of a typical midlatitude cyclone. It is found that this term is generally small at midlevels in the early stages of the cyclone life cycle. As the cyclone approaches and passes its mature stage, however, the deformation term exerts a comparable, locally predominant influence on the total QG forcing for vertical motion. Particularly interesting is the large magnitude this term acquires in the axis of high potential temperature, characteristic of a post–mature stage cyclone’s horizontal thermal structure. The large magnitude of the deformation term in such regions demonstrates that there are nonfrontal, midtropospheric regions within cyclones in which the deformation term may not be small.

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Jonathan E. Martin

Abstract

The frontal structure and occlusion process in a cyclone of moderate intensity that affected the central United States in January 1995 is examined. The deep warm-frontal zone associated with this cyclone had a lateral extension to the southwest of the sea level pressure minimum that, although characterized by cold-air advection near the surface, had many of the characteristics of a warm front aloft. In fact, this feature had a structure similar to the so-called bent-back fronts previously documented only in association with explosively deepening maritime cyclones.

The development of a warm-occluded structure was investigated with the aid of a numerical simulation of the event performed using the University of Wisconsin–Nonhydrostatic Modeling System. The development of the warm-occluded structure was asynchronous in the vertical; occurring first at midtropospheric levels and later near the surface, in contrast to the classical occlusion process. Near the surface, the warm-occluded front was formed as the warm front was overtaken by the frontogenetically inactive portion of the historical cold-frontal zone. At midtropospheric levels, the warm occluded structure formed as a result of the cold-frontal zone approaching, and subsequently ascending, the warm-frontal zone in accord with a component of the classical occlusion mechanism.

The observed asynchronous evolution of the occluded structure is proposed to result from the vertical variation in vortex strength associated with the upper-level potential vorticity (PV) anomaly that controls the cyclogenesis. It is suggested that the occlusion process begins aloft, where the associated vortex strength is greatest, and gradually penetrates downward toward the surface during the cyclone life cycle. Additionally, a characteristic“treble clef” shape to the upper-level PV anomaly is shown to be a sufficient condition for asserting the presence of a warm-occluded structure in the underlying troposphere.

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Jonathan E. Martin

Abstract

The production of a narrow, heavy, occasionally convective snowband that fell within a modest surface cyclone on 19 January 1995 is examined using gridded model output from a successful numerical simulation performed using the University of Wisconsin–Nonhydrostatic Modeling System. It is found that the snowband was produced by a thermally direct vertical circulation forced by significant lower-tropospheric warm frontogenesis in the presence of across-front effective static stability differences as measured in terms of the equivalent potential vorticity (PVe). The sometimes convective nature of the snowband resulted from the development of freely convective motions forced by frontal lifting of the environmental stratification.

Model trajectories demonstrate that a stream of warm, moist air ascended through the trowal portion of the warm-occluded structure that developed during the cyclone life cycle. The lifting of air in the trowal was, in this case, forced by lower-tropospheric frontogenesis occurring in the warm-frontal portion of the warm occlusion. This trowal airstream accounts for the production of the so-called wrap-around precipitation often associated with occluded cyclones and, in this case, accounted for the northern third of the heavy snowband.

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Jonathan E. Martin

Abstract

The total quasigeostrophic (QG) vertical motion field is partitioned into transverse and shearwise couplets oriented parallel to, and along, the geostrophic vertical shear, respectively. The physical role played by each of these components of vertical motion in the midlatitude cyclone life cycle is then illustrated by examination of the life cycles of two recently observed cyclones.

The analysis suggests that the origin and subsequent intensification of the lower-tropospheric cyclone responds predominantly to column stretching associated with the updraft portion of the shearwise QG vertical motion, which displays a single, dominant, middle-tropospheric couplet at all stages of the cyclone life cycle. The transverse QG omega, associated with the cyclones’ frontal zones, appears only after those frontal zones have been established. The absence of transverse ascent maxima and associated column stretching in the vicinity of the surface cyclone center suggests that the transverse ω plays little role in the initial development stage of the storms examined here. Near the end of the mature stage of the life cycle, however, in what appears to be a characteristic distribution, a transverse ascent maximum along the western edge of the warm frontal zone becomes superimposed with the shearwise ascent maximum that fuels continued cyclogenesis.

It is suggested that use of the shearwise/transverse diagnostic approach may provide new and/or supporting insight regarding a number of synoptic processes including the development of upper-level jet/front systems and the nature of the physical distinction between type A and type B cyclogenesis events.

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Jonathan E. Martin

Abstract

Employing reanalysis datasets, several threshold temperatures at 850 hPa are used to measure the wintertime [December–February (DJF)] areal extent of the lower-tropospheric, Northern Hemisphere, cold-air pool over the past 66 cold seasons. The analysis indicates a systematic contraction of the cold pool at each of the threshold temperatures. Special emphasis is placed on analysis of the trends in the extent of the −5°C air.

Composite differences in lower-tropospheric temperature, midtropospheric geopotential height, and tropopause level jet anomalies between the five coldest and five warmest years are considered. Cold years are characterized by an equatorward expansion of the jet in the Pacific and Atlantic sectors of the hemisphere and by invigorated cold-air production in high-latitude Eurasia and North America. Systematic poleward encroachment of the −5°C isotherm in the exit regions of the storm tracks accounts for nearly 50% of the observed contraction of the hemispheric wintertime cold pool since 1948. It is suggested that this trend is linked to displacement of the storm tracks associated with global warming.

Correlation analyses suggest that the interannual variability of the areal extent of the 850-hPa cold pool is unrelated to variations in hemispheric snow cover, the Arctic Oscillation, or the phase and intensity of ENSO. A modest statistical connection with the East Asian winter monsoon, however, does appear to exist. Importantly, there is no evidence that a resurgent trend in cold Northern Hemisphere winters is ongoing. In fact, the winter of 2013/14, though desperately cold in North America, was the warmest ever observed in the 66-yr time series.

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Andrew L. Hulme
and
Jonathan E. Martin

Abstract

The process by which a baroclinic, vertically sheared, extratropical cyclone is transformed into a warm-core, vertically stacked tropical cyclone is known as tropical transition. Six recent tropical transitions of strong extratropical precursors in the subtropical North Atlantic are compared to better understand the manner by which some of the canonical structures and dynamical processes of extratropical cyclones serve to precondition the cyclone for transition. All six transitions resulted from the interaction between a surface baroclinic zone and an upper-level trough. During the extratropical cyclogenesis of each storm, a period of intense near-surface frontogenesis along a bent-back warm front occurred to the northwest of each sea level pressure minimum. Within the resultant circulation, diabatic redistribution of potential vorticity (PV) promoted the growth of a low-level PV maximum near the western end of the warm front. Concurrently, the upper-level PV anomaly associated with each trough was deformed into the treble clef structure characteristic of extratropical occlusion. Thus, by the end of the transitioning process and just prior to its becoming fully tropical, each cyclone was directly beneath a weakened upper-level trough in a column with weak vertical shear and weak thermal contrasts. The presence of convection to the west and southwest of the surface cyclone at the time of frontogenesis and upper-level PV deformation suggests that diabatic heating contributes significantly to the process of tropical transition in a manner that is consistent with its role in extratropical occlusion. Thus, it is suggested that tropical transition is encouraged whenever extratropical occlusion occurs over a sufficiently warm ocean surface.

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Andrew L. Hulme
and
Jonathan E. Martin

Abstract

A finescale simulation of the tropical transition of Atlantic Hurricane Karen in October 2001 is examined to determine the processes leading to the development of upshear convection and its effects on the process of tropical transition. The analysis shows that, as in marine extratropical cyclones, the area upshear of the pretransition cyclone is characterized by reduced stability. Lower-tropospheric frontogenesis leads to an intense burst of convection there and instigates three important processes that combine to produce a full-fledged tropical cyclone. First, the convection generates intense low-level vorticity on the western half of the cyclone, which quickly dominates the cyclone’s vorticity field eventually organizing the circulation into a small-scale, intense vortex. Second, the diabatically enhanced circulation hastens the isolation of the cyclone’s developing warm core by intensifying cold air advection on the northern and western sides of the storm and by placing evaporatively cooled air into the boundary layer to the south of the cyclone. Third, upshear convection vertically redistributes potential vorticity (PV) from the tropopause to the surface and introduces a component to the upper-level winds, which advects strong, shear-inducing PV gradients away from the column above the cyclone. These three processes transform the initial extratropical cyclone into a frontless vortex with tropical storm–force winds and a warm core in a low-shear environment. These features are sufficient, given a warm enough ocean surface, to allow self-amplification of the storm as a tropical cyclone.

The results further blur the distinction between tropical and extratropical cyclones as many of the processes identified as important to transition are similar to those that characterize ordinary marine cyclones and the extratropical occlusion process with the key distinctions being that here the convection is stronger and the initial upper-level feature is weaker. Thus, tropical transition of strong extratropical precursors follows the canonical midlatitude cyclone life cycle with upshear convection serving as the catalyst that both induces and organizes processes that favor tropical cyclogenesis in the postmature phase.

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