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Michael J. Dickinson and David J. Knight

Abstract

A two-dimensional, hydrostatic, nearly adiabatic primitive equation model is used to study the evolution of a front passing across topography. Frontogenesis is forced by shearing deformation associated with the nonlinear evolution of an Eady wave. This study extends previous work by including an upper-level potential vorticity (PV) anomaly and a growing baroclinic wave in a baroclinically unstable basic state.

Results for the Eady wave simulations show that the mountain retards and blocks the approaching front at the surface while the upper-level PV anomaly associated with the front moves across the domain unaffected. Warm advection ahead of the lee trough forces convergence and cyclonic vorticity growth near the base of the lee slope. This vorticity growth is further encouraged by the approach of the upper-level PV anomaly. The upper-level PV anomaly then couples with this new surface vorticity center and propagates downstream. The original surface front remains trapped on the windward slope. Thus when the upstream blocking is strong, frontal propagation is discontinuous across the ridge. This evolution occurs for tall mountains and narrow mountains, as well as weak fronts. For low mountains, wide mountains, and strong fronts, only weak retardation is observed on the windward slope. The surface front remains coupled with the upper-level PV anomaly. The front moves continuously across the mountain.

The net result, regardless of mountain size and shape, is that the front reaches the base of the lee slope stronger, sooner, and with a decreased cross-front scale compared to the “no-mountain” case. Well downstream of the mountain, no position change of the surface front is observed.

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Eric D. Maloney and Michael J. Dickinson

Abstract

The tropical intraseasonal oscillation (ISO) causes variations in the large-scale flow over the western North Pacific during June–August that strongly impact the energetics of tropical depression (TD)-type disturbances. An energetics analysis is conducted with NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data during June–August of 1979–2001. Composite TD-type disturbance perturbation kinetic energy (PKE) is significantly higher during ISO 850-hPa westerly periods than during ISO 850-hPa easterly periods. ISO westerly periods are associated with enhanced barotropic conversion and enhanced perturbation available potential energy (PAPE) to PKE conversion. ISO easterly periods are characterized by diminished TD-type PKE, negligible barotropic conversion, and weakened PAPE to PKE conversions, as compared to composite TD-type disturbances during ISO westerly periods and the entire June–August record. Barotropic conversion accounts for a larger fraction of the PKE generation during ISO westerly periods than during the entire June–August record, and vertically averaged barotropic conversion during ISO westerly periods is 3–4 times that during ISO easterly periods. Barotropic conversion during ISO westerly periods maximizes in the lower troposphere, coincident with the maximum in TD-type disturbance kinetic energy. PAPE to PKE conversion maximizes in the upper troposphere, where it is redistributed to the lower-troposphere and tropopause levels, and horizontally, by the perturbation geopotential flux. PAPE is primarily generated through convective heating associated with the TD-type disturbances and is converted to PKE through the negative correlation of pressure velocity and temperature.

The effect of western Pacific ISO flow variations on the energy budgets of TD-type disturbances may help explain the ISO-related modulation of tropical cyclones observed by Liebmann et al. Energetic TD-type disturbances during ISO westerly periods may provide suitable seed disturbances from which tropical cyclones may form.

June–August TD-type disturbance structure and energetics (unstratified by ISO phase) were compared to the results of Lau and Lau, who used a different analysis product, lower-resolution dataset, and shorter data record. TD-type disturbance structure and energetics are consistent with those shown in Lau and Lau. The largest deviation in the present analysis from that of Lau and Lau is the strong destruction of PKE found at 150 hPa, a level not resolved in their study. Although the sign of the 150-hPa signal is consistent with southwest–northeast-tilted TD-type disturbances interacting with strongly sheared easterly flow aloft, the nonlinear nature of the energy budget calculations may also amplify the effects of unrelated variability.

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Kristen L. Corbosiero, Michael J. Dickinson, and Lance F. Bosart

Abstract

Forty-six years of summer rainfall and tropical cyclone data are used to explore the role that eastern North Pacific tropical cyclones (TCs) play in the rainfall climatology of the summer monsoon over the southwestern United States. Thirty-five TCs and their remnants were found to bring significant rainfall to the region, representing less than 10% of the total number of TCs that formed within the basin. The month of September was the most common time for TC rainfall to occur in the monsoon region as midlatitude troughs become more likely to penetrate far enough south to interact with the TCs and steer them toward the north and east. On average, the contribution of TCs to the warm-season precipitation increased from east to west, accounting for less than 5% of the rainfall in New Mexico and increasing to more than 20% in southern California and northern Baja California, with individual storms accounting for as much as 95% of the summer rainfall. The distribution of rainfall for TC events over the southwest United States reveals three main categories: 1) a direct northward track from the eastern Pacific into southern California and Nevada, 2) a distinct swath northeastward from southwestern Arizona through northwestern New Mexico and into southwestern Colorado, and 3) a broad area of precipitation over the southwest United States with embedded maxima tied to terrain features. Differences in these track types relate to the phasing between, and scales of, the trough and TC, with the California track being more likely with large cutoff cyclones situated off the west coast, the southwest–northeast track being most likely with mobile midlatitude troughs moving across the intermountain west, and the broad precipitation category generally exhibiting no direct interaction with midlatitude features.

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Suzanne Dickinson, Kathryn A. Kelly, Michael J. Caruso, and Michael J. McPhaden

Abstract

There was an opportunity to compare 10 months of collocated National Aeronautics and Space Administration scatterometer (NSCAT) wind vectors with those from the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) buoy array, located in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Over 5500 data pairs, from nearly 70 buoys, were collocated in the calibration/validation effort for NSCAT. These data showed that the wind speeds produced from the NSCAT-1 model function were low by about 7%–8% compared with TAO buoy winds. The revised model function, NSCAT-2, produces wind speeds with a bias of about 1%. The scatterometer directions were within 20° (rms), meeting accuracy requirements, when compared to TAO data. The mean direction bias between the TAO and the NSCAT vectors (regardless of model function) is about 9° with the scatterometer winds to the right of the TAO winds, which may be due to swell. The statistics of the two datasets are discussed, using component biases in lieu of the speed bias, which is naturally skewed. Using ocean currents and buoy winds measured along the equator, it is shown that the scatterometer measures the wind relative to the moving ocean surface. In addition, a systematic effect of rain on the NSCAT wind retrievals is noted. In all analyses presented here, winds less than 3 m s−1 are removed, due to the difficulty in making accurate low wind measurements.

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Kenneth D. LaPenta, Lance F. Bosart, Thomas J. Galarneau Jr., and Michael J. Dickinson

Abstract

On 31 May 1998, an F3 tornado struck Mechanicville, New York, injuring 68 people and causing $71 million in damage. The tornado was part of a widespread, severe weather outbreak across the northeast United States. The synoptic conditions that caused the outbreak and the mesoscale and storm-scale environments that produced the tornado are discussed.

The coupling of two strong upper-level jets and a very strong low-level jet, in association with an unseasonably strong surface cyclone, created a synoptic-scale environment favorable for severe weather. As the result of these jet interactions, a very warm, moist air mass was transported into the Northeast with an associated increase in the wind shear in the lower troposphere. A terrain-channeled low-level southerly flow up the Hudson Valley may have created a mesoscale environment that was especially favorable for tornadic supercell development by increasing storm-relative helicity in the low levels of the atmosphere and by transporting warm, moist air northward up the valley, leading to increased instability.

A broken line of locally severe thunderstorms moved eastward across New York several hours prior to the tornado. The storm that produced the Mechanicville tornado developed over central New York ahead of this line of storms. As the line of storms moved east, it intensified into a solid line and bowed forward down the Mohawk Valley of New York. These storms were moving faster than the isolated supercell to the east and overtook the supercell where the eastern end of the Mohawk Valley opens into the Hudson Valley. Based on limited observational evidence and the results of simulations of idealized quasi-linear convective systems reported elsewhere in the literature, it is hypothesized that backed low-level flow ahead of a bookend vortex at the northern end of the bowing line of storms over the Mohawk Valley may have contributed to the tornadogenesis process as the squall line overtook and interacted with the intensifying supercell.

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Lance F. Bosart, Anton Seimon, Kenneth D. LaPenta, and Michael J. Dickinson

Abstract

The process of tornadogenesis in complex terrain environments has received relatively little research attention to date. Here, an analysis is presented of a long-lived supercell that became tornadic over complex terrain in association with the Great Barrington, Massachusetts (GBR), F3 tornado of 29 May 1995. The GBR tornado left an almost continuous 50–1000-m-wide damage path that stretched for ∼50 km. The apparent rarity of significant tornadogenesis in rough terrain from a supercell well documented in operational Doppler radar motivated this case study. Doppler radar observations showed that the GBR supercell possessed a midlevel mesocyclone well prior to tornadogenesis and that the mesocyclone intensified as it crossed the eastern edge of New York’s Catskill Mountains and entered the Hudson Valley. Tornadogenesis occurred as the GBR mesocyclone crossed the Hudson Valley and ascended the highlands to the east. Subsequently, the mesocyclone weakened as it approached the Taconic Range in western Massachusetts before it intensified again as it moved downslope into the Housatonic Valley where it was associated with the GBR tornado. Because of a dearth of significant mesoscale surface and upper-air observations, the conclusions and inferences presented in this paper must be necessarily limited and speculative. What data were available suggested that on a day when the mesoscale environment was supportive of supercell thunderstorm development, according to conventional indicators of wind shear and atmospheric stability, topographic configurations and the associated channeling of ambient low-level flows conspired to create local orographic enhancements to tornadogenesis potential. Numerical experimentation is needed to address these inferences, speculative points, and related issues raised by the GBR case study.

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Lance F. Bosart, Gregory J. Hakim, Kevin R. Tyle, Mary A. Bedrick, W. Edward Bracken, Michael J. Dickinson, and David M. Schultz

Abstract

The results of a multiscale analysis of the 12–14 March 1993 superstonn (SS93) over eastern North America are presented. A time sequence of overlapping 10-day time-mean 5OO-hPa geopotential height and anomaly composites shows that the Northern Hemisphere (NH) flow pattern from 18 February to 15 March 1993 is characterized by 1) three persistent troughs situated over eastern Asia and the northwestern Pacific, over eastern North America, and over northwestern Africa and southwestern Europe eastward to central Russia; and 2) a massive blocking anticyclone located over the central and eastern Atlantic. Beginning 8–9 March 1993 the planetary-scale flow amplifies substantially. The explosive SS93 cyclogenesis and the transport of cold air to very low latitudes occurs a few days later as the NH available potential energy content, after peaking on 9 March 1993, decreases by about 6%–7%.

A dynamical tropopause analysis is used to track coherent transient potential vorticity (PV) anomalies and show their qualitative interaction with the planetary-scale flow. SS93 is attributed to the interaction and eventual merger of strong PV anomalies embedded in the northern and southern branches of the westerlies in a background confluent northwesterly flow associated with an amplifying positive-phase Pacific–North American flow pattern. The northern PV anomaly originates in southwestern Canada on 18 February and circumnavigates the NH at relatively high latitudes, a track that permits it to maintain arctic characteristics prior to merger. The southern PV anomalies, tracked from Europe and western Asia eastward across the Pacific, reach North America by 11 March 1993 where they become associated with widespread convention over southern Texas and the northwestern Gulf of Mexico beginning 12 March 1993.

The unique aspects of SS93 are attributed to 1) the near simultaneous amplification of the planetary-scale flow and the lateral and vertical interaction of individual PV anomalies cast of the Rockies during the merger process, and 2) the lag of the northern PV anomaly relative to the southern anomaly so that a baroclinic zone containing lower-tropospheric air of significant conditional instability is allowed to remain in place over southern Texas and the northwest Gulf of Mexico in the cyclogenetic environment ahead of the northern PV anomaly.

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David M. Schultz, W. Edward Bracken, Lance F. Bosart, Gregory J. Hakim, Mary A. Bedrick, Michael J. Dickinson, and Kevin R. Tyle

Abstract

In the wake of the eastern United States cyclone of 12–14 March 1993, a cold surge, originating over Alaska and western Canada, brought northerlies exceeding 20 m s−1 and temperature decreases up to 15°C over 24 h into Mexico and Central America. This paper addresses the multiscale aspects of the surge from the planetary scale to the mesoscale, focusing on 1) the structure and evolution of the leading edge of the cold surge, 2) the reasons for its extraordinary intensity and equatorward extent, and 3) the impact of the surge on the Tropics, specifically, on the strength of the trade winds and on the sea surface temperature in the eastern Pacific.

The cold surge was initiated as a developing cyclone over the Gulf of Mexico, and an upstream anticyclone east of the Rockies caused an along-barrier pressure gradient to form, forcing topographically channeled northerlies along the Rocky and Sierra Madre Mountains to transport cold air equatorward. On the mesoscale, the leading edge of the cold surge possessed nonclassical frontal structure. For example, as the cold surge entered Mexico, the coldest air and the strongest wind arrived at about 900 hPa before affecting the surface, suggestive of a tipped-forward leading edge to the surge. Also, satellite imagery and surface observations indicate that the leading edge appeared to be successively regenerated in the warm presurge air. The cold surge had characteristics reminiscent of a Kelvin wave, a tipped-forward cold front, a pressure-jump line, a bore, and a gravity current, but none of these conceptual/dynamical models was fully applicable. Associated with the cold surge, gap winds up to 25 m s−1 were observed in the Gulfs of Tehuantepec (a tehuantepecer), Fonseca, Papagayo, and Panama, owing to the strong cross-mountain pressure gradient. In the case of the tehuantepecer, a rope cloud emanated from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and turned anticyclonically, consistent with an inertial oscillation.

On the synoptic and planetary scales, the extraordinary equatorward extent of the cold surge was aided by topographic channeling similar to cold-air damming, by a low-latitude upper-tropospheric trough, and by the lower branch of the secondary circulation associated with a confluent jet-entrance region aloft. The cold surge also impacted the tropical atmosphere and ocean, by contributing to the strengthening of the northeast trade winds over the eastern Pacific Ocean and by inducing local cooling of the sea surface temperature in the Gulfs of Tehuantepec and Papagayo by about 4°–8°C.

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Michael J. Dickinson, Lance F. Bosart, W. Edward Bracken, Gregory J. Hakim, David M. Schultz, Mary A. Bedrick, and Kevin R. Tyle

Abstract

The incipient stages of the 12–14 March 1993 “superstorm” (SS93) cyclogenesis over the Gulf of Mexico are examined. Noteworthy aspects of SS93 include 1) it is the deepest extratropical cyclone ever observed over the Gulf of Mexico during the 1957–96 period, and 2) existing operational prediction models performed poorly in simulating the incipient cyclogenesis over the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. A dynamic-tropopause (DT) analysis shows that SS93 is triggered by a potent potential vorticity (PV) anomaly as it crosses extreme northern Mexico and approaches the Gulf of Mexico. The low-level environment over the western Gulf of Mexico is warmed, moistened, and destabilized by a persistent southerly flow ahead of the approaching PV anomaly. Ascent and a lowering of the DT (associated with a lowering of the potential temperature) ahead of the PV anomaly contributes to further destabilization that is realized in the form of a massive convective outbreak.

An examination of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Medium Range Forecast (MRF) model-initialized fields after convection begins shows that the MRF does not fully resolve important features of the potential temperature, pressure, and wind fields on the DT in the incipient SS93 environment. Similarly, the NCEP MRF 12-h/24-h forecasts verifying 1200 UTC 12 March and 0000 UTC 13 March are unable to simulate sufficient deep convection over the Gulf of Mexico, low-level PV growth in the incipient storm environment, high-level PV destruction and the associated warming and lifting of the DT over and downshear of the developing storm. Given that the MRF-initialized fields possess sufficient conditional instability, moisture, and ascent to trigger widespread deep convection, the poorly forecast incipient SS93 development appears to be associated with the failure of the model cumulus parameterization scheme. A comparison of the MRF forecasts with selected forecast fields derived from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts operational model supports this interpretation.

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Kenneth R. Knapp, Steve Ansari, Caroline L. Bain, Mark A. Bourassa, Michael J. Dickinson, Chris Funk, Chip N. Helms, Christopher C. Hennon, Christopher D. Holmes, George J. Huffman, James P. Kossin, Hai-Tien Lee, Alexander Loew, and Gudrun Magnusdottir

Geostationary satellites have provided routine, high temporal resolution Earth observations since the 1970s. Despite the long period of record, use of these data in climate studies has been limited for numerous reasons, among them that no central archive of geostationary data for all international satellites exists, full temporal and spatial resolution data are voluminous, and diverse calibration and navigation formats encumber the uniform processing needed for multisatellite climate studies. The International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) set the stage for overcoming these issues by archiving a subset of the full-resolution geostationary data at ~10-km resolution at 3-hourly intervals since 1983. Recent efforts at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center to provide convenient access to these data include remapping the data to a standard map projection, recalibrating the data to optimize temporal homogeneity, extending the record of observations back to 1980, and reformatting the data for broad public distribution. The Gridded Satellite (GridSat) dataset includes observations from the visible, infrared window, and infrared water vapor channels. Data are stored in Network Common Data Format (netCDF) using standards that permit a wide variety of tools and libraries to process the data quickly and easily. A novel data layering approach, together with appropriate satellite and file metadata, allows users to access GridSat data at varying levels of complexity based on their needs. The result is a climate data record already in use by the meteorological community. Examples include reanalysis of tropical cyclones, studies of global precipitation, and detection and tracking of the intertropical convergence zone.

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