A Case Study of Persistent, Intense, Cleat Air Turbulence in an Upper Level Frontal Zone

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  • a Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle
  • | b Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories, Bedford, Mass.
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Abstract

Widespread and persistent clear air turbulence (CAT) occurred over the Eastern Seaboard of the United States between New York and South Carolina on 18 March 1969. The major synoptic features and a qualitative discussion of the factors contributing to the development of the large vertical wind shears associated with the turbulence are presented. The turbulent region in the vicinity of Wallops Island, Va., was probed with a NASA T-33 research aircraft and with sensitive radars. The clear air radar echoes and the most intense turbulence occurred principally within an upper level frontal zone of about 2 km depth which was produced by the confluence of two currents of widely different origin. The smoothed Richardson number was less than 1.0 throughout the zone and reached its lowest value of ∼0.25 in the region of strongest turbulence. Three distinct types of wave structures were evident in the clear air radar echoes. These were: 1) long sinusoidal arches moving at approximately the wind speed which were oriented in the direction of the wind and wind shear and which had wavelengths of 15–30 km and crest-to-trough amplitudes of nearly 2 km; 2) unstable waves or billows of about 1.6 km wavelength which were superposed on a portion of the long arches and were also oriented in the shear direction; and 3) braided wave-like patterns having a wave-length of ∼5 km and a crest-to-trough amplitude of more than 1 km which were oriented in the cross-wind (and cross-shear) direction.

Abstract

Widespread and persistent clear air turbulence (CAT) occurred over the Eastern Seaboard of the United States between New York and South Carolina on 18 March 1969. The major synoptic features and a qualitative discussion of the factors contributing to the development of the large vertical wind shears associated with the turbulence are presented. The turbulent region in the vicinity of Wallops Island, Va., was probed with a NASA T-33 research aircraft and with sensitive radars. The clear air radar echoes and the most intense turbulence occurred principally within an upper level frontal zone of about 2 km depth which was produced by the confluence of two currents of widely different origin. The smoothed Richardson number was less than 1.0 throughout the zone and reached its lowest value of ∼0.25 in the region of strongest turbulence. Three distinct types of wave structures were evident in the clear air radar echoes. These were: 1) long sinusoidal arches moving at approximately the wind speed which were oriented in the direction of the wind and wind shear and which had wavelengths of 15–30 km and crest-to-trough amplitudes of nearly 2 km; 2) unstable waves or billows of about 1.6 km wavelength which were superposed on a portion of the long arches and were also oriented in the shear direction; and 3) braided wave-like patterns having a wave-length of ∼5 km and a crest-to-trough amplitude of more than 1 km which were oriented in the cross-wind (and cross-shear) direction.

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