Climatology of the Simulated Great Plains Low-Level Jet and Its Contribution to the Continental Moisture Budget of the United States

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  • 1 Data Assimilation Office, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
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Abstract

The Great Plains region of the United States is characterized by some of the most frequent and regular occurrences of a nocturnal low-level jet (LLJ). While the LLJ is generally confined to the lowest Kilometer of the atmosphere, it may cover a substantial region of the Great Plains, and typically reaches maximum amplitudes of more than 20 m s−1.

A two-month, springtime simulation with the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS-1) atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) has produced a Great Plains LLJ with a vertical and temporal structure, directionality, and climatological distribution that compare favorably with observations. The diurnal cycle of the low-level flow is dramatic and coherent over a subcontinental area that includes much of the western United States and northern Mexico. This cycle can be interpreted as the nightly intrusion of the anticyclonic, subtropical gyre (associated with the Bermuda high) into the North American continent as surface friction decreases. The AGCM also simulates a pair of northerly LLJ maxima off the California coast, which seem to correspond to observations of a so-called “Baja Jet.” Other apparently related diurnal variations extending well into the upper troposphere are documented and compared with observations.

The time-averaged climatological picture of the low-level flow is dominated over land by the nocturnal phase of the diurnal cycle, in which surface friction is minimal and wind speeds are strongest. This pattern, with its zones of strong convergence, is characteristic of an unsteady, strongly forced flow. Over the open ocean, the mean low-level flow is more reminiscent of a smooth, climatological pattern.

Analysis of the simulated moisture budget for the continental United States reveals a horizontally confined region of strong southerly moisture transport with a strong diurnal cycle in the region of the Great Plains LLJ, as has been found in observations of water vapor transport. The LLJ plays a key role in that budget by transporting almost one-third of all the moisture that enters the continental United States with most of the influx from the LLJ (slightly less than two-thirds of it) entering during the 12 nighttime hours. However, it is the mean flow pattern and not covariances associated with the diurnal cycle that contribute most significantly to the total time-mean moisture transport. Covariances on the synoptic and longer timescales contribute only about one-fifth of the total time-mean transport of moisture in the jet region, and covariances on the diurnal timescale are negative and negligible despite the strong diurnal signal in the wind.

Abstract

The Great Plains region of the United States is characterized by some of the most frequent and regular occurrences of a nocturnal low-level jet (LLJ). While the LLJ is generally confined to the lowest Kilometer of the atmosphere, it may cover a substantial region of the Great Plains, and typically reaches maximum amplitudes of more than 20 m s−1.

A two-month, springtime simulation with the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS-1) atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) has produced a Great Plains LLJ with a vertical and temporal structure, directionality, and climatological distribution that compare favorably with observations. The diurnal cycle of the low-level flow is dramatic and coherent over a subcontinental area that includes much of the western United States and northern Mexico. This cycle can be interpreted as the nightly intrusion of the anticyclonic, subtropical gyre (associated with the Bermuda high) into the North American continent as surface friction decreases. The AGCM also simulates a pair of northerly LLJ maxima off the California coast, which seem to correspond to observations of a so-called “Baja Jet.” Other apparently related diurnal variations extending well into the upper troposphere are documented and compared with observations.

The time-averaged climatological picture of the low-level flow is dominated over land by the nocturnal phase of the diurnal cycle, in which surface friction is minimal and wind speeds are strongest. This pattern, with its zones of strong convergence, is characteristic of an unsteady, strongly forced flow. Over the open ocean, the mean low-level flow is more reminiscent of a smooth, climatological pattern.

Analysis of the simulated moisture budget for the continental United States reveals a horizontally confined region of strong southerly moisture transport with a strong diurnal cycle in the region of the Great Plains LLJ, as has been found in observations of water vapor transport. The LLJ plays a key role in that budget by transporting almost one-third of all the moisture that enters the continental United States with most of the influx from the LLJ (slightly less than two-thirds of it) entering during the 12 nighttime hours. However, it is the mean flow pattern and not covariances associated with the diurnal cycle that contribute most significantly to the total time-mean moisture transport. Covariances on the synoptic and longer timescales contribute only about one-fifth of the total time-mean transport of moisture in the jet region, and covariances on the diurnal timescale are negative and negligible despite the strong diurnal signal in the wind.

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