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The Finescale Structure of a West Texas Dryline

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 2 NOAA/ERL/Wave Propagation Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 3 Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado/NOAA, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

During spring and early summer, a surface confluence zone, often referred to as the dryline, forms in the midwestern United States between continental and maritime air masses. The dewpoint temperature across the dryline can vary in excess of 18°C in a distance of less than 10 km. The movement of the dryline varies diurnally with boundary layer growth over sloping terrain leading to an eastward apparent propagation of the dryline during the day and a westward advection or retrogression during the evening. In this study, we examine the finescale structure of a retrogressing, dryline using data taken by a Doppler lidar, a dual-channel radiometer, and serial rawinsonde ascents. While many previous studies were unable to accurately measure the vertical motions in the vicinity of the dryline, our lidar measurements suggest that the convergence at the dryline is intense with maximum vertical motions of ∼5 m s−1. The winds obtained from the Doppler lidar Measurements were combined with the equations of motion to derive perturbation fields of pressure and virtual potential temperature θv. Our observations indicate that the circulations associated with this retrogressing dryline were dominated by hot, dry air riding over a westward moving denser, moist flow in a manner similar to a density current. Gravity waves were observed above the dryline interface. Previous observational and numerical studies have shown that differential heating across the dryline may sometimes enhance regional pressure gradients and thus impact dryline movement. We propose that this regional gradient in surface heating in the presence of a confluent flow results in observed intense wind shifts and large horizontal gradients in θv across the dryline. The local gradient in θv influences the movement and flow characteristics of the dryline interface. This study is one of the most complete and novel uses of Doppler lidar to date.

Abstract

During spring and early summer, a surface confluence zone, often referred to as the dryline, forms in the midwestern United States between continental and maritime air masses. The dewpoint temperature across the dryline can vary in excess of 18°C in a distance of less than 10 km. The movement of the dryline varies diurnally with boundary layer growth over sloping terrain leading to an eastward apparent propagation of the dryline during the day and a westward advection or retrogression during the evening. In this study, we examine the finescale structure of a retrogressing, dryline using data taken by a Doppler lidar, a dual-channel radiometer, and serial rawinsonde ascents. While many previous studies were unable to accurately measure the vertical motions in the vicinity of the dryline, our lidar measurements suggest that the convergence at the dryline is intense with maximum vertical motions of ∼5 m s−1. The winds obtained from the Doppler lidar Measurements were combined with the equations of motion to derive perturbation fields of pressure and virtual potential temperature θv. Our observations indicate that the circulations associated with this retrogressing dryline were dominated by hot, dry air riding over a westward moving denser, moist flow in a manner similar to a density current. Gravity waves were observed above the dryline interface. Previous observational and numerical studies have shown that differential heating across the dryline may sometimes enhance regional pressure gradients and thus impact dryline movement. We propose that this regional gradient in surface heating in the presence of a confluent flow results in observed intense wind shifts and large horizontal gradients in θv across the dryline. The local gradient in θv influences the movement and flow characteristics of the dryline interface. This study is one of the most complete and novel uses of Doppler lidar to date.

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