A Numerical Investigation of East Coast Cyclogenesis during the Cold-Air Damming Event of 27–28 February 1982. Part II: Importance of Physical Mechanisms

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
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Abstract

On 27–28 February 1982 cyclogenesis occurred along a Carolina coastal front. Despite the relatively weak low pressure center typical of many coastal storms, this case produced widespread hazardous conditions—within 12 h up to 30 cm of snow fell in the mountains of western Virginia and moderate icing persisted throughout 27 February in the Carolinas. The event contained many mesoscale and synoptic-scale phenomena such as cold-air damming, coastal frontogenesis, upper- and lower-tropospheric jet streaks, a thermally direct vertical-transverse ageostrophic circulation, and heavy mixed precipitation.

A nested version of the PSU–NCAR three-dimensional mesoscale model with 35-km resolution successfully reproduced most principal synoptic and mesoscale feature associated with the event. This study presents a series of numerical experiments designed to examine the role of several physical processes on the evolution of and interaction between atmospheric phenomena having dithering scales, each of which contributed to the development of the storm. In particular, the physical processes studied include: 1) the role of diabatic heating associated with convective and grid-scale precipitation, 2) the role of a thermally direct transverse circulation about the entrance region of a strong polar jet streak and 3) modification of the marine planetary boundary layer by fluxes of heat and moisture over the Gulf Stream.

Of the three mechanisms investigated, the diabatic heating associated with precipitation is found to have the most significant impact on storm development. Without latent heating, cyclogenesis does not occur along the Carolina coastal front despite the presence of strong low-level baroclinicity and cyclonic vorticity. A less dramatic but still important relationship is found between storm formation and the other two physical mechanisms. The experiments indicate that the timing of storm development is delayed and the intensity weakened by reducing the strength of both the polar jet streak and fluxes over the Gulf Stream. In particular, weakening these processes disrupts the positive phase relationship between upper- and lower-tropospheric forcing in the last 12 h of the study. The three basic mechanisms are shown to affect the cyclogenesis by altering many of the important mesoscale features and processes that contribute to storm development, including the intensity of the vertical-transverse circulation around the jet streak, the location of the upward branch of the circulation, precipitation intensity, buoyancy of parcels advected over the coastal front, low-level and upper-level height falls associated with latent heating, and the southeasterly low-level jet over the coastal front.

Abstract

On 27–28 February 1982 cyclogenesis occurred along a Carolina coastal front. Despite the relatively weak low pressure center typical of many coastal storms, this case produced widespread hazardous conditions—within 12 h up to 30 cm of snow fell in the mountains of western Virginia and moderate icing persisted throughout 27 February in the Carolinas. The event contained many mesoscale and synoptic-scale phenomena such as cold-air damming, coastal frontogenesis, upper- and lower-tropospheric jet streaks, a thermally direct vertical-transverse ageostrophic circulation, and heavy mixed precipitation.

A nested version of the PSU–NCAR three-dimensional mesoscale model with 35-km resolution successfully reproduced most principal synoptic and mesoscale feature associated with the event. This study presents a series of numerical experiments designed to examine the role of several physical processes on the evolution of and interaction between atmospheric phenomena having dithering scales, each of which contributed to the development of the storm. In particular, the physical processes studied include: 1) the role of diabatic heating associated with convective and grid-scale precipitation, 2) the role of a thermally direct transverse circulation about the entrance region of a strong polar jet streak and 3) modification of the marine planetary boundary layer by fluxes of heat and moisture over the Gulf Stream.

Of the three mechanisms investigated, the diabatic heating associated with precipitation is found to have the most significant impact on storm development. Without latent heating, cyclogenesis does not occur along the Carolina coastal front despite the presence of strong low-level baroclinicity and cyclonic vorticity. A less dramatic but still important relationship is found between storm formation and the other two physical mechanisms. The experiments indicate that the timing of storm development is delayed and the intensity weakened by reducing the strength of both the polar jet streak and fluxes over the Gulf Stream. In particular, weakening these processes disrupts the positive phase relationship between upper- and lower-tropospheric forcing in the last 12 h of the study. The three basic mechanisms are shown to affect the cyclogenesis by altering many of the important mesoscale features and processes that contribute to storm development, including the intensity of the vertical-transverse circulation around the jet streak, the location of the upward branch of the circulation, precipitation intensity, buoyancy of parcels advected over the coastal front, low-level and upper-level height falls associated with latent heating, and the southeasterly low-level jet over the coastal front.

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