The Influence of the Rocky Mountain on the 13–14 April 1986 Severe Weather Outbreak. Part I: Mesoscale Lee Cyclogenesis and Its Relationship to Severe Weather and Dust Storms

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  • 1 Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • 2 Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • 3 Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • 4 NOAA/ERL/Wave Propagation Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

In this first of a two paper series, a sequence of dynamical processes involving the evolution of a mesoscale Ice cyclone and its subsequent interaction with a mesoscale tropopause fold downstream of the Rocky Mountains is investigated. These scale-interactive phenomena, which resulted from the jet streak interaction with the topography, were examined in detail using the observational data obtained from the Program for Regional Observing and Forecasting Services' mesonetwork and wind profilers, as well as conventional surface and rawin-sonde data and Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer satellite data over the Colorado region for the severe weather event that occurred during 13–14 April 1986.

Large-scale analysis indicated that as a baroclinic low pressure system approached the Rockies with its attendant upper-level jet streak, a typical prestorm environment over western Kansas formed in the early morning hours of 13 April. Hourly mesonet data analysis revealed the formation and eastward progression of a mesoscale Ice cyclone with a trailing wind-shift line identified as an internal bore initiated by a cold front (i.e., a prefrontal bore) in Part II. Analysis of winds and divergence including diagnostically derived temperature and height fields from Colorado wind profilers indicated that as the jet streak momentum propagated into a Acre stable region in the midtroposphere created by low-level adiabatic warming and midlevel cooling on the leeside of the Rockies, unbalanced flow conditions resulted at scales less than the Rossby radius of deformation. AS a consequence of geostrophic adjustment processes, mesoscale tropopause folding and upper-level frontogenesis occurred over the profiler network. Unbalanced upper-level frontogenesis resulted from the tilting of the isentropes by along-stream ageostrophic indirect circulations comprised of horizontal vertical velocity gradients across the tropopause fold. As the mesoscale tropopause fold extruded downwards to midlevels in association with the descending secondary upper-level jet streak forced by the geostrophic adjustment process, Ice cyclogenesis occurred due to the phasing of the upper-level front with the low-level Ice cyclone.

Synthesis of the mesonetwork and profiler observations suggest that high momentum in the midtroposphere associated with the descending branch of the jet stream just ahead of the prefrontal bore but behind the dryline. This surge of southwesterly momentum at the surface, largely responsible for blowing dust, was mostly ageostrophic and contributed to an increase in surface vorticity and moisture convergence as well as frontogenesis around the lee cyclone. A mesoscale conceptual model is proposed in order to explain the dynamical sequence of events involving lee cyclogenesis, dust stroms, and a tropopause fold that led to the severe weather environment over the Great Plains. In the companion paper (Part II), observational evidence of an internal bore occurring ahead of a cold front and comparisons with simple numerical model results are presented in order to understand the initiation and propagation of the prefrontal bore and its influence in triggering a squall line father downstream.

Abstract

In this first of a two paper series, a sequence of dynamical processes involving the evolution of a mesoscale Ice cyclone and its subsequent interaction with a mesoscale tropopause fold downstream of the Rocky Mountains is investigated. These scale-interactive phenomena, which resulted from the jet streak interaction with the topography, were examined in detail using the observational data obtained from the Program for Regional Observing and Forecasting Services' mesonetwork and wind profilers, as well as conventional surface and rawin-sonde data and Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer satellite data over the Colorado region for the severe weather event that occurred during 13–14 April 1986.

Large-scale analysis indicated that as a baroclinic low pressure system approached the Rockies with its attendant upper-level jet streak, a typical prestorm environment over western Kansas formed in the early morning hours of 13 April. Hourly mesonet data analysis revealed the formation and eastward progression of a mesoscale Ice cyclone with a trailing wind-shift line identified as an internal bore initiated by a cold front (i.e., a prefrontal bore) in Part II. Analysis of winds and divergence including diagnostically derived temperature and height fields from Colorado wind profilers indicated that as the jet streak momentum propagated into a Acre stable region in the midtroposphere created by low-level adiabatic warming and midlevel cooling on the leeside of the Rockies, unbalanced flow conditions resulted at scales less than the Rossby radius of deformation. AS a consequence of geostrophic adjustment processes, mesoscale tropopause folding and upper-level frontogenesis occurred over the profiler network. Unbalanced upper-level frontogenesis resulted from the tilting of the isentropes by along-stream ageostrophic indirect circulations comprised of horizontal vertical velocity gradients across the tropopause fold. As the mesoscale tropopause fold extruded downwards to midlevels in association with the descending secondary upper-level jet streak forced by the geostrophic adjustment process, Ice cyclogenesis occurred due to the phasing of the upper-level front with the low-level Ice cyclone.

Synthesis of the mesonetwork and profiler observations suggest that high momentum in the midtroposphere associated with the descending branch of the jet stream just ahead of the prefrontal bore but behind the dryline. This surge of southwesterly momentum at the surface, largely responsible for blowing dust, was mostly ageostrophic and contributed to an increase in surface vorticity and moisture convergence as well as frontogenesis around the lee cyclone. A mesoscale conceptual model is proposed in order to explain the dynamical sequence of events involving lee cyclogenesis, dust stroms, and a tropopause fold that led to the severe weather environment over the Great Plains. In the companion paper (Part II), observational evidence of an internal bore occurring ahead of a cold front and comparisons with simple numerical model results are presented in order to understand the initiation and propagation of the prefrontal bore and its influence in triggering a squall line father downstream.

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