The Low-Level Structure and Evolution of a Dry Arctic Front over the Central United States. Part II: Comparison with Theory

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  • 1 Astrophysical, Planetary and Atmospheric Sciences Department and Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado. Boulder, Colorado
  • | 2 Office of Field Project Support, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 3 Astrophysical Planetary and Atmospheric Sciences Department and Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 4 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

This investigation examines the meso- and microscale aspects of the 9 March 1992 cold front that passed through Kansas during the daylight hours. The principal feature of this front is the relatively rapid frontogenesis that occurred. The total change in the cross-frontal temperature is about 6 K, with most of the change occurring between about 0820 and 1400 local time and over a relatively small subsection of the total frontal width. The surface data are able to resolve a sharp horizontal transition zone of 1–2 km. The principal physical processes that produce this frontogenesis are shown to be the cross-frontal differential sensible heating, associated with differential cloud cover, and the convergence of warm and cold air toward the front. The former process is responsible for an increase in the magnitude of the differential temperature change across the front; the latter process concentrates the existing temperature differential across an ever-decreasing transitional zone until a near discontinuity in the horizontal temperature distribution is essentially established during the period of a few hours. Two approaches are taken to demonstrate that these processes control the observed frontogenesis. First, surface data from an enhanced array, set up during the Storm-scale Operational and Research Meteorology Fronts Experiment System Test, are used to evaluate the terms that contribute to the time rate of change of the gradient of potential temperature, d|∇θ| / dt, following the motion of the front. Then, the processes of differential sensible heating and convergence are incorporated into a simple two-dimensional nonlinear model that serves to provide a forecast of the surface temperature and velocity fields from given initial conditions that are appropriate at the onset of the surface heating. Verification of the model predictions by observed data confirms that both processes contribute to the observed daytime frontogenesis on 9 March 1992. A critique of the model does. however, suggest that the accuracy of some quantitative evaluations could be improved.

Abstract

This investigation examines the meso- and microscale aspects of the 9 March 1992 cold front that passed through Kansas during the daylight hours. The principal feature of this front is the relatively rapid frontogenesis that occurred. The total change in the cross-frontal temperature is about 6 K, with most of the change occurring between about 0820 and 1400 local time and over a relatively small subsection of the total frontal width. The surface data are able to resolve a sharp horizontal transition zone of 1–2 km. The principal physical processes that produce this frontogenesis are shown to be the cross-frontal differential sensible heating, associated with differential cloud cover, and the convergence of warm and cold air toward the front. The former process is responsible for an increase in the magnitude of the differential temperature change across the front; the latter process concentrates the existing temperature differential across an ever-decreasing transitional zone until a near discontinuity in the horizontal temperature distribution is essentially established during the period of a few hours. Two approaches are taken to demonstrate that these processes control the observed frontogenesis. First, surface data from an enhanced array, set up during the Storm-scale Operational and Research Meteorology Fronts Experiment System Test, are used to evaluate the terms that contribute to the time rate of change of the gradient of potential temperature, d|∇θ| / dt, following the motion of the front. Then, the processes of differential sensible heating and convergence are incorporated into a simple two-dimensional nonlinear model that serves to provide a forecast of the surface temperature and velocity fields from given initial conditions that are appropriate at the onset of the surface heating. Verification of the model predictions by observed data confirms that both processes contribute to the observed daytime frontogenesis on 9 March 1992. A critique of the model does. however, suggest that the accuracy of some quantitative evaluations could be improved.

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