Dropsonde Observations in Low-Level Jets over the Northeastern Pacific Ocean from CALJET-1998 and PACJET-2001: Mean Vertical-Profile and Atmospheric-River Characteristics

Ralph, F. Martin; Neiman, Paul J.; Rotunno, Richard
April 2005
Monthly Weather Review;Apr2005, Vol. 133 Issue 4, p889
Academic Journal
Dropsonde observations are used to document the mean vertical profiles of kinematic and thermodynamic conditions in the pre-cold-frontal low-level-jet (LLJ) region of extratropical cyclones over the eastern Pacific Ocean. This is the region within storms that is responsible not only for the majority of heavy rainfall induced by orography when such storms strike the coast, but also for almost all meridional water vapor transport at midlatitudes. The data were collected from NOAA’s P-3 aircraft in 10 storms during the California Land-falling Jets Experiment (CALJET) of 1998 and in 7 storms during the Pacific Land-falling Jets Experiment (PACJET) of 2001. The mean position of the dropsondes was 500 km offshore, well upstream of orographic influences. The availability of data from two winters that were characterized by very different synoptic regimes and by differing phases of ENSO—that is, El Niño in 1998 and La Niña in 2001—allowed examination of interannual variability. The composite pre-cold-frontal profiles reveal a well-defined LLJ at 1.0-km altitude with a wind speed of 23.4 m s-1 and a wind direction of 216.7°, as well as vertical shear characteristic of warm advection. The composite thermodynamic conditions were also documented, with special attention given to moist static stability due to the nearly saturated conditions that were prevalent. Although the dry static stability indicated very stable conditions (4.5 K km-1), the moist static stability was approximately zero up to 2.8-km altitude. Although the composite winds, temperatures, and water vapor mixing ratios in 2001 differed markedly from 1998, the moist static stability remained near zero from the surface up to 2.8–3.0-km altitude for both seasons. Hence, orographic precipitation enhancement is favored in this sector of the storm, regardless of the phase of ENSO. The dropsonde data were also used to characterize the depth and strength of atmospheric rivers, which are responsible for most of the meridional water vapor transport at midlatitudes. The vertically integrated along-river water vapor fluxes averaged 525 × 105 kg s-1 (assuming a 100-km-wide swath), while the meridional and zonal components were 387 × 105 kg s-1 and 302 × 105 kg s-1, respectively. Although the composite meridional transport in 2001 was less than half that in 1998 (230 × 105 kg s-1 versus 497 × 105 kg s-1), the characteristic scale height of the meridional water vapor transport remained constant; that is, 75% of the transport occurred below 2.25-km altitude.


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