Finescale Vertical Structure of a Cold Front as Revealed by an Airborne Doppler Radar

Geerts, Bart; Damiani, Rick; Haimov, Samuel
January 2006
Monthly Weather Review;Jan2006, Vol. 134 Issue 1, p251
Academic Journal
In the afternoon of 24 May 2002, a well-defined and frontogenetic cold front moved through the Texas panhandle. Detailed observations from a series of platforms were collected near the triple point between this cold front and a dryline boundary. This paper primarily uses reflectivity and Doppler velocity data from an airborne 95-GHz radar, as well as flight-level thermodynamic data, to describe the vertical structure of the cold front as it intersected with the dryline. The prefrontal convective boundary layer was weakly capped, weakly sheared, and about 2.5 times deeper than the cold-frontal density current. The radar data depict the cold front as a fine example of an atmospheric density current at unprecedented detail (∼40 m). The echo structure and dual-Doppler-inferred airflow in the vertical plane reveal typical features such as a nose, a head, a rear-inflow current, and a broad current of rising prefrontal air that feeds the accelerating front-to-rear current over the head. The 2D cross-frontal structure, including the frontal slope, is highly variable in time or alongfront distance. Along this slope horizontal vorticity, averaging ∼0.05 s-1, is generated baroclinically, and the associated strong cross-front shear triggers Kelvin–Helmholtz (KH) billows at the density interface. Some KH billows occupy much of the depth of the density current, possibly even temporarily cutting off the head from its trailing body.


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