High-Resolution Observations and Model Simulations of the Life Cycle of an Intense Mesoscale Snowband over the Northeastern United States

Novak, David R.; Colle, Brian A.; Yuter, Sandra E.
April 2008
Monthly Weather Review;Apr2008, Vol. 136 Issue 4, p1433
Academic Journal
This paper investigates the structural and dynamical evolution of an intense mesoscale snowband occurring 25–26 December 2002 over the northeastern United States. Dual-Doppler, wind profiler, aircraft, and water vapor observations in concert with the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–NCAR Mesoscale Model run at 4-km grid spacing are used to highlight evolutionary aspects of a snowband unresolved by previous studies. The high-resolution observations and model simulations show that band formation was coincident with a sharpening of a midlevel trough and associated increase in frontogenesis in an environment of conditional and inertial instability. Band maturity was marked by increasing conditional stability and a threefold increase in frontogenetical forcing. Band dissipation occurred as the midlevel trough and associated frontogenetical forcing weakened, while the conditional stability continued to increase. The effect of changing ascent is shown to dominate over changing moisture in explaining band dissipation in this case. Unconventional aspects of band structure and dynamics revealed by the high-resolution data are discussed, including the location of the band relative to the frontogenesis maximum, increasing stability during the band-formation process, and the presence of inertial instability. The model realistically predicted the band evolution; however, maximum precipitation was underforecast within the banded region by ∼30% at 4-km grid spacing, and the axis of heaviest precipitation was displaced ∼50 km to the southeast of the observed location. Higher horizontal model resolution is shown to contribute toward improved QPF in this case; however, it appears more dramatic improvement may be gained by better simulating the frontogenesis, stability, and moisture evolution.


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