The Integral Role of a Diabatic Rossby Vortex in a Heavy Snowfall Event

Moore, Richard W.; Montgomery, Michael T.; Davies, Huw C.
June 2008
Monthly Weather Review;Jun2008, Vol. 136 Issue 6, p1878
Academic Journal
On 24–25 February 2005, a significant East Coast cyclone deposited from 4 to nearly 12 in. (∼10–30 cm) of snow on parts of the northeastern United States. The heaviest snowfall and most rapid deepening of the cyclone coincided with the favorable positioning of an upper-level, short-wave trough immediately upstream of a preexisting surface cyclone. The surface cyclone in question formed approximately 15 h before the heaviest snowfall along a coastal front in a region of frontogenesis and heavy precipitation. The incipient surface cyclone subsequently intensified as it moved to the northeast, consistently generating the strongest convection to the east-northeast of the low-level circulation center. The use of potential vorticity (PV) inversion techniques and a suite of mesoscale model simulations illustrates that the early intensification of the incipient surface cyclone was primarily driven by diabatic effects and was not critically dependent on the upper-level wave. These facts, taken in conjunction with the observed structure, energetics, and Lagrangian evolution of the incipient surface disturbance, identify it as a diabatic Rossby vortex (DRV). The antecedent surface vorticity spinup associated with the DRV phase of development is found to be integral to the subsequent rapid growth. The qualitative similarity with a number of observed cases of explosive cyclogenesis leaves open the possibility that a DRV-like feature comprises the preexisting positive low-level PV anomaly in a number of cyclogenetic events that exhibit a two-stage evolution.


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