A Reexamination of the Mechanisms Responsible for Banded Precipitation

Clark, John H. E.; James, Richard P.; Grumm, Richard H.
December 2002
Monthly Weather Review;Dec2002, Vol. 130 Issue 12, p3074
Academic Journal
The processes responsible for a banded snowfall region during a December 1997 East Coast storm are examined. Conventional data plus a numerical simulation with the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University-NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5) are used. Calculations of slantwise potential area near the bands suggest that the release of conditional symmetric instability played a role in their formation. The location and timing for the appearance of negative moist potential vorticity (MPV) cannot, however, be reconciled with band formation. A balanced MPV model based on the geostrophic momentum approximation is developed. It provided new insights into the mechanisms of MPV generation. A swath of negative balanced MPV now coincides with the snowbands. MPV sources are proposed that are linked to a vigorous mesoscale updraft near the bands. The updraft occurred on the warm, moist side of a zone of midtroposphere frontogenesis. Negative MPV develops through differential ageostrophic transports of geostrophic momentum and equivalent potential temperature. Of these, differential vertical equivalent potential temperature transport was the most efficient and accounted for the largest fraction of model-produced negative MPV tendencies near the bands. This mechanism was particularly strong in the lower troposphere near the mesoscale updraft.


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