Mesoscale dynamics of the Trowal and warm-frontal regions of two continental winter cyclones

Mei Han, Robert M. Rauber, Mohan K. Ramamurthy, Brian F. Jewett, Joseph A. Grim

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The dynamic and thermodynamic structure and associated frontal circulations within the trowal and warm-frontal regions of two extratropical winter cyclones are examined using numerical simulations. In each cyclone, the warm, moist airstream originating in the warm sector was found to bifurcate upon reaching the warm front. One branch of the flow turned anticyclonically eastward, corresponding to the warm conveyor belt, while the second branch turned cyclonically westward becoming the trowal airstream. The dynamic forcing of vertical motion within the two airstreams was investigated using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University-National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5), both from an analysis of the Sawyer-Eliassen (SE) equation in two dimensions and from complete model solutions. Shearing deformation, associated with the jet stream and the low-level cyclonic flow, dominated confluent deformation near the trowal in both cases. The shearing deformation was accompanied by cold advection associated with an intrusion of cold, dry air aloft. The configuration of isentropes and the wind field led to frontogenesis on the equatorward side of the trowal and frontolysis farther south on the poleward side of the jet stream. The SE solution showed a circulation centered on the frontogenesis-frontolysis couplet, with air rising in the trowal and sinking within the dry air mass on the trowal's equatorward side. The rising branch of the circulation was responsible for the wide swath of snowfall coincident with the trowal. From the vicinity of the bifurcation axis eastward along the warm-frontal zone, confluent deformation dominated within the troposphere. Frontogenesis in this region produced a direct circulation whose rising branch accounted for the production of precipitation over the warm-frontal zone. Diabatic processes associated with latent heating and cooling produced frontogenesis-frontolysis couplets and significantly modified the transverse frontal circulations. The ascending motion was amplified by a factor of 2 or greater compared with the ascending motion solely due to horizontal deformation. The width of the ascending branch was also narrowed compared with that solely from deformation. Vertical tilting, a result of the secondary circulation generated by horizontal deformation, produced frontogenesis-frontolysis couplets that acted to oppose and reduce the magnitude of the secondary circulation. A conceptual model of the effect of these processes on the production and organization of snowfall in the two cyclones is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1647-1670
Number of pages24
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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