The Role of Terrain and Convection on Microfront Formation Leading to Severe Low-Level Turbulence

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Title: The Role of Terrain and Convection on Microfront Formation Leading to Severe Low-Level Turbulence
Author: Cetola, Jeffrey David
Advisors: Yuh-Lang Lin, Committee Co-Chair
Michael L. Kaplan, Committee Co-Chair
Allen J. Riordan, Committee Member
Gerald S. Janowitz, Committee Member
Abstract: Two low-level convectively-induced turbulence (CIT) events east of the Appalachian Mountains are investigated utilizing observations, satellite, radar, and numerical simulations. Both events had an inordinate amount of low-level turbulence reported, but one event had more than twice as many severe or greater reports. The events were compared—to include the 72 hours leading up to the turbulence reports—and similarities and differences at the various scales from the synoptic to meso-alpha, meso-beta, meso-gamma, and microscale are noted. The case of weaker turbulence featured a meridional wave pattern with ridging over the East Coast and a single upper-level jet closely coupled with the large-scale frontal system. The stronger turbulence case possessed a zonal wave pattern with a vortex over eastern Canada and both a polar jet and subtropical jet. These differences are reflected in the low-level temperature and potential vorticity patterns and affected the hydraulic structures as well—with the stronger turbulence environment more prone to a blocking-type regime. Hydrostatic mountain waves were observed for both events. Stronger cross-mountain flow combined with a strong low-level leeside inversion resulted in a more vigorous mountain wave with a stronger downstream isentropic upfold (mid-level cold pool) in the stronger turbulence event. This mid-level cold pool was deformed by the large-scale jet resulting in a mid-level cold front (downstream from the surface cold front), surface pressure rises to the lee of the Allegheny Mountains, and ultimately a surface cold surge (edgewave) that merges with warm air from the south. The phasing of the mid-level cold pool and the convergence with the northerly cold surge and southerly warm air results in kata-frontogenesis and cellular convection that transits the severe turbulence location in space and time. Convection in the weaker turbulence case was lineal in structure and tied to the large-scale cold anafront. Vorticity, enstrophy, turbulent kinetic energy, and Richardson number analyses indicated maxima were lineal in structure and upstream from the convection in the weaker case and arc-like in appearance and downstream from convection in the stronger case. A turbulence index was formulated based on three-dimensional vorticity (enstrophy), vertical wind shear, and static stability.
Date: 2003-09-03
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

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