Convective Structures in a Cold Air Outbreak over Lake Michigan during Lake-ICE

  • Zurn-Birkhimer S
  • Agee E
  • Sorbjan Z
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The Lake-Induced Convection Experiment provided special field data during a westerly flow cold air outbreak (CAO) on 13 January 1998, which has afforded the opportunity to examine in detail an evolving convective boundary layer. Vertical cross sections prepared from these data, extending from upstream over Wisconsin out across Lake Michigan, show the modifying effects of land-water contrast on boundary layer mixing, entrainment, heating, and moisture flux. Through this analysis, an interesting case of lake-effect airmass modification was discovered. The data show atypical differing heights in vertical mixing of heat and moisture, as well as offshore downwelling and subsidence effects in the atmosphere. Analvsis shows evidence of a new observational feature, the moisture internal boundary layer (MIBL) that accords well with the often recognized thermal internal boundary layer (TIBL). The "interfacial" layer over the lake is also found to be unusually thick and moist, due in part to the upstream conditions over Wisconsin as well as the effectiveness of vertical mixing of moist plumes over the lake (also seen in the aircraft datasets presented). Results show that the atmosphere can be much more effective in the vertical mixing of moisture than heat or momentum (which mixed the same), and thus represents a significant departure from the classical bottom-up and top-down mixing formulation. Four scales of coherent structures (CSs) with differing spatial and temporal dimensions have been identified. The CSs grow in a building block fashion with buoyancy as the dominating physical mechanism for organizing the convection (even in the presence of substantial wind shear). Characteristic turbulence statistics from aircraft measurements show evidence of these multiple scales of CSs, ranging from the smallest (microscale) in the cloud-free path region near the Wisconsin shore, to the largest (mesoscale) in the snow-filled boundary layer near the Michigan shore. A large eddy simulation (LES) model has also been employed to study the effects of buoyancy and shear on the convective structures in lake-effect boundary layers. The model simulation results have been divided into two parts: 1) the general relationship of surface heat flux versus wind shear, which shows the interplay and dominance of these two competing forcing mechanisms for establishing convection patterns and geometry (i.e., rolls versus cells), and 2) a case study simulation of convection analogous to the CSs seen in the CFP region for the 13 January 1998 CAO event. Model simulations also show, under proper conditions of surface heating and wind shear, the simultaneous occurrence of differing scales of CSs and at different heights, including both cells and rolls and their coexisting patterns (based on the interplay between the effects of buoyancy and shear).

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  • Suzanne M. Zurn-Birkhimer

  • Ernest M. Agee

  • Zbigniew Sorbjan

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