Overview of today s s lecture

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1 Overview of today s s lecture What is a mid-latitude cyclone? What are the main components? A (brief) history of where this idea came from How do MLCs form (i.e. what are the favorable ingredients?) What s s the weather like around an MLC? The lifecycle of an MLC: from birth to death Where do MLCs like to form? What are their most common tracks? Belts, dry slots, and high wind: the MLC in 3D! Synthesis of the MLC and its effect on NC

2 What s s a Mid-latitude Cyclone? Cyclone = a closed, cyclonic (N.H.) circulation; ascent of air Mid-latitudes = 30 to 60 latitude Associated with stormy weather Other names: Extra-tropical tropical cyclone (i.e. NOT tropical = frontal) Depression (area of low pressure) Wave cyclone (Rossby( wave connection) Geographical labels: Gulf Low Alberta Clipper Panhandle Hook Hatteras Low or Nor easter

3 Where it all began: The Bergen School (1920s Norway) Early meteorologists: Wilhelm Bjerknes, Jakob Bjerknes, Halvor Solberg, and Tor Bergeron Back in the early 1900s, meteorologists used to wear white lab coats! No joke! Used conventional surface weather observations (e.g. temperature, wind) and cloud patterns to describe the structure, weather, and lifecycle of migratory storm systems (i.e. MLCs) Developed the Polar Front Theory = emphasizes the importance of fronts (from WW I lingo) Saw the MLC primarily in 2D space; at that time could not explain the airflow of the MLC in 3D space (more later )

4 Components of the MLC Frontal boundaries: Initially a polar front (stationary) Then a wave develops along the polar front and we get a Warm front Other components: N Low pressure center (i.e. depression) Air masses (cp and mt primarily) and air flow Clouds and precipitation Cold front Occluded front (dying) Fronts encourage lifting of air = clouds and precipitation Air masses don t mix! Warmer air will lift over colder, denser air

5 Where do MLCs form? What are the ingredients? Beneath the jet stream (Rossby waves) and downstream of a trough Colder air Strong contrast in temperature = strong jet stream Warmer air

6 Can you locate the Jet Stream just by looking at the 500 mb temperature? MLC forms downstream of trough Much larger temperature gradient in the mid-latitudes during the winter Large temperature gradient = large density gradient = large pressure gradient

7 Why is this a favorable position? Upper level divergence = rising air = surface pressure falls

8 What s s the weather like around an MLC? Wind flow directs warm and cold air masses around the system Warm sector (and humid, mt) Cold Cool Cold sector (and dry, cp) Warm Cool sector (either humid/dry)

9 What are the cloud and precipitation patterns around an MLC? Comma Pattern Wrap Around 3 1 Overrunning 2 Cold Frontal 3 2 1

10 From Birth to Death: The Lifecycle of an MLC A B C Polar Front Frontal Wave Steering Wind at 500 mb Time between stages = 1-2 days Full lifecycle = as much as 7-10 days D E F

11 Where do MLCs like to form? 1. Alberta Clipper L Generally fast-moving Jet stream displaced to the north Light precipitation NC generally on the warm and dry side of the MLC Sometimes an MLC forms off the NC coast as the clipper moves into the Northeast

12 1. Alberta Clipper

13 Where do MLCs like to form? 2. Panhandle Hook Forms in the lee of the Rocky Mountains L Often initiated from shortwave troughs embedded in the jet stream Draws in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico = heavier precipitation Along with the Clipper, responsible for Great Lakes windstorms in the fall and winter NC located in the cool sector, then the warm sector

14 2. Panhandle Hook

15 Where do MLCs like to form? 3. The Gulf Low Heavy precipitation along and north of the main track L Draws in moisture from both the Gulf of Mexico and the warm water off the Atlantic (south of Hatteras) Often follows an outbreak of cold air across the central and eastern U.S. NC remains in the cool sector and may experience a snow storm or ice storm

16 Remember the miserable, cool rain we had last week? That was the product of a Gulf Low

17 Where do MLCs like to form? 4. The Hatteras Low Gets its name from its genesis just off the NC coast near Cape Hatteras L Forms in response to a strong thermal gradient between the warm Gulf Stream and cold land mass Generally gives us windy conditions with light/mod precipitation in NC However, it makes forecasters in the Northeast sweat = SNOW!

18 4. The Hatteras Low

19 The Conveyor Belt Model: The MLC in 3D

20 Now, how does the Conveyor Belt model help explain the cloud and precipitation patterns of the MLC?

21 Stratospheric Intrusions and Dry Slots: Is that why it was so windy??? 9-10 km Water vapor imagery Gray = dry air Blue/green = coldest clouds; heavy precipitation Adapted from Ackerman and Knox, 2003

22 Synthesis of the MLC and the Situation in North Carolina: Let s s assume a Gulf Low is tracking through the Deep South and heading up the TN River and Ohio River Valleys Where will it be cold and dry? Where will it be warm and humid with thunderstorms? Where will it be cool and overcast with rain? What types of clouds, if any, will be around? From what direction will the wind be blowing?

23 A C Temp/Dew Point 1) 45/28 2) 71/68 3) 47/40 B

24 C Temp/Dew Point A B D 1) 45/38 2) 70/68 3) 43/40 4) 62/53

25 E C Temp/Dew Point 1) 50/34 A B D 2) 48/38 3) 57/46 4) 46/36 5) 47/45

26 Want to see the MLC really come to life? Some cool graphics and animations from Penn State It s s been pretty darn cold aren aren t t we due for an MLC here pretty soon?...

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