Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics

, Volume 88, Issue 1–2, pp 65–90 | Cite as

Cold-air cyclogenesis along the Gulf-Stream front: investigation of diabatic impacts on cyclone development, frontal structure, and track

  • S. Businger
  • T. M. Graziano
  • M. L. Kaplan
  • R. A. Rozumalski


On 24–25 February 1989 a storm brought high winds and moderate to heavy snow to the U.S. East Coast. The storm is noteworthy for its rapid mesoscale development within a polar air mass at relatively low latitudes and for the difficulty experienced by operational NWP models and forecasters in predicting the storm’s impact. This paper investigates the mesoscale structure and evolution of the cold-air cyclone through analysis of enhanced data sets collected during the \(\underline{\rm E}\)xperiment on \(\underline{\rm R}\)apidly \(\underline{\rm I}\)ntensifying \(\underline{\rm C}\)yclones over the \(\underline{\rm A}\)tlantic (ERICA). Results are presented from numerical sensitivity studies of the impact of diabatic heating on storm structure and track using the Mesoscale Atmospheric Simulation System (MASS) model.

The following conclusions are drawn from the research. Differential surface fluxes in the vicinity of the Gulf Stream led to the development of a well-defined baroclinic zone at low levels that extended parallel to the axis of the Gulf-Stream front. The baroclinic zone strengthened and assumed the characteristics of a shallow warm front as the cyclone matured. Enhanced cyclonic vorticity, moisture-flux convergence, clouds, and precipitation accompanied the front. Early in the event a series of shallow, thermally forced vortices of small wavelength (∼200 km) formed along the baroclinic zone in the area of maximum surface-heat fluxes offshore of the Carolinas. Baroclinic instability associated with a vigorous short-wave trough aloft resulted in the outbreak of deep convection surrounding and rapid intensification of the northernmost vortex.

Numerical sensitivity experiments were conducted to investigate the nonlinear response of the mass field to the convection. The results show that latent heating in deep convection surrounding the surface low produced a mesoscale height perturbation aloft. The subsequent acceleration of the flow aloft substantially increased the integrated mass divergence above the surface cyclone, leading to deepening on the scale observed. The observed track of the low followed the axis of the warm front, which in turn followed the axis of maximum SST gradient associated with the Gulf-Stream front. Accurate simulation of the storm track required a high-resolution, full-physics run that included high-resolution SST data in the initial condition and moisture nudging during the early hours of the simulation.


Cyclone Deep Convection Diabatic Heating Rapid Intensification Cyclonic Vorticity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Albright, MD, Reed, RJ, Ovens, DW 1995Origin and structure of a numerically simulated polar low over Hudson Bay.Tellus47A834848Google Scholar
  2. Anderson RK, Ashman JP, Bittner F, Farr GR, Ferguson EW, Oliver, VJ, Smith AH (1969) Application of meteorological satellite data in analysis and forecasting. ESSA Tech. Rep. NESC51, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC [NTIS AD-697033]Google Scholar
  3. Arya, PSP 1988Introduction to micrometeorology.Academic PressChicago307Google Scholar
  4. Barnes SL (1973) Mesoscale objective analysis using weighted time-series observations. NOAA Tech. Memo. ERL NSSL-62, Norman, OK, 60 ppGoogle Scholar
  5. Bergeron, T 1928Über die dreidimensional verknüpfende Wetteranalyse I.Geofys Publ5111Google Scholar
  6. Bosart, LF 1981The president’s day snowstorm of 18–19 February 1979: A subsynoptic-scale event.Mon Wea Rev10915421566Google Scholar
  7. Browning, KA, Hill, FF 1984Structure and evolution of a mesoscale convective system near the British Isles.Quart J Roy Met Soc110897913Google Scholar
  8. Businger, S 1985The synoptic climatology of polar low outbreaks.Tellus37419432Google Scholar
  9. Businger, S, Baik, JJ 1991An arctic hurricane over the Bering Sea.Mon Wea Rev11922932322Google Scholar
  10. Businger, S, Hobbs, PV 1987Mesoscale and synoptic scale structure of two comma cloud systems over the Pacific Ocean.Mon Wea Rev11519091928Google Scholar
  11. Businger, S, Reed, RJ 1989Cyclogenesis in cold air.Wea Forecast2110133Google Scholar
  12. Businger, S, Walter, B 1988Comma cloud development and associated rapid cyclogenesis over the Gulf of Alaska: A case study using aircraft and operational data.Mon Wea Rev11611031123Google Scholar
  13. Carleton, AM 1985Satellite climatological aspects of the “polar low” and “instant occlusion.”Tellus37433450Google Scholar
  14. Charnock, H 1955Wind stress on a water surface.Quart J Roy Meteor Soc81639640Google Scholar
  15. Cram, JM, Kaplan, ML, Mattocks, CA, Zack, JW 1991The use and analysis of profiler winds to derive mesoscale height and temperature fields: Simulation and real-data experiments.Mon Wea Rev11910401056Google Scholar
  16. Davis, CA, Emanuel, KA 1988Observational evidence for the influence of surface heat fluxes on rapid maritime cyclogenesis.Mon Wea Rev11626492659Google Scholar
  17. desJardins ML, Brill KF, Jacobs S, Schotz SS, Bruehl P (1992) GEMPAK5 Users Manual Version 5.1, NASA/GSFC, National Meteorological Center, and Unidata Program Center/UCAR, 267 ppGoogle Scholar
  18. Doyle, JD, Warner, TT 1993Nonhydrostatic simulation of coastal mesobeta scale vortices and frontogenesis.Mon Wea Rev12133713392Google Scholar
  19. Emanuel, KA 1983aThe lagrangian parcel dynamics of moist-symmetric instability.J Atmos Sci4023682376Google Scholar
  20. Emanuel, KA 1983bOn assessing local conditional symmetric instability from atmospheric soundings.Mon Wea Rev11120162033Google Scholar
  21. Emanuel, KA, Rotunno, R 1989Polar lows as arctic hurricanes.Tellus41A117Google Scholar
  22. Farrell, BF 1984Modal and nonmodal baroclinic waves.J Atmos Sci41668673Google Scholar
  23. Gall, R 1976The effects of released latent heat in growing baroclinic waves.J Atmos Sci3316861701Google Scholar
  24. Gigi A (1989) The New York City snowstorm that never was. NWS Eastern Region Technical Attachment No 89-14, 4 ppGoogle Scholar
  25. Graziano T (1995) Analysis and numerical modeling of convectively driven ageostrophic circulations and their role in the rapid cold-air cyclogenesis during ERICA IOP8. Ph.D. Thesis, MEAS, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 76795, 201 ppGoogle Scholar
  26. Grossman, RL, Betts, AK 1990Air-sea interaction during an extreme cold air outbreak from the eastern United States.Mon Wea Rev118324342Google Scholar
  27. Gyakum, JR, Barker, ES 1988A case study of explosive subsynoptic-scale cyclogenesis.Mon Wea Rev11622252253Google Scholar
  28. Hadlock, R, Krietzberg, CW 1988The experiment on rapidly intensifying cyclones over the Atlantic (ERICA) field study: Objectives and plans.Bull Am Meteor Soc6913091320Google Scholar
  29. Hasse, L, Wagner, V 1971On the relationship between geostrophic and surface wind at sea.Mon Wea Rev99255260Google Scholar
  30. Holton, JR (1992)An introduction to dynamic meteorology.Academic PressSan Diego, CA511Google Scholar
  31. Huang, CY, Raman, S 1991Numerical simulation of January 28 cold air outbreak during GALE. Part II: The mesoscale circulation and marine boundary layer.Bound Layer Meteor565181Google Scholar
  32. Huang, CY 1992A three dimensional numerical investigation of a Carolina coastal front and the Gulf Stream rainband.J Atmos Sci49560584Google Scholar
  33. Kaplan ML, Businger S (1994) A paradigm linking unbalanced ageostrophic adjustments to the explosive development phase in extratropical cyclones. In: Life Cycles of Extratropical Cyclones, Vol. III, Bergen, Norway, 388 ppGoogle Scholar
  34. Kaplan, ML, Karyampudi, VM 1992Meso-beta scale numerical simulations of terrain drag-induced along-stream circulations. Part I: Midtropospheric frontogenesis.Meteorol Atmos Phys49133156Google Scholar
  35. Kaplan, ML, Zack, JW, Wong, VC, Tuccillo, JJ 1982Initial results from a Mesoscale Atmospheric Simulation System and comparisons with the AVE-SESAME I data set.Mon Wea Rev11015641590Google Scholar
  36. Koch, SE 1985Ability of a regional scale model to predict the genesis of intense mesoscale convective systems.Mon Wea Rev11316931713Google Scholar
  37. Koch, SE, Skillman, WC, Kocin, PJ, Wetzel, PJ, Brill, KF, Keyser, DA, McCumber, MC 1985Synoptic-scale forecast skill and systematic errors in the MASS 2. numerical model.Mon Wea Rev11317141737Google Scholar
  38. Kocin, PJ, Uccellini, LW, Zack, JW, Kaplan, ML 1985A mesoscale numerical forecast of an intense convective snowburst along the East Coast.Bull Amer Meteor Soc6614121424Google Scholar
  39. Kocin PJ, Uccellini LW (1990) Snowstorms along the northeastern Coast of the United States: 1955 to 1985. Meteor Monogr 44, 280 ppGoogle Scholar
  40. Lin, Y-L 1989Inertial and frictional effects on stratified flow past an isolated heat source.J Atmos Sci46921936Google Scholar
  41. Lin, Y-L 1990A theory of cyclogenesis forced by diabatic heating. Part II: A semigeostrophic approach.J Atmos Sci4717551777Google Scholar
  42. Locatelli, JD, Hobbs, PV, Werth, JA 1982Mesoscale structures of vortices in polar air streams.Mon Wea Rev11014171433Google Scholar
  43. McGinnigle, JB, Young, MV, Bader, MJ 1988The development of instant occlusions in the North Atlantic.Meteor Mag117325341Google Scholar
  44. Manobianco, JL, Koch, SE, Karyampudi, VM, Negri, AJ 1994The impact of assimilating satellite derived precipitation rates on numerical simulations of the ERICA IOP4 cyclone.Mon Wea Rev122341365Google Scholar
  45. MESO Inc, (1995) MASS Version 5.8 Reference Manual, MESO, Inc., Troy, New York, 120 ppGoogle Scholar
  46. Mullen, SL 1983Explosive cyclogenesis associated with cyclones in polar air streams.Mon Wea Rev11115371553Google Scholar
  47. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (1985) NMC models and automated operations, Technical Publication Bulletin #355Google Scholar
  48. Neiman, PJ, Shapiro, MA 1993Frontal cyclone evolution and thermodynamic air sea interaction.Mon Wea Rev12121532176Google Scholar
  49. Neiman, PJ, Shapiro, MA, Fedor, LS 1993The life cycle of an extratropical marine cyclone. Part II: Mesoscale structure and diagnostics.Mon Wea Rev12121772199Google Scholar
  50. kland, ØH, Schyberg, H 1987On the contrasting influence of organized moist convection and surface heat flux on a barotropic vortex.Tellus39A385389Google Scholar
  51. Petterssen, S, Smebye, SJ 1971On the development of extra-tropical cyclones.Quart J Meteor Soc97457482Google Scholar
  52. Rasmussen, E 1981An investigation of a polar low with a spiral cloud structure.J Atmos Sci3817851792Google Scholar
  53. Rasmussen, E 1985A case study of polar low development over the Barents Sea.Tellus37A407418Google Scholar
  54. Reed, RJ 1979Cyclogenesis in polar airstreams.Mon Wea Rev1073852Google Scholar
  55. Reed, RJ, Blier, W 1986A case study of comma cloud development in the Eastern Pacific.Mon Wea Rev11416811695Google Scholar
  56. Reed, RJ, Danielsen, EF 1959Fronts in the vicinity of the tropopause.Arch Meteor Geophys BioklimA11117Google Scholar
  57. Roebber, PJ 1984Statistical analysis and updated climatology of explosive cyclones.Mon Wea Rev11215771589Google Scholar
  58. Rosenblum, HS, Sanders, F 1974Mesoanalysis of a coastal snowstorm in New England.Mon Wea Rev102433442Google Scholar
  59. Sanders, F, Bosart, LF 1985Mesoscale structure in the megalopolitan snowstorm of 11–12 February 1983. Part I: Frontogenetical forcing and symmetric instability.J Atmos Sci4210501061Google Scholar
  60. Sanders, F, Gyakum, JR 1980Synoptic-dynamic climatology of the “bomb.”Mon Wea Rev10815891606Google Scholar
  61. SethuRaman, S, Riordan, AJ, Holt, T, Stunder, M, Hinman, J 1986Observations of the marine boundary layer thermal structure over the Gulf Stream during a cold air outbreak.J Clim Appl Meteor251421Google Scholar
  62. Shapiro, MA, Fedor, LS, Hampel, T 1987Research aircraft measurements of a polar low over the Norwegian Sea.Tellus37A272307Google Scholar
  63. Stull, RB (1993)An introduction to boundary layer meteorology.Kluwer Academic PublishersNorwell, MA666Google Scholar
  64. Taylor GI (1916) Conditions at the surface of a hot body exposed to the wind. Brit Adv Com Aero Rep Memor 272Google Scholar
  65. Uccellini, LW, Petersen, RA, Brill, KF, Kocin, PJ, Tuccillo, JJ 1987Synergistic interactions between an upper-level jet streak and diabatic processes that influence the development of a low-level jet and a secondary coastal cyclone.Mon Wea Rev11522272261Google Scholar
  66. Warner, TT, Lakhatakia, MN, Doyle, JD, Pearson, RA 1990Marine atmospheric boundary layer circulations forced by Gulf Stream sea-surface temperature gradients.Mon Wea Rev118309323Google Scholar
  67. Wayland, RJ, Raman, S 1989Mean and turbulent structure of a baroclinic marine boundary layer during the 28 January 1986 cold air outbreak (GALE 86).Bound Layer Meteor48227254Google Scholar
  68. Whitaker, JS, Uccellini, LW, Brill, KF 1988A model-based diagnostic study of the rapid development phase of the Presidents’ Day cyclone.Mon Wea Rev11623372365Google Scholar
  69. Zack, JW, Kaplan, ML 1987Numerical simulations of the subsynoptic features associated with the AVE-SESAME I case study. Part I: The preconvective environment.Mon Wea Rev11523672394Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Businger
    • 1
  • T. M. Graziano
    • 2
  • M. L. Kaplan
    • 2
  • R. A. Rozumalski
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of MeteorologyUniversity of HawaiiHonolulu
  2. 2.Department of Marine Earth and Atmospheric SciencesNorth Carolina State UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations