Can Mountain Waves Contribute to Damaging Winds Far Away from the Lee Slope?

Jeffrey D. Kelley, David Schultz, Russ S. Schumacher, Dale R. Durran

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On 25 December 2016, a 984-hPa cyclone departed Colorado and moved onto the Northern Plains, drawing a nearby Arctic front into the circulation and wrapping it cyclonically around the equatorward side of the cyclone. A 130-km wide and 850-km long swath of surface winds exceeding 25 m s-1 originated underneath the comma head of the lee cyclone and followed the track of the Arctic front from Colorado to Minnesota. These strong winds formed in association with a downslope windstorm and mountain wave over Colorado and Wyoming, producing an elevated jet of strong winds. Central to the distribution of winds in this case is the Arctic air mass, which both shielded the elevated winds from surface friction behind the front and facilitated the mixing of the elevated jet down to the surface just behind the Arctic front, due to steep lapse rates associated with cold-air advection. The intense circulation south of the cyclone center transported the Arctic front and the elevated jet away from the mountains and out across Great Plains. This case is compared to an otherwise similar cyclone from 28–29 February 2012 in which a downslope windstorm occurred, but no surface mesoscale wind maximum formed due to the absence of a well-defined Arctic front and post-frontal stable layer. Despite the superficial similarities of this surface wind maximum to a sting jet (e.g., origin in the midtroposphere within the comma head of the cyclone, descent evaporating the comma head, acceleration to the top of the boundary layer, and an existence separate from the cold conveyor belt), this swath of winds was not caused by a sting jet.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Early online date17 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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