Mesoscale Ascent in Nocturnal Low-Level Jets


A theory for gentle but persistent mesoscale ascent in the lower troposphere is developed in which the vertical motion arises as an inertia–gravity wave response to the sudden decrease of turbulent mixing in a horizontally heterogeneous convective boundary layer (CBL). The zone of ascent is centered on the local maximum of a laterally varying buoyancy field (warm tongue in the CBL). The shutdown also triggers a Blackadar-type inertial oscillation and associated low-level jet (LLJ). These nocturnal motions are studied analytically using the linearized two-dimensional Boussinesq equations of motion, thermal energy, and mass conservation for an inviscid stably stratified fluid, with the initial state described by a zero-order jump model of a CBL. The vertical velocity revealed by the analytical solution increases with the amplitude of the buoyancy variation, CBL depth, and wavenumber of the buoyancy variation (larger vertical velocity for smaller-scale variations). Stable stratification in the free atmosphere has a lid effect, with a larger buoyancy frequency associated with a smaller vertical velocity. For the parameter values typical of the southern Great Plains warm season, the peak vertical velocity is ~3–10 cm s−1, with parcels rising ~0.3–1 km over the ~6–8-h duration of the ascent phase. Data from the 2015 Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field project were used as a qualitative check on the hypothesis that the same mechanism that triggers nocturnal LLJs from CBLs can induce gentle but persistent ascent in the presence of a warm tongue.

Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 75, 1403–1427
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