The Great Plains low-level jet during PECAN: observed and simulated characteristics

Abstract

During the 2015 Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field campaign, several nocturnal low-level jets (NLLJs) were observed with integrated boundary layer profiling systems at multiple sites. This paper gives an overview of selected PECAN NLLJ cases and presents a comparison of high-resolution observations with numerical simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model. Analyses suggest that simulated NLLJs typically form earlier than the observed NLLJs. They are stronger than the observed counterparts early in the event, but weaker than the observed NLLJs later in the night. However, sudden variations in the boundary layer winds, height of the NLLJ maximum and core region, and potential temperature fields are well captured by the WRF Model. Simulated three-dimensional fields are used for a more focused analysis of PECAN NLLJ cases. While previous studies often related changes in the thermal structure of the nocturnal boundary layer and sudden mixing events to local features, we hypothesize that NLLJ spatial evolution plays an important role in such events. The NLLJ is shown to have heterogeneous depth, wind speed, and wind direction. This study offers detailed documentation of the heterogeneous NLLJ moving down the slope of the Great Plains overnight. As the NLLJ evolves, westerly advection becomes significant. Buoyancy-related mechanisms are proposed to explain NLLJ heterogeneity and down-slope motion. Spatial and temporal heterogeneity of the NLLJ is suggested as a source of the often observed and simulated updrafts during PECAN cases and as a possible mechanism for nocturnal convection initiation. The spatial and temporal characteristics of the NLLJ are interconnected and should not be treated independently.

Publication
Monthly Weather Review, 147, 1845–1869
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Dr. Elizabeth N. Smith
Dr. Elizabeth N. Smith
Research Meteorologist

Elizabeth joined NSSL as a research meteorologist in January 2020, where she focuses on boundary-layer processes relevant to near- and pre-storm environments and convection initiation.

Dr. Petra Klein
Dr. Petra Klein
Professor, Executive Associate Dean

Obs expert

Dr. Jeremy A. Gibbs
Dr. Jeremy A. Gibbs
Research Meteorologist

My name is Jeremy Gibbs. I am a Research Meteorologist at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory. My research includes computational and theoretical studies of atmospheric boundary-layer flows, turbulence modeling, land-surface modeling, parameterization of boundary-layer and surface-layer interactions, and multi-scale numerical weather prediction. I am currently working on projects to improve atmospheric models in the areas of scale-aware boundary-layer physics, heterogeneous boundary layers, and other storm-scale phenomena.