A strong wind event on the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica: A case study of scale interactions

In situ observations, satellite imagery, numerical weather prediction, and reanalysis fields are used to investigate the synoptic and mesoscale environment of a strong wind event (SWE) at McMurdo Station/Ross Island region on the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, on 10 October 2003. The SWE occurred during the passage of a sequence of three mesoscale low pressure systems from the central Ross Ice Shelf to the southwest Ross Sea. A potential vorticity (PV) analysis showed that the lows drew air of continental origin down the glacial valleys of the Transantarctic Mountains and onto the ice shelf as a katabatic drainage flow. However, the analysis indicated that the air mass associated with the SWE was of recurved maritime origin drawn in by the second mesoscale low (L2). This air mass approached McMurdo Station from the south where interactions with the orography played a critical role. In the early stages of the event, when the wind speed was less than 10 m s−1, the air was deflected around the topographical features, such as Minna Bluff and Black and White Islands. As the pressure gradient increased, winds of more than 10 m s−1 crossed the orography and developed mountain waves along the lee slopes. When the Froude number became larger than 1, large-amplitude vertically propagating mountain waves developed over the McMurdo Station/Ross Island area, increasing the wind to 16 m s−1. The reanalysis fields did not resolve the mesoscale lows; however, the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS) model was able to simulate important characteristics of the SWE such as the mesoscale low pressure system, flow around the topographical barrier, and the mountain wave.


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Authors: Chenoli, Sheeba Nettukandy, Turner, John ORCIDORCID record for John Turner, Samah, Azizan Abu

On this site: John Turner
1 October, 2015
Monthly Weather Review / 143
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