A Forecast Strategy for Anticipating Cold Season Mesoscale Band Formation within Eastern U.S. Cyclones

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An ingredients-based, time- and scale-dependent forecast strategy for anticipating cold season mesoscale band formation within eastern U.S. cyclones is presented. This strategy draws on emerging conceptual models of mesoscale band development, advances in numerical weather prediction, and modern observational tools. As previous research has shown, mesoscale band development is associated with frontogenesis in the presence of weak moist symmetric stability and sufficient moisture. These three parameters—frontogenesis, weak moist symmetric stability, and moisture—are used as the ingredients for identifying mesoscale band development in this strategy. At forecast projections beyond 2 days, the strategy assesses whether cyclogenesis is expected. Within 2 days of the event, the strategy places the band ingredients in the context of the broader synoptic flow, with attention to where deformation zones are present, to assess whether banding is possible. Within 1 day of the event, the strategy focuses on assessment of the ingredients to outline when and where band formation is favored. Plan-view and cross-sectional analyses of gridded model fields in conjunction with high-resolution model guidance are used to assess the likelihood of banding and to outline the threat area. Within 12 h, short-range forecasts of the band ingredients are evaluated in concert with observations to make specific band predictions. Particular emphasis is placed on the evolution of the frontogenetic forcing and moist symmetric stability. During the event, trends in observations and short-range model forecasts are used to anticipate the movement, intensity, and dissipation of the band. The benefits and practical challenges associated with the proposed strategy are illustrated through its operational application to the 25 December 2002 northeast U.S. snowstorm, during which intense mesoscale snowband formation occurred. Forecast products from this event demonstrate how the forecast strategy can lead to heightened situational awareness, in this case resulting in accurate band forecasts. This application shows that accurate operational forecasts of mesoscale bands can be made based on our current conceptual understanding, observational tools, and modeling capabilities.



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