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Numerical Modeling of a Historic Storm: Simulating the Blizzard of 1888

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Allison Claire Michaelis, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; and G. Lackmann

The NOAA/CIRES Twentieth Century Reanalysis (20CR) is used to explore the feasibility of high-resolution simulation of a historic extratropical cyclone event: The New England Blizzard of 1888. Before the advent of routine radiosonde launches in the 1940s, only sparse upper-air data were available from specialized field experiments. Without upper-air measurements, numerical simulations of storms prior to the development of the upper-air network do not appear feasible. The 20CR project, however, has utilized recent advances in data assimilation to reconstruct three-dimensional atmospheric states from surface observations for the late 19th century and early 20th century, introducing the possibility of high-resolution mesoscale model simulations of historic storms. Using the 20CR ensemble mean as initial and lateral boundary conditions for the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, a reasonable depiction of the cyclone is obtained. In order to be considered a success, the simulated storm needed to reproduce the analyses of KU04 and MWR88 with reasonable accuracy for several key aspects of the Blizzard of 88: a minimum central pressure of 978 hPa, a surface anticyclone to the northwest of the storm center, a looping track near southern New England before moving offshore, and heavy snowfall over New England. Despite the position of simulated storm being displaced significantly to the north of the observed cyclone in the later stages of the event, the simulated cyclone does produce heavy snowfall over parts of New England and intense offshore cyclogenesis with the strength and timing of the simulated cyclone minimum central pressure comparing favorably to the historical analyses. However, track errors were substantial; the simulated cyclone tracks northward into Quebec whereas the observed cyclone stalled to the south of New England.