Observations and Numerical Modeling of Wintertime Cold Air Pools in the Uintah and Salt Lake Basins

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Monday, 5 January 2015
128AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Christopher S. Foster, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT; and B. Blaylock, J. D. Horel, and E. T. Crosman

High wintertime ozone concentrations in rural areas and high particulate concentrations in urban areas have become topics of increasing concern in the Western United States, as both primary and secondary pollutants become trapped within stable wintertime boundary layers. While persistent cold air pools that enable such poor wintertime air quality are typically associated with high pressure aloft and light winds, the complex physical processes that contribute to the formation, maintenance, and decay of persistent wintertime temperature inversions are only partially understood. In addition, obtaining sufficiently accurate numerical weather forecasts and meteorological simulations of cold air pools for input into chemical models remains a challenge.

This study examines the meteorological processes associated with several wintertime pollution episodes in Utah's Uintah and Salt Lake Basins using observations and numerical Weather Research and Forecasting model simulations and observations collected from the Persistent Cold Air Pool and Uintah Basin Ozone Studies. The temperature, vertical structure, and winds within these cold air pools was found to vary as a function of snow cover, snow albedo, land use, cloud cover, large-scale synoptic flow, and episode duration. We evaluate the sensitivity of key atmospheric features such as stability, planetary boundary layer depth, local wind flow patterns and transport mechanisms to variations in surface forcing, clouds, and synoptic flow. Finally, noted deficiencies in the meteorological models of cold air pools and modifications to the model snow and microphysics treatment that have resulted in improved cold pool simulations will be presented.