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Multisatellite observations and numerical simulation of an along-coast cumulus cloud line induced by sea-breeze circulation

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A coastal cumulus cloud-line formation along the east coast of the USA was observed on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite (POES) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) satellite image from 17 August 2001. The cloud line starts to form at about 16:00 UTC (local 12:00 noon) and follows the coastline from Florida to North Carolina. The length and width of the cloud line are about 850 km and 8.5 km, respectively. A 15-min interval sequence of NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) images shows that the cloud line maintains the shape of the coastline and penetrates inland for more than 20 km over the next 6-h timespan. Model simulation with actual atmospheric conditions as inputs shows that the cloud line is formed near the land-sea surface temperature (SST) gradient. The synoptic flow at all model levels is in the offshore direction prior to 16:00 UTC whereas low-level winds (below 980 hPa) reverse direction to blow inland after 16:00 UTC. This reversal is due to the fact that local diurnal heating over the land takes place on shorter time-scales than over the ocean. The vertical wind at these levels becomes stronger as the land-SST increases during the summer afternoon, and the leading edge of the head of the inland wind ascends from 920 hPa to about 850 hPa in the 3 h after 16:00 UTC. Model simulation and satellite observations show that the cloud line becomes very weak after 21:00 UTC when the diurnal heating decreases.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: IMSG at NOAA/NESDIS, Camp Springs, MD 20746, USA 2: NOAA/NCEP/EMC, Camp Springs, MD 20706, USA 3: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR, Camp Springs, MD 20746, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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