The role of atmospheric boundary layer-surface interactions on the development of coastal fronts

D. Malda, J. Vilà-Guerau de Arellano, W.D. Berg, I.W. Zuurdonk

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Frictional convergence and thermal difference between land and sea surface are the two surface conditions that govern the intensity and evolution of a coastal front. By means of the mesoscale model MM5, we investigate the influence of these two processes on wind patterns, temperature and precipitation amounts, associated with a coastal front, observed on the west coast of The Netherlands in the night between 12 and 13 August 2004. The mesoscale model MM5 is further compared with available observations and the results of two operational models (ECMWF and HIRLAM). HIRLAM is not capable to reproduce the coastal front, whereas ECMWF and MM5 both calculate precipitation for the coastal region. The precipitation pattern, calculated by MM5, agrees satisfactorily with the accumulated radar image. The failure of HIRLAM is mainly due to a different stream pattern at the surface and consequently, a different behaviour of the frictional convergence at the coastline. The sensitivity analysis of frictional convergence is carried out with the MM5 model, by varying land surface roughness length (z(0)). For the sensitivity analysis of thermal difference between sea and land surface, we changed the sea surface temperature (SST). Increasing surface roughness implies stronger convergence near the surface and consequently stronger upward motions and intensification of the development of the coastal front. Setting land surface roughness equal to the sea surface roughness means an elimination of frictional convergence and results in a diminishing coastal front structure of the precipitation pattern. The simulation with a high SST produces much precipitation above the sea, but less precipitation in the coastal area above land. A small increment of the SST results in larger precipitation amounts above the sea; above land increments are calculated for areas near the coast. A decrease of the SST shifts the precipitation maxima inland, although the precipitation amounts diminish. In the situation under study, frictional convergence is the key process that enhances the coastal front intensity. A thermal difference between land and sea equal to zero still yields the development of the coastal front. A lower SST than land surface temperature generates a reversed coastal front. This study emphasizes the importance of accurate prescription of surface conditions as input of the numerical weather prediction model to improve coastal front predictability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-360
JournalAnnales Geophysicae-Atmospheres Hydrospheres and Space Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • sea-breeze
  • model
  • parameterizations
  • frontogenesis
  • sensitivity
  • simulations
  • schemes
  • fluxes
  • tests

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