Department of Applied Aviation Sciences
Northwestern Canada is a genesis region of arctic air masses often considered to be formed primarily through radiative processes. However, the details of their life cycle are poorly understood. This paper examines the formation, maintenance, and dissipation of an intense and long-lived arctic air mass, using a thermodynamic budget analysis.
The airmass formation is characterized by a deep-layer, multistage process that begins with snow falling into a nascent air mass. Radiative cooling from cloud tops begins the process. After the snow abates and clear skies are observed, the surface temperature drops rapidly, aided by the high emissivity of fresh snow cover, falling 178C in two days, creating an intense but shallow temperature inversion. Once the surface temperature falls below the frost point, ice crystals form. Afterward, although the surface temperature remains constant, the height of the inversion rises, as radiative cooling at the top of the ice fog layer decreases temperatures.
During the maintenance phase, a cold-air damming structure is present with an anticyclone in the lee of the Canadian Rockies, low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska, and an intense baroclinic zone parallel to the mountains, separating warmer maritime air from colder continental air. The air mass persists for 12 days, undergoing several cycles of deep-layer weakening and intensification.
Monthly Weather Review
American Meteorological Society
Scholarly Commons Citation
Turner, J. K., Gyakum, J., & Milrad, S. M. (2013). A Thermodynamic Analysis of an Intense North American Arctic Air Mass. Monthly Weather Review, 141(1). https://doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-12-00176.1