Sensitivity of ice storms in the southeastern United States to Atlantic SST - Insights from a case study of the December 2002 storm

Renato Ramos da Silva, Gil Bohrer, David Werth, Martin J. Otte, Roni Avissar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Meteorological observations and model simulations are used to show that the catastrophic ice storm of 4-5 December 2002 in the southeastern United States resulted from the combination of a classic winter storm and a warm sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly in the western Atlantic Ocean. At the time of the storm, observations show that the Atlantic SST near the southeastern U.S. coast was 1.0°-1.5°C warmer than its multiyear mean. The impact of this anomalous SST on the ice accumulation of the ice storm was evaluated with the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System. The model shows that a warmer ocean leads to the conversion of more snow into freezing rain while not significantly affecting the inland surface temperature. Conversely, a cooler ocean produces mostly snowfall and less freezing rain. A similar trend is obtained by statistically comparing observations of ice storms in the last decade with weekly mean Atlantic SSTs. The SST during an ice storm is significantly and positively correlated with a deeper and warmer melting layer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1454-1464
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Volume134
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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