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Title: Climatology of the Elevated Mixed Layer over the Contiguous United States and Northern Mexico Using ERA5: 1979–2021

Elevated mixed layers (EMLs) influence the severe convective storm climatology in the contiguous United States (CONUS), playing an important role in the initiation, sustenance, and suppression of storms. This study creates a high-resolution climatology of the EML to analyze variability and potential changes in EML frequency and characteristics for the first time. An objective algorithm is applied to ERA5 to detect EMLs, defined in part as layers of steep lapse rates (≥8.0°C km−1) at least 200 hPa thick, in the CONUS and northern Mexico from 1979 to 2021. EMLs are most frequent over the Great Plains in spring and summer, with a standard deviation of 4–10 EML days per year highlighting sizable interannual variability. Mean convective inhibition associated with the EML’s capping inversion suggests many EMLs prohibit convection, although—like nearly all EML characteristics—there is considerable spread and notable seasonal variability. In the High Plains, statistically significant increases in EML days (4–5 more days per decade) coincide with warmer EML bases and steeper EML lapse rates, driven by warming and drying in the low levels of the western CONUS during the study period. Additionally, increases in EML base temperatures result in significantly more EML-related convective inhibition over the Great Plains, which may continue to have implications for convective storm frequency, intensity, severe perils, and precipitation if this trend persists.

Significance Statement

Elevated mixed layers (EMLs) play a role in the spatiotemporal frequency of severe convective storms and precipitation across the contiguous United States and northern Mexico. This research creates a detailed EML climatology from a modern reanalysis dataset to uncover patterns and potential changes in EML frequency and associated meteorological characteristics. EMLs are most common over the Great Plains in spring and summer, but show significant variability year-to-year. Robust increases in the number of days with EMLs have occurred since 1979 across the High Plains. Lapse rates associated with EMLs have trended steeper, in part due to warmer EML base temperatures. This has resulted in increasing EML convective inhibition, which has important implications for regional climate.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Medium: X Size: p. 1833-1851
p. 1833-1851
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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