Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Geological and Atmospheric Sciences

First Advisor

Michael D. McCorcle

Second Advisor

Eugene S. Takle


Nonclassical mesoscale circulations (NCMCs) are thermally-induced circulations similar to sea-breezes, except that they are established when horizontal gradients in soil moisture, soil type, vegetation, snow cover, or cloud cover exist. Numerical studies of these phenomena have focused on the effect of simple discontinuities in soil type, soil moisture, or vegetation, while neglecting synoptic forcing and three-dimensional effects; therefore, these studies may tend to over-predict the impact of NCMCs on the structure of the boundary layer. Synoptic forcing and three-dimensional effects may be strong enough to mask or suppress NCMCs;In the present study, a hydrostatic, three-dimensional, mesoscale model has been developed to evaluate the effects of horizontally heterogeneous soil moisture and soil type on the passage of a summer cold front in the central United States. The atmospheric portion of the model is coupled to the earth by incorporating forecasts of both moisture and heat fluxes within the soil;Numerical simulations demonstrated that evaporation of soil moisture significantly affected the boundary-layer structure embedded in the baroclinic circulation. Evaporation cooled the boundary layer near the surface and induced a mesohigh over the regions of moist soil. The reduced heating at the surface suppressed the development of the mixed layer and reduced the boundary-layer height considerably. Although the position of the front was not altered, the thermal and momentum fields were affected enough to weaken the front near the surface. Evaporated soil moisture was transported into the free atmosphere and advected ahead of the cold front, far from its source region. Moisture convergence was significantly enhanced in several locations, indicating that soil moisture may play an important role in modifying the spatial distribution and intensity of precipitation;Simulations with no imposed synoptic flow and similar inhomogeneous surface characteristics produced NCMCs that were weaker than those embedded in the frontal zone. The particular synoptic field chosen for the baroclinic circulations interacted nonlinearly with the NCMCs to magnify the effect of forcing at the surface. This illustrates that the impact of surface inhomogeneities in soil moisture and soil type on the atmosphere is expected to be highly dependent on the particular synoptic conditions;Realistically coupling the earth and atmosphere in numerical models is of prime importance because the parameterization of horizontally inhomogeneous surface characteristics in operational models may influence short-range forecasts. NCMCs also may play an important role in patterns related local meteorology and climatology, cumulus convection, and air quality.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Jerome Dean Fast



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

146 pages