Atmospheric Sciences faculty and recent graduates have published research results in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. In their paper titled Examining the Impacts of Great Lakes Temperature Perturbations on Simulated Precipitation in the Northeastern United States, Dr. Janel Hanrahan, Jessica Langlois, and Lauren Cornell presented results obtained from a modeling study that began as a summer internship in 2018. This work was completed with scientists from Dartmouth College, the University of Vermont, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. They wanted to understand how Great Lakes water temperatures modify simulated precipitation downwind of the Great Lakes.
Most inland water bodies are too small to be modeled well by general circulation models, requiring that lake surface temperatures be estimated. Given the large spatial and temporal variability of the surface temperatures of the North American Great Lakes, such estimations can introduce errors when used as lower boundary conditions for dynamical downscaling (i.e. using high-resolution regional simulations to extrapolate the effects of large-scale climate processes to regional or local scales of interest, as driven by boundary conditions from a relatively coarse-resolution general circulation model). Lake surface temperatures influence moisture and heat fluxes, thus impacting precipitation within the immediate region and potentially in regions downwind of the lakes.
The group completed numerous simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model which was run with ECMWF ERA-Interim reanalysis data. The simulations were repeated over 5 years from 2010 through 2014, after systematically increasing and decreasing lake surface temperatures. Results show that simulated precipitation in New England is statistically correlated with lake surface temperature perturbations, but this region falls on a wet–dry line of a larger bimodal distribution. Wetter conditions occur to the north and drier conditions occur to the south with increasing lake surface temperature, particularly during the warm season. As part of the BREE (Basin Resilience to Extreme Events) Climate Modeling Team, their results helped to inform the configuration of WRF for the purpose of downscaling future global climate simulations under anthropogenic climate change.
After graduating from Northern Vermont University in 2019, Jessica Langlois began her career as a broadcast meteorologist in at WQOW-TV in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She recently made her way back to Vermont as WCAX’s First at Four Meteorologist (where she had also interned as an undergraduate student at Lyndon). Lauren Cornell graduated from Northern Vermont University in 2020 and is now working on a M.S. degree in Environmental Studies at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry