The lateral motion of the Gulf Stream off the eastern seaboard of the United States during the winter season can act to dramatically enhance the low-level baroclinicity within the coastal zone during periods of offshore cold advection. The ralative close proximity of the Gulf Stream current off the mid-Atlantic coast can result in the rapid and intense destabilization of the marine atmospheric boundary layer directly above and shoreward of the Gulf Stream within this region. This airmass modification period often precedes either wintertime coastal cyclogenesis or the cyclonic re-development of existing mid-latitude cyclones. A climatological study investigating the relationship between the severity of the pre-storm, cold advection period and subsequent cyclogenic intensification was undertaken by Cione et al. in 1993. Findings from this study illustrate that the thermal structure of the continental airmass as well as the position of the Gulf Stream front relative to land during the pre-storm period (i.e., 24–48 h prior to the initial cyclonic intensification) are linked to the observed rate of surface cyclonic deepening for storms that either advected into or initially developed within the Carolina-southeast Virginia offshore coastal zone. It is a major objective of this research to test the potential operational utility of this pre-storm low level baroclinic linkage to subsequent cyclogenesis in an actual National Weather Service (NWS) coastal winter storm forecast setting.
The ability to produce coastal surface cyclone intensity forecasts recently became available to North Carolina State University researchers and NWS forecasters. This statistical forecast guidance utilizes regression relationships derived from a nine-season (January 1982–April 1990), 116-storm study conducted previously. During the period between February 1994 and February 1996, the Atlantic Surface Cyclone Intensification Index (ASCII) was successfully implemented in an operational setting by the NWS at the Raleigh-Durham (RAH) forecast office for 10 winter storms. Analysis of these ASCII forecasts will be presented.