Ülo Suursaar, Helve Meitern

Contribution of winter upwelling in the Gulf of Finland to lake-effect snow in Estonia

Abstract The aim of the study was to analyse the sequence of winter (“warm”) upwelling and lake-effect snow (LES) events that deposited up to 50 cm of snow along the North Estonian coast in January–February 2021. Based on weather and aerological data, four episodes of LES were documented. Heavy, localized lake-effect enhanced precipitation occurred along a 30–50 km wide coastal strip bordering the Gulf of Finland when a cold air mass from the north advected over the warmer, unfrozen sea surface. A temperature difference of up to 20°C was revealed between the air mass temperatures measured at the 850 hPa level and at the sea surface. The LES events, in turn, were preceded by upwelling in the southern Gulf of Finland, which was generated by persisting easterly winds. Even when occasionally interrupted by a wind change, the upwelled water still kept sea surface temperature (SST) in the southern half of the Gulf higher, as documented by the water temperature records from the coastal stations of Estonia, SST and salinity imagery retrieved from the SatBaltyk system, and sea ice distribution charts. Differently from summer (cold) upwelling, winter upwelling brought up warmer (2–4°C) water from the sub-surface layers replacing the already cooled down (0–1°C) surface water. Thus, winter upwelling enhanced LES in two ways. Firstly, by not letting the Gulf freeze over, and therefore by providing a fetch. And secondly, by increasing the SST (and therefore also the 850 hPa level – surface temperature difference) by up to 4°C.

Doi https://doi.org/10.5200/baltica.2021.2.1

Keywords sea-effect precipitation; atmospheric instability; warm upwelling; sea surface temperature; sea ice; Baltic Sea

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