Mechanisms of Low-Level Jet Formation in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic Offshore

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Low-level jets (LLJs), in which the wind speed attains a local maximum at low altitudes, have been found to occur in the U.S. mid-Atlantic offshore, a region of active wind energy deployment as of 2023. In contrast to widely studied regions such as the U.S. southern Great Plains and the California coastline, the mechanisms that underlie LLJs in the U.S. mid-Atlantic are poorly understood. This work analyzes floating lidar data from buoys deployed in the New York Bight to understand the characteristics and causes of coastal LLJs in the region. Application of the Hilbert-Huang transform, a frequency analysis technique, to LLJ case studies reveals that mid-Atlantic jets frequently occur during times of adjustment in synoptic-scale motions, such as large-scale temperature and pressure gradients or frontal passages, and that they do not coincide with motions at the native inertial oscillation frequency. Subsequent analysis with theoretical models of inertial oscillation and thermal winds further reveals that these jets can form in the stationary geostrophic wind profile from horizontal temperature gradients alone - in contrast to canonical LLJs, which arise from low-level inertial motions. Here, inertial oscillation can further modulate the intensity and altitude of the wind speed maximum. Statistical evidence indicates that these oscillations arise from stable stratification and the associated frictional decoupling due to warmer air flowing over a cold sea surface during the springtime land-sea breeze. These results improve our conceptual understanding of mid-Atlantic jets and may be used to better predict low-level wind speed maxima.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)31-52
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-86185


  • coastal meteorology
  • jets
  • marine boundary layer
  • spectral analysis/models/distribution


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