Surface characteristics of observed cold pools

Nicholas A. Engerer, David J. Stensrud, Michael C. Coniglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Cold pools are a key element in the organization of precipitating convective systems, yet knowledge of their typical surface characteristics is largely anecdotal. To help to alleviate this situation, cold pools from 39 mesoscale convective system (MCS) events are sampled using Oklahoma Mesonet surface observations. In total, 1389 time series of surface observations are used to determine typical rises in surface pressure and decreases in temperature, potential temperature, and equivalent potential temperature associated with the cold pool, and the maximum wind speeds in the cold pool. The data are separated into one of four convective system life cycle stages: first storms, MCS initiation, mature MCS, and MCS dissipation. Results indicate that the mean surface pressure rises associated with cold pools increase from 3.2 hPa for the first storms' life cycle stage to 4.5 hPa for the mature MCS stage before dropping to 3.3 hPa for the dissipation stage. In contrast, the mean temperature (potential temperature) deficits associated with cold pools decrease from 9.5 (9.8) to 5.4 K (5.6 K) from the first storms to the dissipation stage, with a decrease of approximately 1 K associated with each advance in the life cycle stage. However, the daytime and early evening observations show mean temperature deficits over 11 K. A comparison of these observed cold pool characteristics with results from idealized numerical simulations of MCSs suggests that observed cold pools likely are stronger than those found in model simulations, particularly when ice processes are neglected in the microphysics parameterization. The mean deficits in equivalent potential temperature also decrease with the MCS life cycle stage, starting at 21.6 K for first storms and dropping to 13.9 K for dissipation. Mean wind gusts are above 15 m sa1 for all life cycle stages. These results should help numerical modelers to determine whether the cold pools in high-resolution models are in reasonable agreement with the observed characteristics found herein. Thunderstorm simulations and forecasts with thin model layers near the surface are also needed to obtain better representations of cold pool surface characteristics that can be compared with observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4839-4849
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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