Monsoon hazards routinely affect the community, economy, and environment of the American Southwest. A common link for hazard development during the North American Monsoon concerns the interplay between temperature, moisture, and wind in the vertical atmosphere controlled by an unstable monsoon circulation. This dissertation investigates vertical atmospheric patterns using in-situ sounding data, specifically, 1) environments favorable for severe hail on the Colorado Plateau, 2) significant parameters distinguishing unhealthy versus healthy ozone days in Phoenix, Arizona, and 3) vertical profile alignments associated with distinct ranges in ozone concentrations observed in Phoenix having defined health impacts.
The first study (published in the Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science) determines significant variables on Flagstaff, Arizona 12Z rawinsonde data (1996-2009) found on severe hail days on the Colorado Plateau. Severe hail is related to greater sub-300 hectopascals (hPa) moisture, a warmer atmospheric column, lighter above surface wind speeds, more southerly to southeasterly oriented winds throughout the vertical (except at the 700 hPa pressure level), and higher geopotential heights.
The second study (published in Atmospheric Environment) employs principal component, linear discriminant, and synoptic composite analyses using Phoenix, Arizona rawinsonde data (2006-2016) to identify common monsoon patterns affecting ozone accumulation in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Unhealthy ozone occurs with amplified high-pressure ridging over the Four Corners region, 500 hPa heights often exceeding 5910 meters, surface afternoon temperatures typically over 40°C, lighter wind speeds in the planetary boundary layer under four ms-1, and persistent light easterly flow between 700-500 hPa countering the daytime mountain-valley circulation.
The final study (under revision in Weather and Forecasting) assesses composite atmospheric sounding analysis to forecast Air Quality Index ozone classifications of Good, Moderate, and collectively categories exceeding the U.S. EPA 2015 standard. The analysis, using Phoenix 12Z rawinsonde data (2006-2017), identifies the existence of “pollutant dispersion windows” for ozone accumulation and dispersal in Phoenix.
Ultimately, monsoon hazards result from a complex and evolving vertical atmosphere. This dissertation demonstrates the viability using available in-situ vertical upper-air data to anticipate recurring atmospheric states contributing to specific hazards. These results will improve monsoon hazard prediction in an effort to protect public and infrastructure.