Airborne Observations of a Catalina Eddy

Thomas R. Parish, University of Wyoming
David A. Rahn, University of Kansas
Dave Leon, University of Wyoming

© Copyright 2013 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at ( or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or


Summertime low-level winds over the ocean adjacent to the California coast are typically from the north, roughly parallel to the coastline. Past Point Conception the flow often turns eastward, thereby generating cyclonic vorticity in the California Bight. Clouds are frequently present when the cyclonic motion is well developed and at such times the circulation is referred to as a Catalina eddy. Onshore flow south of the California Bight associated with the eddy circulation can result in a thickening of the low-level marine stratus adjacent to the coast. During nighttime hours the marine stratus typically expands over a larger area and moves northward along the coast with the cyclonic circulation. A Catalina eddy was captured during the Precision Atmospheric Marine Boundary Layer Experiment in June of 2012. Measurements were made of the cloud structure in the marine layer and the horizontal pressure field associated with the cyclonic circulation using the University of Wyoming King Air research aircraft. Airborne measurements show that the coastal mountains to the south of Los Angeles block the flow, resulting in enhanced marine stratus heights and a local pressure maximum near the coast. The horizontal pressure field also supports a south-north movement of marine stratus. Little evidence of leeside troughing south of Santa Barbara, California, was observed for this case, implying that the horizontal pressure field is forced primarily through topographic blocking by the coastal terrain south of Los Angeles, California, and the ambient large-scale circulation associated with the mean flow. © 2013 American Meteorological Society.