Evidence from Tropical Raindrop Spectra of the Origin of Rain from Stratiform versus Convective Clouds

Ali Tokay NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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David A. Short NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Abstract

An analysis of temporal variations in gamma parameters of raindrop spectra is presented utilizing surface-based observations from the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Couple Ocean-Atmosphere Experiment. An observed dramatic change in the N0 parameter, found to occur during rainfall events with little change in rainfall rate, is suggestive of a transition from rain of convective origin to rain originating from the stratiform portion of tropical systems. An empirical stratiform-convective classification method based on N0 and R (rainfall rate) is presented. Properties of the drop size spectra from the stratiform classification are consistent with micro-physical processes occurring within an aggregation/melting layer aloft, which produces more large raindrops and fewer small to medium size raindrops than rain from the convective classification, at the same rainfall rate. The occurrence of precipitation was found to be 74% (stratiform) and 26% (convective), but total rainfall, on the other hand, was 32% and 68%, respectively. Case studies of the tropical systems studied here indicate that heavy convective showers are generally followed by longer intervals of lighter rain from the stratiform portion of the cloud systems. Differences in the shapes of the frequency distributions of the integral rainfall parameters (i.e., liquid water content, rainfall rate, and radar reflectivity) suggest that the lognormal distribution applies to some, but not all cases. The analysis shows that almost all the precipitation with a radar reflectivity above 40 dBZ falls within the convective classification. Regarding radar reflectivity versus rainfall rate relationships, the exponent is lower and the intercept is higher in the tropical stratiform classification than in the tropical convective classification. Collision and evaporation rates, which are important for cloud-modeling studies, indicate substantial variation at different rainfall rates and between the two types.

Abstract

An analysis of temporal variations in gamma parameters of raindrop spectra is presented utilizing surface-based observations from the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Couple Ocean-Atmosphere Experiment. An observed dramatic change in the N0 parameter, found to occur during rainfall events with little change in rainfall rate, is suggestive of a transition from rain of convective origin to rain originating from the stratiform portion of tropical systems. An empirical stratiform-convective classification method based on N0 and R (rainfall rate) is presented. Properties of the drop size spectra from the stratiform classification are consistent with micro-physical processes occurring within an aggregation/melting layer aloft, which produces more large raindrops and fewer small to medium size raindrops than rain from the convective classification, at the same rainfall rate. The occurrence of precipitation was found to be 74% (stratiform) and 26% (convective), but total rainfall, on the other hand, was 32% and 68%, respectively. Case studies of the tropical systems studied here indicate that heavy convective showers are generally followed by longer intervals of lighter rain from the stratiform portion of the cloud systems. Differences in the shapes of the frequency distributions of the integral rainfall parameters (i.e., liquid water content, rainfall rate, and radar reflectivity) suggest that the lognormal distribution applies to some, but not all cases. The analysis shows that almost all the precipitation with a radar reflectivity above 40 dBZ falls within the convective classification. Regarding radar reflectivity versus rainfall rate relationships, the exponent is lower and the intercept is higher in the tropical stratiform classification than in the tropical convective classification. Collision and evaporation rates, which are important for cloud-modeling studies, indicate substantial variation at different rainfall rates and between the two types.

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