Cirrus Mammatus Properties Derived from an Extended Remote Sensing Dataset

Likun Wang Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska

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Kenneth Sassen Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska

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Abstract

The first quantitative and statistical evaluation of cirrus mammatus clouds based on wavelet analysis of remote sensing data is made by analyzing the University of Utah Facility for Atmospheric Remote Sensing (FARS) 10-yr high-cloud dataset. First, a case study of cirrus mammata combining a high-resolution lidar system and a W-band Doppler radar is presented, yielding an assessment of the thermodynamic environment and dynamic mechanisms. Then, 25 cirrus mammatus cases selected from the FARS lidar dataset are used to disclose their characteristic environmental conditions, and vertical and length scales. The results show that cirrus mammata occur in the transition zone from moist (cloudy) to dry air layers with weak wind shear, which suggests that cloud-induced thermal structures play a key role in their formation. Their maximum vertical and horizontal length scales vary from 0.3 to 1.1 km and 0.5 to 8.0 km, respectively. It is also found that small-scale structures develop between the large-scale protuberances. The spectral slopes of the lidar-returned power and mean radar Doppler velocity data extracted from the cirrus cloud-base region further indicate the presence of developed three-dimensional, locally isotropic, homogeneous turbulence generated by buoyancy. Finally, comparisons of anvil and cirrus mammata are made. Although both are generated in a similar environment, cirrus mammata generally do not form fallout fronts like their anvil counterparts, and so do not have their smooth and beautiful outlines.

* Current affiliation: QSS Group, Inc., Lanham, Maryland

Corresponding author address: Dr. Likun Wang, NOAA/NESDIS/ORA, 5200 Auth Rd., Rm. 810, Camp Springs, MD 20742-4304. Email: Likun.Wang@noaa.gov

Abstract

The first quantitative and statistical evaluation of cirrus mammatus clouds based on wavelet analysis of remote sensing data is made by analyzing the University of Utah Facility for Atmospheric Remote Sensing (FARS) 10-yr high-cloud dataset. First, a case study of cirrus mammata combining a high-resolution lidar system and a W-band Doppler radar is presented, yielding an assessment of the thermodynamic environment and dynamic mechanisms. Then, 25 cirrus mammatus cases selected from the FARS lidar dataset are used to disclose their characteristic environmental conditions, and vertical and length scales. The results show that cirrus mammata occur in the transition zone from moist (cloudy) to dry air layers with weak wind shear, which suggests that cloud-induced thermal structures play a key role in their formation. Their maximum vertical and horizontal length scales vary from 0.3 to 1.1 km and 0.5 to 8.0 km, respectively. It is also found that small-scale structures develop between the large-scale protuberances. The spectral slopes of the lidar-returned power and mean radar Doppler velocity data extracted from the cirrus cloud-base region further indicate the presence of developed three-dimensional, locally isotropic, homogeneous turbulence generated by buoyancy. Finally, comparisons of anvil and cirrus mammata are made. Although both are generated in a similar environment, cirrus mammata generally do not form fallout fronts like their anvil counterparts, and so do not have their smooth and beautiful outlines.

* Current affiliation: QSS Group, Inc., Lanham, Maryland

Corresponding author address: Dr. Likun Wang, NOAA/NESDIS/ORA, 5200 Auth Rd., Rm. 810, Camp Springs, MD 20742-4304. Email: Likun.Wang@noaa.gov

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