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A Revised Conceptual Model of the Tropical Marine Boundary Layer. Part II: Detecting Relative Humidity Layers Using Bragg Scattering from S-Band Radar

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois
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Abstract

Persistent layers of enhanced equivalent radar reflectivity factor and reduced spectral width were commonly observed within cloud-free regions of the tropical marine boundary layer (TMBL) with the National Center for Atmospheric Research S-Pol radar during the Rain in Cumulus over the Ocean (RICO) field campaign. Bragg scattering is shown to be the primary source of these layers. Two mechanisms are proposed to explain the Bragg scattering layers (BSLs), the first involving turbulent mixing and the second involving detrainment and evaporation of cloudy air. These mechanisms imply that BSLs should exist in layers with tops (bases) defined by local relative humidity (RH) minima (maxima). The relationship between BSLs and RH is explored.

An equation for the vertical gradient of radio refractivity N is derived, and a scale analysis is used to demonstrate the close relationship between vertical RH and N gradients. This is tested using the derived radar BSL boundary altitudes, 131 surface-based soundings, and 34 sets of about six near-coincident, aircraft-released dropsondes. First, dropsonde data are used to quantify the finescale variability of the RH field. Then, within limits imposed by this variability, altitudes of tops (bases) of radar BSLs are shown to agree with altitudes of RH minima (maxima). These findings imply that S-band radars can be used to track the vertical profile of RH variations as a function of time and height, that the vertical RH profile of the TMBL is highly variable over horizontal scales as small as 60 km, and that BSLs are a persistent, coherent feature that delineate aspects of TMBL mesoscale structure.

Corresponding author address: Jennifer L. Davison, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, 105 S. Gregory St., Urbana, IL 61801. E-mail: jdavison@earth.uiuc.edu

Abstract

Persistent layers of enhanced equivalent radar reflectivity factor and reduced spectral width were commonly observed within cloud-free regions of the tropical marine boundary layer (TMBL) with the National Center for Atmospheric Research S-Pol radar during the Rain in Cumulus over the Ocean (RICO) field campaign. Bragg scattering is shown to be the primary source of these layers. Two mechanisms are proposed to explain the Bragg scattering layers (BSLs), the first involving turbulent mixing and the second involving detrainment and evaporation of cloudy air. These mechanisms imply that BSLs should exist in layers with tops (bases) defined by local relative humidity (RH) minima (maxima). The relationship between BSLs and RH is explored.

An equation for the vertical gradient of radio refractivity N is derived, and a scale analysis is used to demonstrate the close relationship between vertical RH and N gradients. This is tested using the derived radar BSL boundary altitudes, 131 surface-based soundings, and 34 sets of about six near-coincident, aircraft-released dropsondes. First, dropsonde data are used to quantify the finescale variability of the RH field. Then, within limits imposed by this variability, altitudes of tops (bases) of radar BSLs are shown to agree with altitudes of RH minima (maxima). These findings imply that S-band radars can be used to track the vertical profile of RH variations as a function of time and height, that the vertical RH profile of the TMBL is highly variable over horizontal scales as small as 60 km, and that BSLs are a persistent, coherent feature that delineate aspects of TMBL mesoscale structure.

Corresponding author address: Jennifer L. Davison, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, 105 S. Gregory St., Urbana, IL 61801. E-mail: jdavison@earth.uiuc.edu
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