Orographically Modified Ice-Phase Precipitation Processes During the Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX)

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  • 1 a Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 2 b Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
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Abstract

Over mountainous terrain, windward enhancement of stratiform precipitation results from a combination of warm-rain and ice-phase processes. In this study, ice-phase precipitation processes are investigated within frontal systems during the Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX). An enhanced layer of radar reflectivity (ZH) above the melting level bright band (i.e., a secondary ZH maximum) is observed over both the windward slopes of the Olympic Mountains and the upstream ocean, with a higher frequency of occurrence and higher ZH values over the windward slopes indicating an orographic enhancement of ice-phase precipitation processes. Aircraft-based in situ observations are evaluated for the 01-02 and 03 December 2015 orographically-enhanced precipitation events. Above the secondary ZH maximum, the hydrometeors are primarily horizontally oriented dendritic and branched crystals. Within the secondary ZH maximum, there are high concentrations of large (> ~2 mm diameter) dendrites, plates, and aggregates thereof, with a significant degree of riming. In both events, aggregation and riming appear to be enhanced within a turbulent layer near sheared flow at the top of a low-level jet impinging on the terrain and forced to rise above the melting level. Based on windward ground sites at low-, mid-, and high-elevations, secondary ZH maxima periods during all of OLYMPEX are associated with increased rain rates and larger mass-weighted mean drop diameters compared to periods without a secondary ZH maximum. This result suggests that precipitation originating from secondary ZH maxima layers may contribute to enhanced windward precipitation accumulations through the formation of large, dense particles that accelerate fallout.

This article is included in the The Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) special collection.

Corresponding author: Andrew DeLaFrance, adelaf@uw.edu

Abstract

Over mountainous terrain, windward enhancement of stratiform precipitation results from a combination of warm-rain and ice-phase processes. In this study, ice-phase precipitation processes are investigated within frontal systems during the Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX). An enhanced layer of radar reflectivity (ZH) above the melting level bright band (i.e., a secondary ZH maximum) is observed over both the windward slopes of the Olympic Mountains and the upstream ocean, with a higher frequency of occurrence and higher ZH values over the windward slopes indicating an orographic enhancement of ice-phase precipitation processes. Aircraft-based in situ observations are evaluated for the 01-02 and 03 December 2015 orographically-enhanced precipitation events. Above the secondary ZH maximum, the hydrometeors are primarily horizontally oriented dendritic and branched crystals. Within the secondary ZH maximum, there are high concentrations of large (> ~2 mm diameter) dendrites, plates, and aggregates thereof, with a significant degree of riming. In both events, aggregation and riming appear to be enhanced within a turbulent layer near sheared flow at the top of a low-level jet impinging on the terrain and forced to rise above the melting level. Based on windward ground sites at low-, mid-, and high-elevations, secondary ZH maxima periods during all of OLYMPEX are associated with increased rain rates and larger mass-weighted mean drop diameters compared to periods without a secondary ZH maximum. This result suggests that precipitation originating from secondary ZH maxima layers may contribute to enhanced windward precipitation accumulations through the formation of large, dense particles that accelerate fallout.

This article is included in the The Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) special collection.

Corresponding author: Andrew DeLaFrance, adelaf@uw.edu
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