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Observed Enhancement of Reflectivity and the Electric Field in Long-Lived Florida Anvils

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado
  • | 2 Garrett Park, Maryland
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Abstract

A study of two long-lived Florida anvils showed that reflectivity >20 dBZ increased in area, thickness, and sometimes magnitude at the midlevel well downstream of the convective cores. In these same regions electric fields maintained strengths >10 kV m−1 for many tens of minutes and became quite uniform over tens of kilometers. Millimetric aggregates persisted at 9–10 km for extended times and distances. Aggregation of ice particles enhanced by the strong electric fields might have contributed to reflectivity growth in the early anvil, but is unlikely to explain observations farther out in the anvil. The enhanced reflectivity and existence of small, medium, and large ice particles far out into the anvil suggest that an updraft was acting, perhaps in weak convective cells formed by instability generated from the evaporation and melting of falling ice particles. It is concluded that charge separation must have occurred in these anvils, perhaps at the melting level but also at higher altitudes, in order to maintain fields >10 kV m−1 at 9–10 km for extended periods of time over large distances. The authors speculate that charge separation occurred as a result of ice–ice particle collisions (without supercooled water being present) via either a noninductive or perhaps even an inductive mechanism, given the observed broad ice particle spectra, the strong preexisting electric fields, and the many tens of minutes available for particle interactions. The observations, particularly in the early anvil, show that the charge structure in these anvils was quite complex.

Corresponding author address: James Dye, NCAR, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder CO 80307-3000. Email: dye@ucar.edu

Abstract

A study of two long-lived Florida anvils showed that reflectivity >20 dBZ increased in area, thickness, and sometimes magnitude at the midlevel well downstream of the convective cores. In these same regions electric fields maintained strengths >10 kV m−1 for many tens of minutes and became quite uniform over tens of kilometers. Millimetric aggregates persisted at 9–10 km for extended times and distances. Aggregation of ice particles enhanced by the strong electric fields might have contributed to reflectivity growth in the early anvil, but is unlikely to explain observations farther out in the anvil. The enhanced reflectivity and existence of small, medium, and large ice particles far out into the anvil suggest that an updraft was acting, perhaps in weak convective cells formed by instability generated from the evaporation and melting of falling ice particles. It is concluded that charge separation must have occurred in these anvils, perhaps at the melting level but also at higher altitudes, in order to maintain fields >10 kV m−1 at 9–10 km for extended periods of time over large distances. The authors speculate that charge separation occurred as a result of ice–ice particle collisions (without supercooled water being present) via either a noninductive or perhaps even an inductive mechanism, given the observed broad ice particle spectra, the strong preexisting electric fields, and the many tens of minutes available for particle interactions. The observations, particularly in the early anvil, show that the charge structure in these anvils was quite complex.

Corresponding author address: James Dye, NCAR, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder CO 80307-3000. Email: dye@ucar.edu

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