Comparison between Observed Convective Cloud-Base Heights and Lifting Condensation Level for Two Different Lifted Parcels

Jeffrey P. Craven NOAA/NWS/Storm Prediction Center, Norman, Oklahoma

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Ryan E. Jewell NOAA/NWS/Storm Prediction Center, Norman, Oklahoma

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Harold E. Brooks NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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Abstract

Approximately 400 Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) observations of convective cloud-base heights at 2300 UTC were collected from April through August of 2001. These observations were compared with lifting condensation level (LCL) heights above ground level determined by 0000 UTC rawinsonde soundings from collocated upper-air sites. The LCL heights were calculated using both surface-based parcels (SBLCL) and mean-layer parcels (MLLCL—using mean temperature and dewpoint in lowest 100 hPa). The results show that the mean error for the MLLCL heights was substantially less than for SBLCL heights, with SBLCL heights consistently lower than observed cloud bases. These findings suggest that the mean-layer parcel is likely more representative of the actual parcel associated with convective cloud development, which has implications for calculations of thermodynamic parameters such as convective available potential energy (CAPE) and convective inhibition. In addition, the median value of surface-based CAPE (SBCAPE) was more than 2 times that of the mean-layer CAPE (MLCAPE). Thus, caution is advised when considering surface-based thermodynamic indices, despite the assumed presence of a well-mixed afternoon boundary layer.

Corresponding author address: Jeffrey P. Craven, NOAA/NWS/Storm Prediction Center, 1313 Halley Circle, Norman, OK 73069. Email: jeffrey.craven@noaa.gov

Abstract

Approximately 400 Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) observations of convective cloud-base heights at 2300 UTC were collected from April through August of 2001. These observations were compared with lifting condensation level (LCL) heights above ground level determined by 0000 UTC rawinsonde soundings from collocated upper-air sites. The LCL heights were calculated using both surface-based parcels (SBLCL) and mean-layer parcels (MLLCL—using mean temperature and dewpoint in lowest 100 hPa). The results show that the mean error for the MLLCL heights was substantially less than for SBLCL heights, with SBLCL heights consistently lower than observed cloud bases. These findings suggest that the mean-layer parcel is likely more representative of the actual parcel associated with convective cloud development, which has implications for calculations of thermodynamic parameters such as convective available potential energy (CAPE) and convective inhibition. In addition, the median value of surface-based CAPE (SBCAPE) was more than 2 times that of the mean-layer CAPE (MLCAPE). Thus, caution is advised when considering surface-based thermodynamic indices, despite the assumed presence of a well-mixed afternoon boundary layer.

Corresponding author address: Jeffrey P. Craven, NOAA/NWS/Storm Prediction Center, 1313 Halley Circle, Norman, OK 73069. Email: jeffrey.craven@noaa.gov

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