Nowcasting Storm Initiation and Growth Using GOES-8 and WSR-88D Data

Rita D. Roberts Research Applications Program, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Steven Rutledge Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

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Abstract

The evolution of cumulus clouds over a variety of radar-detected, boundary layer convergence features in eastern Colorado has been examined using Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) imagery and Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) data. While convective storms formed above horizontal rolls in the absence of any additional surface forcing, the most intense storms initiated in regions above: gust fronts, gust front interaction with horizontal rolls, and terrain-induced stationary convergence zones. The onset of vigorous cloud growth leading to storm development was characterized by cloud tops that reached subfreezing temperatures and exhibited large cooling rates at cloud top 15 min prior to the first detection of 10-dBZ radar echoes aloft and 30 min before 35 dBZ. The rate of cloud-top temperature change was found to be important for discriminating between weakly precipitating storms (<35 dBZ) and vigorous convective storms (>35 dBZ). Results from this study have been used to increase the lead time of thunderstorm initiation nowcasts with the NCAR automated, convective storm nowcasting system. This improvement is demonstrated at two operational forecast offices in Virginia and New Mexico.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Rita D. Roberts, NCAR/Research Applications Program, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. Email: rroberts@ucar.edu

Abstract

The evolution of cumulus clouds over a variety of radar-detected, boundary layer convergence features in eastern Colorado has been examined using Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) imagery and Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) data. While convective storms formed above horizontal rolls in the absence of any additional surface forcing, the most intense storms initiated in regions above: gust fronts, gust front interaction with horizontal rolls, and terrain-induced stationary convergence zones. The onset of vigorous cloud growth leading to storm development was characterized by cloud tops that reached subfreezing temperatures and exhibited large cooling rates at cloud top 15 min prior to the first detection of 10-dBZ radar echoes aloft and 30 min before 35 dBZ. The rate of cloud-top temperature change was found to be important for discriminating between weakly precipitating storms (<35 dBZ) and vigorous convective storms (>35 dBZ). Results from this study have been used to increase the lead time of thunderstorm initiation nowcasts with the NCAR automated, convective storm nowcasting system. This improvement is demonstrated at two operational forecast offices in Virginia and New Mexico.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Rita D. Roberts, NCAR/Research Applications Program, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. Email: rroberts@ucar.edu

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