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James N. Marquis, Adam C. Varble, Paul Robinson, T. Connor Nelson, and Katja Friedrich

Abstract

Data from scanning radars, radiosondes, and vertical profilers deployed during three field campaigns are analyzed to study interactions between cloud-scale updrafts associated with initiating deep moist convection and the surrounding environment. Three cases are analyzed in which the radar networks permitted dual-Doppler wind retrievals in clear air preceding and during the onset of surface precipitation. These observations capture the evolution of (i) the mesoscale and boundary layer flow, and (ii) low-level updrafts associated with deep moist convection initiation (CI) events yielding sustained or short-lived precipitating storms. The elimination of convective inhibition did not distinguish between sustained and unsustained CI events, though the vertical distribution of convective available potential energy may have played a role. The clearest signal differentiating the initiation of sustained versus unsustained precipitating deep convection was the depth of the low-level horizontal wind convergence associated with the mesoscale flow feature triggering CI, a sharp surface wind shift boundary, or orographic upslope flow. The depth of the boundary layer relative to the height of the LFC failed to be a consistent indicator of CI potential. Widths of the earliest detectable low-level updrafts associated with sustained precipitating deep convection were ~3–5 km, larger than updrafts associated with surrounding boundary layer turbulence (~1–3 km wide). It is hypothesized that updrafts of this larger size are important for initiating cells to survive the destructive effects of buoyancy dilution via entrainment.

Open access
Stephen W. Nesbitt, Paola V. Salio, Eldo Ávila, Phillip Bitzer, Lawrence Carey, V. Chandrasekar, Wiebke Deierling, Francina Dominguez, Maria Eugenia Dillon, C. Marcelo Garcia, David Gochis, Steven Goodman, Deanna A. Hence, Karen A. Kosiba, Matthew R. Kumjian, Timothy Lang, Lorena Medina Luna, James Marquis, Robert Marshall, Lynn A. McMurdie, Ernani de Lima Nascimento, Kristen L. Rasmussen, Rita Roberts, Angela K. Rowe, Juan José Ruiz, Eliah F.M.T. São Sabbas, A. Celeste Saulo, Russ S. Schumacher, Yanina Garcia Skabar, Luiz Augusto Toledo Machado, Robert J. Trapp, Adam C. Varble, James Wilson, Joshua Wurman, Edward J. Zipser, Ivan Arias, Hernán Bechis, and Maxwell A. Grover

Abstract

This article provides an overview of the experimental design, execution, education and public outreach, data collection, and initial scientific results from the Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, and Mesoscale/Microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO) field campaign. RELAMPAGO was a major field campaign conducted in the Córdoba and Mendoza provinces in Argentina and western Rio Grande do Sul State in Brazil in 2018–19 that involved more than 200 scientists and students from the United States, Argentina, and Brazil. This campaign was motivated by the physical processes and societal impacts of deep convection that frequently initiates in this region, often along the complex terrain of the Sierras de Córdoba and Andes, and often grows rapidly upscale into dangerous storms that impact society. Observed storms during the experiment produced copious hail, intense flash flooding, extreme lightning flash rates, and other unusual lightning phenomena, but few tornadoes. The five distinct scientific foci of RELAMPAGO—convection initiation, severe weather, upscale growth, hydrometeorology, and lightning and electrification—are described, as are the deployment strategies to observe physical processes relevant to these foci. The campaign’s international cooperation, forecasting efforts, and mission planning strategies enabled a successful data collection effort. In addition, the legacy of RELAMPAGO in South America, including extensive multinational education, public outreach, and social media data gathering associated with the campaign, is summarized.

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Adam C. Varble, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Paola Salio, Joseph C. Hardin, Nitin Bharadwaj, Paloma Borque, Paul J. DeMott, Zhe Feng, Thomas C. J. Hill, James N. Marquis, Alyssa Matthews, Fan Mei, Rusen Öktem, Vagner Castro, Lexie Goldberger, Alexis Hunzinger, Kevin R. Barry, Sonia M. Kreidenweis, Greg M. McFarquhar, Lynn A. McMurdie, Mikhail Pekour, Heath Powers, David M. Romps, Celeste Saulo, Beat Schmid, Jason M. Tomlinson, Susan C. van den Heever, Alla Zelenyuk, Zhixiao Zhang, and Edward J. Zipser

Abstract

The Cloud, Aerosol, and Complex Terrain Interactions (CACTI) field campaign was designed to improve understanding of orographic cloud life cycles in relation to surrounding atmospheric thermodynamic, flow, and aerosol conditions. The deployment to the Sierras de Córdoba range in north-central Argentina was chosen because of very frequent cumulus congestus, deep convection initiation, and mesoscale convective organization uniquely observable from a fixed site. The C-band Scanning Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Precipitation Radar was deployed for the first time with over 50 ARM Mobile Facility atmospheric state, surface, aerosol, radiation, cloud, and precipitation instruments between October 2018 and April 2019. An intensive observing period (IOP) coincident with the RELAMPAGO field campaign was held between 1 November and 15 December during which 22 flights were performed by the ARM Gulfstream-1 aircraft. A multitude of atmospheric processes and cloud conditions were observed over the 7-month campaign, including numerous orographic cumulus and stratocumulus events; new particle formation and growth producing high aerosol concentrations; drizzle formation in fog and shallow liquid clouds; very low aerosol conditions following wet deposition in heavy rainfall; initiation of ice in congestus clouds across a range of temperatures; extreme deep convection reaching 21-km altitudes; and organization of intense, hail-containing supercells and mesoscale convective systems. These comprehensive datasets include many of the first ever collected in this region and provide new opportunities to study orographic cloud evolution and interactions with meteorological conditions, aerosols, surface conditions, and radiation in mountainous terrain.

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Kristen L. Rasmussen, Melissa A. Burt, Angela Rowe, Rebecca Haacker, Deanna Hence, Lorena Medina Luna, Stephen W. Nesbitt, and Julie Maertens

Abstract

This article provides an overview of the Advanced Study Institute: Field Studies of Convection in Argentina (ASI-FSCA) program, a 3-week dynamic and collaborative hands-on experience that allowed 16 highly motivated and diverse graduate students from the U.S. to participate in the 2018-19 Remote sensing of Electrification, Lightning, And Mesoscale/microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO) field campaign. This program is unique as it represents the first effort to integrate an intensive Advanced Study Institute with a field campaign in atmospheric science. ASI-FSCA activities and successful program outcomes for five key elements are described: (1) Intensive field research with field campaign instrumentation platforms; (2) Recruitment of diverse graduate students who would not otherwise have opportunities to participate in intensive field research; (3) Tailored curriculum focused on scientific understanding of cloud and mesoscale processes and professional/academic development topics; (4) Outreach to local K-12 schools and the general public; and (5) Building a collaborative international research network to promote weather and climate research. These five elements served to increase motivation and improve confidence and self-efficacy of students to participate in scientific research and field work with goals of increasing retention and a sense of belonging in STEM graduate programs and advancing the careers of students from underrepresented groups as evidenced by a formal program evaluation effort. Given the success of the ASI-FSCA program, our team strongly recommends considering this model for expanding the opportunities for a broader and more diverse student community to participate in dynamic and intensive field work in atmospheric science.

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Jake P. Mulholland, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Robert J. Trapp, and John M. Peters

Abstract

Orographic deep convection (DC) initiation and rapid evolution from supercells to mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are common near the Sierras de Córdoba, Argentina, which was the focal point of the Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, and Mesoscale/Microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO) field campaign. This study used an idealized numerical model with elongated north–south terrain similar to that of the Sierras de Córdoba to address how variations in terrain height affected the environment and convective morphology. Simulations used a thermodynamic profile from a RELAMPAGO event that featured both supercell and MCS storm modes. Results revealed that DC initiated earlier in simulations with higher terrain, owing both to stronger upslope flows and standing mountain waves. All simulations resulted in supercell formation, with higher-terrain supercells initiating closer to the terrain peak and moving slower off the terrain. Higher-terrain simulations displayed increases in both low-level and deep-layer wind shear along the eastern slopes of the terrain that were related to the enhanced upslope flows, supporting stronger and wider supercell updrafts/downdrafts and a wider swath of heavy rainfall. Deeper and stronger cold pools from these wider and stronger higher-terrain supercells led to surging outflow that reduced convective available potential energy accessible to deep convective updrafts, resulting in quicker supercell demise off the terrain. Lower-terrain supercells moved quickly off the terrain, merged with weaker convective cells, and resulted in a quasi-organized MCS. These results demonstrate that terrain-induced flow modification may lead to substantial local variations in convective morphology.

Restricted access
Matthew R. Kumjian, Rachel Gutierrez, Joshua S. Soderholm, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Paula Maldonado, Lorena Medina Luna, James Marquis, Kevin A. Bowley, Milagros Alvarez Imaz, and Paola Salio

Abstract

On 8 February 2018, a supercell storm produced gargantuan (>15 cm or >6 in. in maximum dimension) hail as it moved over the heavily populated city of Villa Carlos Paz in Córdoba Province, Argentina. Observations of gargantuan hail are quite rare, but the large population density here yielded numerous witnesses and social media pictures and videos from this event that document multiple large hailstones. The storm was also sampled by the newly installed operational polarimetric C-band radar in Córdoba. During the RELAMPAGO campaign, the authors interviewed local residents about their accounts of the storm and uncovered additional social media video and photographs revealing extremely large hail at multiple locations in town. This article documents the case, including the meteorological conditions supporting the storm (with the aid of a high-resolution WRF simulation), the storm’s observed radar signatures, and three noteworthy hailstones observed by residents. These hailstones include a freezer-preserved 4.48-in. (11.38 cm) maximum dimension stone that was scanned with a 3D infrared laser scanner, a 7.1-in. (18 cm) maximum dimension stone, and a hailstone photogrammetrically estimated to be between 7.4 and 9.3 in. (18.8–23.7 cm) in maximum dimension, which is close to or exceeds the world record for maximum dimension. Such a well-observed case is an important step forward in understanding environments and storms that produce gargantuan hail, and ultimately how to anticipate and detect such extreme events.

Free access
Timothy J. Lang, Eldo E. Ávila, Richard J. Blakeslee, Jeff Burchfield, Matthew Wingo, Phillip M. Bitzer, Lawrence D. Carey, Wiebke Deierling, Steven J. Goodman, Bruno Lisboa Medina, Gregory Melo, and Rodolfo G. Pereyra

Abstract

During November 2018–April 2019, an 11-station very high frequency (VHF) Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) was deployed to Córdoba Province, Argentina. The purpose of the LMA was validation of the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), but the deployment was coordinated with two field campaigns. The LMA observed 2.9 million flashes (≥ five sources) during 163 days, and level-1 (VHF locations), level-2 (flashes classified), and level-3 (gridded products) datasets have been made public. The network’s performance allows scientifically useful analysis within 100 km when at least seven stations were active. Careful analysis beyond 100 km is also possible. The LMA dataset includes many examples of intense storms with extremely high flash rates (>1 s−1), electrical discharges in overshooting tops (OTs), as well as anomalously charged thunderstorms with low-altitude lightning. The modal flash altitude was 10 km, but many flashes occurred at very high altitude (15–20 km). There were also anomalous and stratiform flashes near 5–7 km in altitude. Most flashes were small (<50 km2 area). Comparisons with GLM on 14 and 20 December 2018 indicated that GLM most successfully detected larger flashes (i.e., more than 100 VHF sources), with detection efficiency (DE) up to 90%. However, GLM DE was reduced for flashes that were smaller or that occurred lower in the cloud (e.g., near 6-km altitude). GLM DE also was reduced during a period of OT electrical discharges. Overall, GLM DE was a strong function of thunderstorm evolution and the dominant characteristics of the lightning it produced.

Free access
Robert J. Trapp, Karen A. Kosiba, James N. Marquis, Matthew R. Kumjian, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Joshua Wurman, Paola Salio, Maxwell A. Grover, Paul Robinson, and Deanna A. Hence

Abstract

On 10 November 2018, during the RELAMPAGO field campaign in Argentina, South America, a thunderstorm with supercell characteristics was observed by an array of mobile observing instruments, including three Doppler on Wheels radars. In contrast to the archetypal supercell described in the Glossary of Meteorology, the updraft rotation in this storm was rather short lived (~25 min), causing some initial doubt as to whether this indeed was a supercell. However, retrieved 3D winds from dual-Doppler radar scans were used to document a high spatial correspondence between midlevel vertical velocity and vertical vorticity in this storm, thus providing evidence to support the supercell categorization. Additional data collected within the RELAMPAGO domain revealed other storms with this behavior, which appears to be attributable in part to effects of the local terrain. Specifically, the IOP4 supercell and other short-duration supercell cases presented had storm motions that were nearly perpendicular to the long axis of the Sierras de Córdoba Mountains; a long-duration supercell case, on the other hand, had a storm motion nearly parallel to these mountains. Sounding observations as well as model simulations indicate that a mountain-perpendicular storm motion results in a relatively short storm residence time within the narrow zone of terrain-enhanced vertical wind shear. Such a motion and short residence time would limit the upward tilting, by the left-moving supercell updraft, of the storm-relative, antistreamwise horizontal vorticity associated with anabatic flow near complex terrain.

Free access
Hernán Bechis, Paola Salio, and Juan José Ruiz

Abstract

Drylines have been identified as relevant synoptic-scale phenomena that frequently occur in several regions around the world. Despite previous works and the experience of local forecasters that recognizes the occurrence of drylines in Argentina and suggests its possible association with convection initiation, knowledge about the mechanisms leading to the genesis of these features is poor. This paper presents the first synoptic climatology of these drylines as well as a first approach to the understanding of the processes leading to their formation. The climatology is based on an automated algorithm for dryline identification applied to reanalysis data. We found that drylines are more frequent between the northern Patagonia plateau and the central Argentinean plains. A composite analysis is performed to analyze the processes leading to the formation of synoptic-scale drylines within this region. It was found that these drylines form in the confluence between a warm and moist air mass driven by a northwesterly flow and drier air flowing east over the northern Patagonia plateau. The dry air originates on top of the Pacific maritime boundary layer and experiences lee subsidence after crossing the Andes range creating an area of dry and warm air that is advected to the east by the westerly synoptic-scale flow, and transported downward during the day due to strong boundary layer turbulence. At the same time, surface heating over the plateau leads to substantial warming of the originally colder dry air behind the dryline, thus reversing the horizontal temperature gradient across the dryline.

Free access
Jake P. Mulholland, Stephen W. Nesbitt, and Robert J. Trapp

Abstract

Satellite- and ground-based radar observations have shown that the northern half of Argentina, South America, is a region susceptible to rapid upscale growth of deep moist convection into larger organized mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). In particular, the complex terrain of the Sierras de Córdoba is hypothesized to be vital to this upscale-growth process. A canonical orographic supercell-to-MCS transition case study was analyzed to determine the influence that complex terrain had on processes governing upscale convective growth. High-resolution numerical modeling experiments were conducted in which the terrain height of the Sierras de Córdoba was systematically modified by raising or lowering the elevation of terrain above 1000 m. The alteration of the terrain lead to both direct and indirect effects on storm morphology. A direct effect included terrain blocking of cold pools, whereas indirect effects included terrain-induced variations in pertinent storm environmental parameters (e.g., vertical wind shear, convective available potential energy). When the terrain was raised, low-level and deep-layer vertical wind shear increased, mixed-layer convective available potential energy decreased, deep moist convection initiated earlier, and cold pools were blocked and generally became stronger and deeper. The reverse occurred when the terrain was lowered, resulting in a weaker supercell that did not grow upscale into an MCS. The control simulation supercell displayed the deepest cold pool and correspondingly fastest transition from supercell to MCS, potentially revealing that the unique terrain configuration of the Sierras de Córdoba was supportive of the observed rapid upscale convective growth of this orographic supercell.

Free access