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Brian D. Hirth, John L. Schroeder, Christopher C. Weiss, Douglas A. Smith, and Michael I. Biggerstaff

Abstract

The structure of the coastal internal boundary layer (IBL) during a landfalling hurricane has important ramifications on operational forecasting, structural design, and poststorm damage assessment. Despite these important issues, the mean IBL structure at the coastline during landfall is poorly understood. Knowledge of the vertical kinematic structure within tropical cyclones over water has improved greatly through aircraft reconnaissance missions and the advent of GPS dropsondes and stepped frequency microwave radiometers. Unfortunately, reconnaissance and research aircraft are limited to overwater missions, resulting in a poor understanding of vertical kinematic structure near the coastal interface, where changes in IBL structure are expected due to changes in surface roughness. Composite single- and dual-Doppler radar observations collected by the Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radars during the landfall of Hurricane Frances (2004) are presented. Data analyses from the Cape Canaveral, Florida, region reveal a pronounced IBL throughout the data collection period. As a result, significant variability in the analyzed wind speed and direction are found across and near the coastal interface. IBL height is found to be suppressed when compared to an accepted empirical growth model, while multiple abrupt roughness transitions associated with the Cape Canaveral region contribute to a complex mean IBL structure.

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Corey K. Potvin, Louis J. Wicker, Michael I. Biggerstaff, Daniel Betten, and Alan Shapiro

Abstract

Kinematical analyses of storm-scale mobile radar observations are critical to advancing our understanding of supercell thunderstorms. Maximizing the accuracy of these analyses, and characterizing the uncertainty in ensuing conclusions about storm structure and processes, requires knowledge of the error characteristics of different retrieval techniques under different observational scenarios. Using storm-scale mobile radar observations of a tornadic supercell, this study examines the impacts on ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) wind analyses of the number of available radars (one versus two), uncertainty in the model-initialization sounding, the sophistication of the microphysical parameterization scheme (double versus single moment), and assimilating reflectivity observations. The relative accuracy of three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVAR) dual-Doppler wind retrievals and single- and dual-radar EnKF wind analyses of the supercell is also explored. The results generally reinforce the findings of a previous study that used observing system simulation experiments to explore the same issues. Both studies suggest that single-radar EnKF wind analyses can be very useful once enough data have been assimilated, but that subsequent analyses that operate on the retrieved wind field gradients should be interpreted with caution. In the present study, severe errors appear to occur in computed Lagrangian circulation time series, imperiling interpretation of the underlying dynamics. This result strongly suggests that dual- and multiple-Doppler radar deployment strategies continue to be used in mobile field campaigns.

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Michael I. Biggerstaff, Eun-Kyoung Seo, Svetla M. Hristova-Veleva, and Kwang-Yul Kim

Abstract

The impact of model microphysics on the relationships among hydrometeor profiles, latent heating, and derived satellite microwave brightness temperatures TB have been examined using a nonhydrostatic, adaptive-grid cloud model to simulate a mesoscale convective system over water. Two microphysical schemes (each employing three-ice bulk parameterizations) were tested for two different assumptions in the number of ice crystals assumed to be activated at 0°C to produce simulations with differing amounts of supercooled cloud water. The model output was examined using empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis, which provided a quantitative framework in which to compare the simulations. Differences in the structure of the vertical anomaly patterns were related to physical processes and attributed to different approaches in cloud microphysical parameterizations in the two schemes. Correlations between the first EOF coefficients of cloud properties and TB at frequencies associated with the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) showed additional differences between the two parameterization schemes that affected the relationship between hydrometeors and TB. Classified in terms of TB, the microphysical schemes produced significantly different mean vertical profiles of cloud water, cloud ice, snow, vertical velocity, and latent heating. The impact of supercooled cloud water on the 85-GHz TB led to a 15% variation in mean convective rain mass at the surface. The variability in mean profiles produced by the four simulations indicates that the retrievals of cloud properties, especially latent heating, based on TMI frequencies are dependent on the particular microphysical parameterizations used to construct the retrieval database.

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Corey K. Potvin, Daniel Betten, Louis J. Wicker, Kimberly L. Elmore, and Michael I. Biggerstaff

Abstract

Use of the three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVAR) framework in dual-Doppler wind analysis (DDA) offers several advantages over traditional techniques. Perhaps the most important is that the errors that result from explicit integration of the mass continuity equation in traditional methods are avoided. In this study, observing system simulation experiments (OSSEs) are used to compare supercell thunderstorm wind retrievals from a 3DVAR DDA technique and three traditional DDA methods. The 3DVAR technique produces better wind retrievals near the top of the storm than the traditional methods in the experiments. This is largely attributed to the occurrence of severe errors aloft in the traditional retrievals whether the continuity equation integration proceeds upward (due to vertically accumulating errors), downward (due to severe boundary condition errors arising from uncertainty in the horizontal divergence field aloft), or in both directions. Smaller, but statistically significant, improvement occurs near the ground using the 3DVAR method. When lack of upper-level observations prevents application of a top boundary condition in the traditional DDA framework, the 3DVAR approach produces better analyses at all levels. These results strongly suggest the 3DVAR DDA framework is generally preferable to traditional formulations.

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Kristin M. Calhoun, Donald R. MacGorman, Conrad L. Ziegler, and Michael I. Biggerstaff

Abstract

A high-precipitation tornadic supercell storm was observed on 29–30 May 2004 during the Thunderstorm Electrification and Lightning Experiment. Observational systems included the Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array, mobile balloon-borne soundings, and two mobile C-band radars. The spatial distribution and evolution of lightning are related to storm kinematics and microphysics, specifically through regions of microphysical charging and the location and geometry of those charge regions. Lightning flashes near the core of this storm were extraordinarily frequent, but tended to be of shorter duration and smaller horizontal extent than typical flashes elsewhere. This is hypothesized to be due to the charge being in many small pockets, with opposite polarities of charge close together in adjoining pockets. Thus, each polarity of lightning leader could propagate only a relatively short distance before reaching regions of unfavorable electric potential. In the anvil, however, lightning extended tens of kilometers from the reflectivity cores in roughly horizontal layers, consistent with the charge spreading through the anvil in broad sheets. The strong, consistent updraft of this high-precipitation supercell storm combined with the large hydrometeor concentrations to produce the extremely high flash rates observed during the analysis period. The strength and size of the updraft also contributed to unique lightning characteristics such as the transient hole of reduced lightning density and discharges in the overshooting top.

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Nicole R. Lund, Donald R. MacGorman, Terry J. Schuur, Michael I. Biggerstaff, and W. David Rust

Abstract

On 19 June 2004, the Thunderstorm Electrification and Lightning Experiment observed electrical, microphysical, and kinematic properties of a small mesoscale convective system (MCS). The primary observing systems were the Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array, the KOUN S-band polarimetric radar, two mobile C-band Doppler radars, and balloonborne electric field meters. During its mature phase, this MCS had a normal tripolar charge structure (lightning involved a midlevel negative charge between an upper and a lower positive charge), and flash rates fluctuated between 80 and 100 flashes per minute. Most lightning was initiated within one of two altitude ranges (3–6 or 7–10 km MSL) and within the 35-dBZ contours of convective cells embedded within the convective line. The properties of two such cells were investigated in detail, with the first lasting approximately 40 min and producing only 12 flashes and the second lasting over an hour and producing 105 flashes. In both, lightning was initiated in or near regions containing graupel. The upper lightning initiation region (7–10 km MSL) was near 35–47.5-dBZ contours, with graupel inferred below and ice crystals inferred above. The lower lightning initiation region (3–6 km MSL) was in the upper part of melting or freezing layers, often near differential reflectivity columns extending above the 0°C isotherm, which is suggestive of graupel formation. Both lightning initiation regions are consistent with what is expected from the noninductive graupel–ice thunderstorm electrification mechanism, though inductive processes may also have contributed to initiations in the lower region.

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Patrick S. Skinner, Christopher C. Weiss, John L. Schroeder, Louis J. Wicker, and Michael I. Biggerstaff

Abstract

In situ data collected within a weakly tornadic, high-precipitation supercell occurring on 23 May 2007 near Perryton, Texas, are presented. Data were collected using a recently developed fleet of 22 durable, rapidly deployable probes dubbed “StickNet” as well as four mobile mesonet probes. Kinematic and thermodynamic observations of boundaries within the supercell are described in tandem with an analysis of data from the Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radar.

Observations within the rear-flank downdraft of the storm exhibit large deficits of both virtual potential temperature and equivalent potential temperature, with a secondary rear-flank downdraft gust front trailing the mesocyclone. A primarily thermodynamic boundary resided across the forward-flank reflectivity gradient of the supercell. This boundary is characterized by small deficits in virtual potential temperature coupled with positive perturbations of equivalent potential temperature. The opposing thermodynamic perturbations appear to be representative of modified storm inflow, with a flux of water vapor responsible for the positive perturbations of the equivalent potential temperature. Air parcels exhibiting negative perturbations of virtual potential temperature and positive perturbations of equivalent potential temperature have the ability to be a source of both baroclinically generated streamwise horizontal vorticity and greater potential buoyancy if ingested by the low-level mesocyclone.

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Jennifer L. Palucki, Michael I. Biggerstaff, Donald R. MacGorman, and Terry Schuur

Abstract

Two small multicellular convective areas within a larger mesoscale convective system that occurred on 20 June 2004 were examined to assess vertical motion, radar reflectivity, and dual-polarimetric signatures between flash and non-flash-producing convection. Both of the convective areas had similar life cycles and general structures. Yet, one case produced two flashes, one of which may have been a cloud-to-ground flash, while the other convective area produced no flashes. The non-lightning-producing case had a higher peak reflectivity up to 6 km. Hence, if a reflectivity-based threshold were used as a precursor to lightning, it would have yielded misleading results. The peak upward motion in the mixed-phase region for both cases was 8 m s−1 or less. However, the lightning-producing storm contained a wider region where the updraft exceeded 5 m s−1. Consistent with the broader updraft region, the lightning-producing case exhibited a distinct graupel signature over a broader region than the non-lightning-producing convection. Slight differences in vertical velocity affected the quantity of graupel present in the mixed-phase region, thereby providing the subtle differences in polarimetric signatures that were associated with lightning activity. If the results here are generally applicable, then graupel volume may be a better precursor to a lightning flash than radar reflectivity. With the dual-polarimetric upgrade to the national observing radar network, it should be possible to better distinguish between lightning- and non-lightning-producing areas in weak convective systems that pose a potential safety hazard to the public.

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Eric C. Bruning, W. David Rust, Donald R. MacGorman, Michael I. Biggerstaff, and Terry J. Schuur

Abstract

Lightning mapping, electric field, and radar data from the 26 May 2004 supercell in central Oklahoma are used to examine the storm’s charge structure. An initial arc-shaped maximum in lightning activity on the right flank of the storm’s bounded weak echo region was composed of an elevated normal polarity tripole in the region of precipitation lofted above the storm’s weak echo region. Later in the storm, two charge structures were associated with precipitation that reached the ground. To the left of the weak echo region, six charge regions were inferred, with positive charge carried on hail at the bottom of the stack. Farther forward in the storm’s precipitation region, four charge regions were inferred, with negative charge at the bottom of the stack. There were different charge structures in adjacent regions of the storm at the same time, and regions of opposite polarity charge were horizontally adjacent at the same altitude. Flashes occasionally lowered positive charge to ground from the forward charge region. A conceptual model is presented that ties charge structure in different regions of the storm to storm structure inferred from radar reflectivity.

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Jeffrey A. Makowski, Donald R. MacGorman, Michael I. Biggerstaff, and William H. Beasley

Abstract

The advent of regional very high frequency (VHF) Lightning Mapping Arrays (LMAs) makes it possible to begin analyzing trends in total lightning characteristics in ensembles of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Flash initiations observed by the Oklahoma LMA and ground strikes observed by the National Lightning Detection Network were surveyed relative to infrared satellite and base-scan radar reflectivity imagery for 30 mesoscale convective systems occurring over a 7-yr period. Total lightning data were available for only part of the life cycle of most MCSs, but well-defined peaks in flash rates were usually observed for MCSs having longer periods of data. The mean of the maximum 10-min flash rates for the ensemble of MCSs was 203 min−1 for total flashes and 41 min−1 for cloud-to-ground flashes (CGs). In total, 21% of flashes were CGs and 13% of CGs lowered positive charge to ground. MCSs with the largest maximum flash rates entered Oklahoma in the evening before midnight. All three MCSs entering Oklahoma in early morning after sunrise had among the smallest maximum flash rates. Flash initiations were concentrated in or near regions of larger reflectivity and colder cloud tops. The CG flash rates and total flash rates frequently evolved similarly, although the fraction of flashes striking ground usually increased as an MCS decayed. Total flash rates tended to peak approximately 90 min before the maximum area of the −52°C cloud shield, but closer in time to the maximum area of colder cloud shields. MCSs whose −52°C cloud shield grew faster tended to have larger flash rates.

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