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Robert J. Trapp
,
Kimberly A. Hoogewind
, and
Sonia Lasher-Trapp

Abstract

The effect of anthropogenically enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations on the frequency and intensity of hail depends on a range of physical processes and scales. These include the environmental support of the hail-generating convective storms and the frequency of their initiation, the storm volume over which hail growth is promoted, and the depth of the lower atmosphere conducive to melting. Here, we use high-resolution (convection permitting) dynamical downscaling to simultaneously account for these effects. We find broad geographical areas of increases in the frequency of large hail ( 35-mm diameter) over the United States, during all four seasons. Increases in very large hail ( 50-mm diameter) are mostly confined to the central United States, during boreal spring and summer. And, although increases in moderate hail ( 20-mm diameter) are also found throughout the year, decreases occur over much of the eastern United States in summer. Such decreases result from a projected decrease in convective-storm frequency. Overall, these results suggest that the annual U.S. hail season may begin earlier in the year, be lengthened by more than a week, and exhibit more interannual variability in the future.

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Sonia Lasher-Trapp
,
Sophie A. Orendorf
, and
Robert J. Trapp

Abstract

Derechos are extensive swaths of damaging winds produced by some long-lived, widespread mesoscale convective systems. Little research has been conducted concerning how derecho mechanisms might change in a future, warmer climate. In this study, the pseudo–global warming method is utilized to evaluate how the 10 August 2020 midwestern U.S. derecho, the costliest thunderstorm event in U.S. history to date, might differ if it instead occurred in a warmer climate at the end of this century. The 10 August derecho event is first simulated in its observed environment, and then resimulated in environments altered according to projections from different climate models using a high-emissions climate change scenario. Results suggest that near the end of this century, a similar derecho event may not necessarily have more intense winds but could possibly impact a geographical area 50% to 100% larger. The physical chain of events leading to this greater geographical impact result from the derecho winds beginning earlier in the storm lifetime, due to increased precipitation combined with decreased relative humidity right above the ground, and derecho winds extending northward due to a strengthening of the parent storm from increased instability there. All these factors enhance the area of evaporative cooling and thus the cold pool, which in turn extends the area covered by the rear-inflow jet within the storm, the likely main mechanism for most of the damaging winds at the ground in the historical event. More study of other cases is required to evaluate the generality of this result.

Open access
Holly Mallinson
,
Sonia Lasher-Trapp
,
Jeff Trapp
,
Matthew Woods
, and
Sophie Orendorf

Abstract

Severe convective storms (SCS) and their associated hazards present significant societal risk. Understanding of how these hazards, such as hailfall, may change due to anthropogenic climate change is in its infancy. Previous methods used to investigate possible changes in SCS and their hail used climate model output and were limited by their coarse spatiotemporal resolution and less detailed representations of hail. This study instead uses an event-level pseudo–global warming (PGW) approach to simulate seven different hailstorms in their historical environments, and again in five different end-of-century PGW environments obtained from the worst-case scenario increases in CO2 of five different CMIP5 members. Changes in large-scale environmental parameters were generally found to be consistent with prior studies, showing mostly increases in CAPE, CIN, and precipitable water, with minor changes in vertical wind shear. Nearly all simulated events had moderately stronger updrafts in the PGW environments. Only cold-season events showed an increase in hail sizes both within the storms and at the surface, whereas warm-season events exhibited a decrease in hail sizes at the surface and aloft. Changes in the event-total hailfall area at the ground also showed a seasonal trend, with increases in cold-season events and decreases in warm-season events. Melting depths increased for all PGW environments, and these increases likely contributed to greater rainfall area for warm-season events, where an increase in smaller hail aloft would be more prone to melting. The differences in PGW simulation hail sizes in cold-season and warm-season events found here are likely related to differences in microphysical processes and warrant future study.

Significance Statement

It is uncertain how severe thunderstorm hazards (such as hail, tornadoes, and damaging winds) may change due to human-induced climate change. Given the significant societal risk these hazards pose, this study seeks to better understand how hailstorms may change in the future. Simulated end-of-century storms in winter months showed larger hail sizes and a larger area of event-total hailfall than in the historical simulations, whereas simulated future storms in spring and summer months showed smaller hail sizes and a reduction in the area where hail fell. An analysis of traditional environmental and storm-scale properties did not reveal a clear distinction between cold-season and warm-season hailstorms, suggesting that changes in small-scale precipitation processes may be responsible.

Restricted access
Charles A. Knight
,
Jothiram Vivekanandan
, and
Sonia G. Lasher-Trapp

Abstract

The early histories of radar echo and polarization differential reflectivity (Z DR) from growing cumulus clouds observed in Florida with a 10-cm-wavelength radar are reported in detail. Raindrops 1 to several millimeters in diameter are present at about cloud-base level in most cases as soon as any identifiable precipitation echo is seen within cloud (distinct from Bragg scattering and echo from cloud droplets). This is in most cases by the time of the first 10-dBZ radar echo aloft. The very early occurrence of large drops is consistent with origination directly from coalescence on ultragiant aerosol. However, they appear to exist so early and so low in the clouds as to be unexpected if the cumulus were single, vigorous thermals. The explanation may lie in the presence of a more gradual, very early cloud stage that is generally not observed in any detail. Simultaneous Z e and Z DR measurements in the early stages of developing, warm cumulus will provide a powerful test of understanding the onset of drop growth by coalescence.

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William A. Cooper
,
Sonia G. Lasher-Trapp
, and
Alan M. Blyth

Abstract

The objective of this study is to address the problem of the production of rain in warm cumulus clouds that has been observed to occur within about 20 min. A hybrid model approach is used where a microphysical parcel model is run along trajectories produced by a 3D cloud model, with sufficiently high resolution to allow explicit representation of the effects of entrainment and mixing. The model calculations take the next step from the previous study, which showed that entrainment and mixing can accelerate the diffusional growth of cloud droplets to the production of raindrops by collision and coalescence. The mechanism depends on the variability in droplet trajectories arriving at a given location and time in a cumulus cloud. The resulting broadening favors collisions among droplets in the main peak of the droplet size distribution, which leads to the production of raindrop embryos. However, this production and the subsequent growth of the embryos to become raindrops only occur in regions of relatively high cloud water content. The modeling framework allows an objective test of this sequence of events that explain the seemingly contradictory notions of the enhancement of cloud droplet growth as a result of entrainment and mixing and the need for substantial cloud water content for collision and coalescence growth. The results show that raindrops can be produced within 20 min in warm cumulus clouds. The rain produced is sensitive to giant aerosols, but modification of the modeling framework is required to conduct a more robust test of their relative importance.

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Sonia G. Lasher-Trapp
,
Charles A. Knight
, and
Jerry M. Straka

Abstract

The growth of ultragiant aerosol (UGA) in a Lagrangian framework within a simulated three-dimensional cloud is analyzed and compared with radar and aircraft observations of a cumulus congestus collected during the Small Cumulus Microphysics Study (SCMS). UGA are ingested into the simulated cloud and grow by continuous collection; the resulting radar reflectivity factor and raindrop concentrations are evaluated at 1-min intervals. The calculations produce a substantial echo (>30 dBZ) within a short time (18 min), containing few raindrops (0.3 L−1). The calculated radar echo is very sensitive to the amount of UGA ingested into the modeled cloud and its liquid water content. The modeled radar echo and raindrop concentrations are consistent with the observations in that the differences fall within the modeling and measurement limitations and uncertainties.

Full access
Sonia G. Lasher-Trapp
,
William A. Cooper
, and
Alan M. Blyth

Abstract

Ultragiant aerosol particles (UGA) are potentially important for warm rain formation because of their ability to initiate coalescence immediately upon entering a cloud, so it is desirable to obtain local estimates during any field campaign that studies warm rain. Estimates of UGA in clear air from a one-dimensional optical array probe averaged over long time periods from the Small Cumulus Microphysics Study have been published in the literature, but further analysis and comparisons to other probes, presented here, show that the data on which these estimates were based were probably contaminated by noise. A possible explanation for the noise in the probe is given, as are new upper limits, based on few or no particles detected by a two-dimensional optical array probe.

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Sonia Lasher-Trapp
,
Enoch Jo
,
Luke R. Allen
,
Bryan N. Engelsen
, and
Robert J. Trapp

Abstract

The current study identifies and quantifies various mechanisms of entrainment, and their diluting effects, in the developing and mature stages of a simulated supercell thunderstorm. The two stages, differentiated by the lack or presence of a rotating updraft, are shown to entrain air by different, but related mechanisms that result from the strong vertical wind shear of the environment. The greatest entrainment rates in the developing stage result from the asymmetric overturning of large eddies near cloud top on the downshear side. These rates are greater than those published in the literature for cumuli developing in environments lacking strong shear. Although the entrainment rate increases exponentially in time throughout the developing stage, successive cloud turrets help to replenish some of the lost buoyancy and condensate, allowing the nascent storm to develop further. During the mature stage, the greatest entrainment rates occur via “ribbons” of horizontal vorticity wrapping around the rotating updraft that ascend in time. The smaller width of the ribbons in comparison to the wider storm core limits their dilutive effects. Passive tracers placed in the low-level air ingested by the mature storm indicate that on average 20% of the core contains some undiluted air from below the storm base, unaffected by any entrainment mechanism.

Open access
Paloma Borque
,
Stephen W. Nesbitt
,
Robert J. Trapp
,
Sonia Lasher-Trapp
, and
Mariko Oue

Abstract

Convectively generated cold pools are important to the Earth system as they exert strong controls on deep convective-storm initiation, intensity, and life cycle. Despite their importance, efforts to introduce such cold pool controls into weather and climate models lack guidance and/or physical constraints from cold pool observations. This work presents a detailed, purely observational analysis of a cold pool event that took place on 23–24 May 2011 in north-central Oklahoma. The characteristics of the cold pool, and the spatiotemporal evolution of the hydrometeors and dynamics in the proximity of the cold pool, are studied with high-resolution observations. The unprecedented dataset used in this work to study cold pool characteristics includes an enhanced network of surface weather stations, a high-temporal-frequency sounding array, and the NEXRAD and Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Southern Great Plains radar networks. The potential use of NEXRAD surveillance scans to estimate height and propagation speed of the leading edge of the cold pool (LECP) is presented in this work. Manual identification and tracking of the LECP from NEXRAD imagery shows a spatial and temporal heterogeneity of the LECP properties. Surprisingly, over its detected life cycle, the LECP speed remains almost constant, even though the strength of the cold pool diminishes in time and its height varies. Radar analysis shows that pulses of graupel and hail within downdrafts in the convective system generating the cold pool appeared to be related to temporary increases in the LECP height.

Free access
Alan M. Blyth
,
Sonia G. Lasher-Trapp
,
William A. Cooper
,
Charles A. Knight
, and
John Latham

Abstract

Observations of the formation of the first radar echoes in small cumulus clouds are compared with results of a stochastic coalescence model run in the framework of a closed parcel. The observations were made with an instrumented aircraft and a high-powered dual-wavelength radar during the Small Cumulus Microphysics Study (SCMS) in Florida. The principal conclusion is that coalescence growth on giant and ultragiant nuclei may be sufficient to explain observations.

The concentration of cloud droplets varied from under 300 cm−3 when surface winds were from the ocean, to over 1000 cm−3 when the wind direction was from the mainland. Although there is a slight tendency for the altitude of the first 0-dBZ echo to be lower on average in maritime than in continental clouds there were several cases where it was higher. The model results suggest that the lack of correlation is consistent with drops forming on giant and ultragiant nuclei. The first 0-dBZ echo was observed to form at higher altitudes in clouds with stronger updrafts.

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