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Christopher P. Woods, Mark T. Stoelinga, John D. Locatelli, and Peter V. Hobbs


On 13–14 December 2001 a vigorous cyclonic storm passed over the Pacific Northwest, producing heavy orographic precipitation over the Cascade Mountains. This storm was one of several studied during the second field phase of the Improvement of Microphysical Parameterization through Observational Verification Experiment (IMPROVE). A wide variety of in situ and remotely sensed measurements were obtained as this storm passed over the Oregon Cascades. These measurements provided a comprehensive dataset of meteorological state parameters (temperature, pressure, humidity, winds, and vertical air velocity), polarization Doppler radar measurements, and cloud microphysical parameters (cloud liquid water, particle concentrations, size spectra, and imagery).

The 13–14 December case was characterized by the passage of a tipped-forward lower-tropospheric front that extended upward to a preceding vigorous upper cold-frontal rainband, which produced clouds up to ∼8–9 km. An important difference between this storm and those studied previously over the Washington Cascades was that the prefrontal low-level airflow over the Oregon Cascades was characterized by strong westerly (as opposed to weak easterly) cross-barrier flow. Consequently, as the upper cold-frontal band passed over the Oregon Cascades there was both strong ice particle production aloft and significant production of liquid water at lower levels in the orographic lifting zone. Airborne in situ measurements, ground-based microwave radiometer measurements, and observations of snow crystals showed the simultaneous presence of high ice crystal concentrations and relatively large values of cloud liquid water aloft, and heavily rimed particles reaching the ground. Analyses indicate that a synergistic interaction occurred between the frontal and orographic precipitation.

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Michael J. Brown, John D. Locatelli, Mark T. Stoelinga, and Peter V. Hobbs


A nonhydrostatic, three-dimensional, mesoscale model, including cloud physics, is used to simulate the structure of a narrow cold-frontal rainband (NCFR). The model simulations reproduce the observed “core–gap” structure of the NCFR. Trapped gravity waves, triggered by regions of stronger convection on the cold front, induce subsidence and regions of warming aloft. In these regions, precipitation is suppressed, thereby creating precipitation gaps along the front separated by precipitation cores. The advection of hydrometeors is responsible for the parallel orientation and the elliptical shapes of the precipitation cores.

Gravity waves produce pressure perturbations just behind the cold front, which modify the wind and thermal structure. Parts of the front behave locally like a gravity current, traveling at the theoretical gravity current speed in a direction perpendicular to the local orientation of the front, but the motion of the front as a whole is not well described by the gravity current speed calculated from quantities averaged along the length of the front.

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Mark T. Stoelinga, Peter V. Hobbs, Clifford F. Mass, John D. Locatelli, Brian A. Colle, Robert A. Houze Jr., Arthur L. Rangno, Nicholas A. Bond, Bradley F. Smull, Roy M. Rasmussen, Gregory Thompson, and Bradley R. Colman

Despite continual increases in numerical model resolution and significant improvements in the forecasting of many meteorological parameters, progress in quantitative precipitation forecasting (QPF) has been slow. This is attributable in part to deficiencies in the bulk microphysical parameterization (BMP) schemes used in mesoscale models to simulate cloud and precipitation processes. These deficiencies have become more apparent as model resolution has increased. To address these problems requires comprehensive data that can be used to isolate errors in QPF due to BMP schemes from those due to other sources. These same data can then be used to evaluate and improve the microphysical processes and hydrometeor fields simulated by BMP schemes. In response to the need for such data, a group of researchers is collaborating on a study titled the Improvement of Microphysical Parameterization through Observational Verification Experiment (IMPROVE). IMPROVE has included two field campaigns carried out in the Pacific Northwest: an offshore frontal precipitation study off the Washington coast in January–February 2001, and an orographic precipitation study in the Oregon Cascade Mountains in November–December 2001. Twenty-eight intensive observation periods yielded a uniquely comprehensive dataset that includes in situ airborne observations of cloud and precipitation microphysical parameters; remotely sensed reflectivity, dual-Doppler, and polarimetric quantities; upper-air wind, temperature, and humidity data; and a wide variety of surface-based meteorological, precipitation, and microphysical data. These data are being used to test mesoscale model simulations of the observed storm systems and, in particular, to evaluate and improve the BMP schemes used in such models. These studies should lead to improved QPF in operational forecast models.

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