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  • Author or Editor: Jerry M. Straka x
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David M. Schultz
,
Katharine M. Kanak
,
Jerry M. Straka
,
Robert J. Trapp
,
Brent A. Gordon
,
Dusan S. Zrnić
,
George H. Bryan
,
Adam J. Durant
,
Timothy J. Garrett
,
Petra M. Klein
, and
Douglas K. Lilly

Abstract

Mammatus clouds are an intriguing enigma of atmospheric fluid dynamics and cloud physics. Most commonly observed on the underside of cumulonimbus anvils, mammatus also occur on the underside of cirrus, cirrocumulus, altocumulus, altostratus, and stratocumulus, as well as in contrails from jet aircraft and pyrocumulus ash clouds from volcanic eruptions. Despite their aesthetic appearance, mammatus have been the subject of few quantitative research studies. Observations of mammatus have been obtained largely through serendipitous opportunities with a single observing system (e.g., aircraft penetrations, visual observations, lidar, radar) or tangential observations from field programs with other objectives. Theories describing mammatus remain untested, as adequate measurements for validation do not exist because of the small distance scales and short time scales of mammatus. Modeling studies of mammatus are virtually nonexistent. As a result, relatively little is known about the environment, formation mechanisms, properties, microphysics, and dynamics of mammatus.

This paper presents a review of mammatus clouds that addresses these mysteries. Previous observations of mammatus and proposed formation mechanisms are discussed. These hypothesized mechanisms are anvil subsidence, subcloud evaporation/sublimation, melting, hydrometeor fallout, cloud-base detrainment instability, radiative effects, gravity waves, Kelvin–Helmholtz instability, Rayleigh–Taylor instability, and Rayleigh–Bénard-like convection. Other issues addressed in this paper include whether mammatus are composed of ice or liquid water hydrometeors, why mammatus are smooth, what controls the temporal and spatial scales and organization of individual mammatus lobes, and what are the properties of volcanic ash clouds that produce mammatus? The similarities and differences between mammatus, virga, stalactites, and reticular clouds are also discussed. Finally, because much still remains to be learned, research opportunities are described for using mammatus as a window into the microphysical, turbulent, and dynamical processes occurring on the underside of clouds.

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Donald R. MacGorman
,
W. David Rust
,
Terry J. Schuur
,
Michael I. Biggerstaff
,
Jerry M. Straka
,
Conrad L. Ziegler
,
Edward R. Mansell
,
Eric C. Bruning
,
Kristin M. Kuhlman
,
Nicole R. Lund
,
Nicholas S. Biermann
,
Clark Payne
,
Larry D. Carey
,
Paul R. Krehbiel
,
William Rison
,
Kenneth B. Eack
, and
William H. Beasley

The field program of the Thunderstorm Electrification and Lightning Experiment (TELEX) took place in central Oklahoma, May–June 2003 and 2004. It aimed to improve understanding of the interrelationships among microphysics, kinematics, electrification, and lightning in a broad spectrum of storms, particularly squall lines and storms whose electrical structure is inverted from the usual vertical polarity. The field program was built around two permanent facilities: the KOUN polarimetric radar and the Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array. In addition, balloon-borne electric-field meters and radiosondes were launched together from a mobile laboratory to measure electric fields, winds, and standard thermodynamic parameters inside storms. In 2004, two mobile C-band Doppler radars provided high-resolution coordinated volume scans, and another mobile facility provided the environmental soundings required for modeling studies. Data were obtained from 22 storm episodes, including several small isolated thunderstorms, mesoscale convective systems, and supercell storms. Examples are presented from three storms. A heavy-precipitation supercell storm on 29 May 2004 produced greater than three flashes per second for 1.5 h. Holes in the lightning density formed and dissipated sequentially in the very strong updraft and bounded weak echo region of the mesocyclone. In a small squall line on 19 June 2004, most lightning flashes in the stratiform region were initiated in or near strong updrafts in the convective line and involved positive charge in the upper part of the radar bright band. In a small thunderstorm on 29 June 2004, lightning activity began as polarimetric signatures of graupel first appeared near lightning initiation regions.

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