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Thomas R. Parish
and
David Leon

Abstract

Vertical accelerations during the early stages of convective cloud formation are often the result of buoyancy and the perturbation vertical pressure gradient forces. Convection modifies the local pressure field surrounding the cloud. Measurement of the cloud perturbation pressure field is challenging over distance scales on the order of the convective elements, since the signals are often small and the turbulent environment complicates the measurement of static pressure. A technique is described that enables detection of the horizontal pressure perturbations associated with evolving convective clouds using global positioning system measurements on an airborne platform. Differential kinematic processing of data from dual-frequency, carrier-phase-tracking GPS receivers on research aircraft with static base station receivers enables the three-dimensional aircraft position to be resolved within decimeters. Vertical positioning and precise measurement of static pressure allow horizontal pressure perturbations to be determined to an accuracy of roughly 10 Pa. Errors in the static pressure measurement, rather than the GPS-derived altitude, are the largest source of error. A field experiment was conducted in May–June 2008 to demonstrate measurement of perturbations in the horizontal pressure field associated with summertime cumulus congestus clouds over the high plains. Observations of growing convective clouds show negative pressure perturbations on the order of 100 Pa near cloud base linked to updraft regions. Growing cumulus show a high degree of variability between subsequent passes that demonstrate that the horizontal pressure fields evolve rapidly along with attendant vertical circulations and cloud microphysical characteristics.

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John Molinari
,
David M. Romps
,
David Vollaro
, and
Leon Nguyen

Abstract

Convective available potential energy (CAPE) and the vertical distribution of buoyancy were calculated for more than 2000 dropsonde soundings collected by the NOAA Gulfstream-IV aircraft. Calculations were done with and without the effects of condensate loading, entrainment, and the latent heat of fusion. CAPE showed larger values downshear than upshear within 400 km of the center, consistent with the observed variation of convective intensity. The larger downshear CAPE arose from (i) higher surface specific humidity, (ii) lower midtropospheric temperature, and, for entraining CAPE, (iii) larger free-tropospheric relative humidity.

Reversible CAPE had only one-half the magnitude of pseudoadiabatic CAPE. As shown previously, reversible CAPE with fusion closely resembled pseudoadiabatic CAPE without fusion. Entrainment had the most dramatic impact. Entraining CAPE was consistent with the observed radial distribution of convective intensity, displaying the largest values downshear at inner radii. Without entrainment, downshear CAPE was smallest in the core and increased outward to the 600-km radius.

The large number of sondes allowed the examination of soundings at the 90th percentile of conditional instability, which reflect the conditions leading to the most vigorous updrafts. Observations of convection in tropical cyclones prescribe the correct method for calculating this conditional instability. In particular, the abundance and distribution of vigorous deep convection is most accurately reflected by calculating CAPE with condensate retention and a fractional entrainment rate in the range of 5%–10% km−1.

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Jefferson R. Snider
,
David Leon
, and
Zhien Wang

Abstract

Several airborne field experiments have been conducted to verify model descriptions of cloud droplet activation. Measurements of cloud condensation nuclei and updraft are inputs to a parcel model that predicts droplet concentration and droplet size distributions (spectra). Experiments conducted within cumulus clouds have yielded the most robust agreement between model and observation. Investigations of stratocumulus clouds are more varied, in part because of the difficulty of gauging the effects of entrainment and drizzle on droplet concentration and spectra. Airborne lidar is used here to supplement the approach used in prior studies of droplet activation in stratocumulus clouds.

A model verification study was conducted using data acquired during the Southern Hemispheric VAMOS Ocean–Cloud–Aerosol–Land Study Regional Experiment. Consistency between observed and modeled droplet concentrations is achieved, but only after accounting for the effects of entrainment and drizzle on concentrations produced by droplet activation. In addition, predicted spectral dispersions are 74% of the measured dispersions following correction for instrument broadening. This result is consistent with the conjecture that differential activation (at cloud base) and internal mixing (i.e., mixing without entrainment) are important drivers of true spectral broadening.

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Thomas R. Parish
,
David A. Rahn
, and
David Leon

Abstract

The summertime marine atmospheric boundary layer off the California coast is normally characterized by northerly winds associated with the Pacific high. This pattern is occasionally disturbed by episodes of southerly winds and a finger of fog or low stratus adjacent to the coastline extending approximately 100 km offshore. These events propagate northward along the coast with speeds between 5 and 12 m s−1 and have a life span of several days. These occurrences have been referred to as coastally trapped wind reversals (CTWRs), coastally trapped disturbances, or southerly surges. The CTWR event of 22–25 June 2006 was explored by the University of Wyoming King Air research aircraft to document the physical characteristics of the wind reversal in an attempt to infer the forcing mechanisms responsible for the propagation. Two flights from 23 June are presented that are representative of the CTWR during its mature stage. Sawtooth maneuvers depict the CTWR vertical structure, and isobaric legs directly measure the horizontal pressure gradient force (PGF). Observations showed a thickening of the CTWR layer in an alongshore direction to the south. The inversion layer varies throughout the day with the final sawtooth leg depicting clear dynamic destabilization within the inversion layer. A PGF is present at the head of the CTWR that is directed northward. No significant PGF was detected in the cross-shore direction, suggesting that for this case there is little variation in the depth of the marine boundary layer normal to the coast.

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Thomas R. Parish
,
David A. Rahn
, and
David C. Leon

Abstract

Mountains along the California coastline play a critical role in the dynamics of marine atmospheric boundary layer (MBL) airflow in the vicinity of the shoreline. Large changes in the MBL topology have been known to occur downwind of points and capes along the western coast of the United States. Large spatial gradients in wind and temperature become established that can cause anomalous electromagnetic wave propagation. Detailed airborne measurements using the University of Wyoming King Air were conducted to study the adjustment of the MBL to the Point Arguello and Point Conception headlands. Pronounced thinning of the MBL consistent with an expansion fan occurred to the south of Point Conception on 13 June 2012. A sharp cloud edge was collocated with the near collapse of the MBL. D-value cross sections derived from differential GPS altitude measurements allow assessment of the vertical profile of the horizontal pressure gradient force and hence thermal wind forcing in response to the near collapse of the MBL. The Weather Research and Forecasting Model was run with a 1-km grid spacing to examine the atmospheric adjustment around Point Conception during this period. Results from the simulations including the vertical cross sections of the horizontal pressure gradient force were consistent with the aircraft observations. Model results suggest that divergence occurs as the flow rounds Point Conception, characteristic of an expansion fan. Wind speeds in the MBL increase coincident with the decrease in MBL thickness, and subsiding flow associated with the near collapse of the MBL is responsible for the sharp cloud edge.

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David A. Rahn
,
Thomas R. Parish
, and
David Leon

Abstract

Particularly strong winds along the coast of Southern California on 24 May 2012 were measured by the Wyoming King Air research aircraft during the Precision Atmospheric Marine Boundary Layer Experiment (PreAMBLE). The fast flow is bounded laterally by the coastal topography and vertically by a pronounced temperature inversion separating the cool, moist air in the marine boundary layer (MBL) from the warm, dry air aloft. Many studies have investigated the response of this two-layer flow to changes in the coastline by invoking hydraulic theory, which explains the essential characteristics including changes in MBL depth and the attendant wind. Processes occurring just above the MBL are important to the low-level thermodynamic and kinematic structure. Observations on this day demonstrate how the large shear above the MBL can impact the lower atmosphere. A typical two-layer system was observed north of Point Buchon, which was supercritical. Around Point Buchon, the depth of the MBL decreased and wind increased, characteristic of an expansion fan. As a result, the Richardson number becomes reduced and favors shear instability that breaks down into turbulence. Observations indicate that a secondary well-mixed layer develops above the MBL that is bounded by narrow layers of high stability separating the secondary layer from the MBL below and the free troposphere above. It is hypothesized that the secondary layer develops as a result of Kelvin–Helmholtz instability, although more targeted observations are needed to confirm or reject that hypothesis.

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David A. Rahn
,
Thomas R. Parish
, and
David Leon

Abstract

Research flights during the Precision Atmospheric Marine Boundary Layer Experiment (PreAMBLE) in Southern California during May–June 2012 focused on three main features found in the nearshore marine boundary layer (MBL): the coastal jet (10 flights), the Catalina eddy (3 flights), and the initiation of a southerly surge (1 flight). Several topics were examined with case studies, but results from individual events may not represent typical conditions. Although these flights do not constitute a long-term set of data, observations from PreAMBLE are used to find common features. Two main topics are addressed: the MBL collapse into the expansion fan, and the subsequent transition into the Santa Barbara Channel (SBC). The midmorning to late afternoon flights occur during moderate to strong northerly wind. Slope of the MBL in the expansion fan varies and wave perturbations can be embedded within the expansion fan. As the cool MBL flow turns into the SBC, it moves underneath a deeper and warmer MBL that originates from the southeast over the warmer ocean. The temperature inversion between the cool and warm MBL erodes toward the east until there is only the inversion between the warm MBL and free troposphere. The dissipation of the lower layer into the SBC observed by the aircraft differs from previous conceptual models that depict a continuous MBL that thins and then deepens again in the SBC, which was inferred from sparse observations and numerical simulations. Only one flight within the SBC detected a hydraulic jump from 100 to 200 m above the surface.

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David A. Rahn
,
Thomas R. Parish
, and
David Leon

Abstract

Typical spring and summer conditions offshore of California consist of strong northerly low-level wind contained within the cool, well-mixed marine boundary layer (MBL) that is separated from the warm and dry free troposphere by a sharp temperature inversion. This system is often represented by two layers constrained by a lateral boundary. Aircraft measurements near Point Conception, California, on 3 June 2012 during the Precision Atmospheric MBL Experiment (PreAMBLE) captured small-scale features associated with northerly flow approaching the point with the added complexity of encountering opposing wind in the Santa Barbara Channel. An extremely sharp cloud edge extends south-southwest of Point Conception and the flight strategy consisted of a spoke pattern to map the features across the cloud edge. Lidar and in situ measurements reveal a nearly vertical jump in the MBL from 500 to 100 m close to the coast and a sharp edge at least 70 km away from the coast. In this case, it is hypothesized that it is not solely hydraulic features responsible for the jump, but the opposing flow in the Santa Barbara Channel is a major factor modifying the flow. Just southeast of Point Conception are three distinct layers: a shallow, cold layer near the surface with northwesterly winds associated with an abrupt decrease in MBL height from the north that thins eastward into the Santa Barbara Channel; a cool middle layer with easterly wind whose top slopes upward to the east; and the warm and dry free troposphere above.

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David A. Rahn
,
Thomas R. Parish
, and
David Leon

Abstract

Low-level winds along the Californian coast during spring and early summer are typically strong and contained within the cool, well-mixed marine boundary layer (MBL). A temperature inversion separates the MBL from the warmer free troposphere. This setup is often represented by a two-layer shallow-water system with a lateral boundary. Near a prominent point such as Point Conception, California, the fast-moving MBL flow is supercritical and can exhibit distinct features including a compression bulge and an expansion fan. Measurements from the University of Wyoming King Air research aircraft on 19 May 2012 during the Precision Atmospheric MBL Experiment (PreAMBLE) captured wind in excess of 14 m s−1 off of Point Conception under clear skies and wind ~2 m s−1 east of San Miguel in the California Bight. A compression bulge was identified upwind of Point Conception. When the flow rounds the point, the MBL undergoes a near collapse and there is a spike in MBL height embedded in the general decrease of MBL height with greater turbulence just downwind that is associated with greater mixing through the inversion layer. Lidar and in situ measurements reveal that transport of continental aerosol is present near the pronounced MBL height change and that there is a complex vertical structure within the Santa Barbara Channel. Horizontal pressure gradients are obtained by measuring the slope of an isobaric surface. Observations of wind and pressure perturbations are able to be linked through a simple Bernoulli relationship. Variation of MBL depth explains most, but not all of the variation of the isobaric surface.

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Thomas R. Parish
,
David A. Rahn
, and
Dave Leon

Abstract

Use of an airborne platform to determine the dynamics of atmospheric motion has been ongoing for over three decades. Much of the effort has been centered on the determination of the horizontal pressure gradient force along an isobaric surface, and with wind measurements the nongeostrophic components of motion can be obtained. Recent advances using differential GPS-based altitude measurements allow accurate assessment of the geostrophic wind. Porpoise or sawtooth maneuvers are used to determine the vertical cross section of the horizontal pressure gradient force. D-values, the difference of the height of a given pressure level from that in a reference atmosphere, are used to isolate the vertical structure of the horizontal component of the pressure gradient force from the vastly larger hydrostatic pressure gradient. Comparison of measured D-value cross sections with airborne measurements of the horizontal pressure gradient is shown. Comparison of D-values with output from the WRF Model demonstrates that the airborne measurements are consistent with finescale numerical simulations. This technique provides a means of inferring the thermal wind, thereby enabling a detailed examination of the vertical structure of the forcing of mesoscale and synoptic-scale wind regimes.

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