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  • Author or Editor: E. O’Connor x
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R. A. Assel, J. E. Janowiak, D. Boyce, C. O'Connors, F. H. Quinn, and D. C. Norton

Winter 1997/98 occurred during one of the strongest warm El Niño events, and the Great Lakes experienced one of the least extensive ice covers of this century. Seasonal maximum ice cover for the combined area of the Great Lakes was the lowest on record (15%) relative to winters since 1963, a distinction formerly held by winter 1982/83 (25%), which was also an exceptionally strong El Niño winter. Maximum ice covers set new lows in winter 1997/98 for Lakes Erie (5%), Ontario (6%), and Superior (11%), tied the all-time low for Lake Huron (29%), and came close to tying the all-time low on Lake Michigan (15%; all-time low is 13%). Here the authors compare seasonal progression of lake-averaged ice cover for winter 1982/83, winter 1997/98, and a 20-winter normal (1960–79) derived from the NOAA Great Lakes Ice Atlas and discuss the 1997/98 ice cover in detail. Winter air temperatures in the Great Lakes were at or near record high levels, storms were displaced farther to the south over eastern North America, and precipitation was below average in the northern portion of the Great Lakes region. The Northern Hemispheric synoptic flow patterns responsible for this winter weather, the Great Lakes winter severity over the past two centuries, and impacts of this mild winter are briefly discussed.

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A. J. Illingworth, D. Cimini, C. Gaffard, M. Haeffelin, V. Lehmann, U. Löhnert, E. J. O’Connor, and D. Ruffieux


A new generation of high-resolution (1 km) forecast models promises to revolutionize the prediction of hazardous weather such as windstorms, flash floods, and poor air quality. To realize this promise, a dense observing network, focusing on the lower few kilometers of the atmosphere, is required to verify these new forecast models with the ultimate goal of assimilating the data. At present there are insufficient systematic observations of the vertical profiles of water vapor, temperature, wind, and aerosols; a major constraint is the absence of funding to install new networks. A recent research program financed by the European Union, tasked with addressing this lack of observations, demonstrated that the assimilation of observations from an existing wind profiler network reduces forecast errors, provided that the individual instruments are strategically located and properly maintained. Additionally, it identified three further existing European networks of instruments that are currently underexploited, but with minimal expense they could deliver quality-controlled data to national weather services in near–real time, so the data could be assimilated into forecast models. Specifically, 1) several hundred automatic lidars and ceilometers can provide backscatter profiles associated with aerosol and cloud properties and structures with 30-m vertical resolution every minute; 2) more than 20 Doppler lidars, a fairly new technology, can measure vertical and horizontal winds in the lower atmosphere with a vertical resolution of 30 m every 5 min; and 3) about 30 microwave profilers can estimate profiles of temperature and humidity in the lower few kilometers every 10 min. Examples of potential benefits from these instruments are presented.

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A. J. Illingworth, D. Cimini, A. Haefele, M. Haeffelin, M. Hervo, S. Kotthaus, U. Löhnert, P. Martinet, I. Mattis, E. J. O’Connor, and R. Potthast


To realize the promise of improved predictions of hazardous weather such as flash floods, wind storms, fog, and poor air quality from high-resolution mesoscale models, the forecast models must be initialized with an accurate representation of the current state of the atmosphere, but the lowest few kilometers are hardly accessible by satellite, especially in dynamically active conditions. We report on recent European developments in the exploitation of existing ground-based profiling instruments so that they are networked and able to send data in real time to forecast centers. The three classes of instruments are i) automatic lidars and ceilometers providing backscatter profiles of clouds, aerosols, dust, fog, and volcanic ash, the last two being especially important for air traffic control; ii) Doppler wind lidars deriving profiles of wind, turbulence, wind shear, wind gusts, and low-level jets; and iii) microwave radiometers estimating profiles of temperature and humidity in nearly all weather conditions. The project includes collaboration from 22 European countries and 15 European national weather services, which involves the implementation of common operating procedures, instrument calibrations, data formats, and retrieval algorithms. Currently, data from 265 ceilometers in 19 countries are being distributed in near–real time to national weather forecast centers; this should soon rise to many hundreds. One wind lidar is currently delivering real time data rising to 5 by the end of 2019, and the plan is to incorporate radiometers in 2020. Initial data assimilation tests indicate a positive impact of the new data.

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U. Löhnert, J. H. Schween, C. Acquistapace, K. Ebell, M. Maahn, M. Barrera-Verdejo, A. Hirsikko, B. Bohn, A. Knaps, E. O’Connor, C. Simmer, A. Wahner, and S. Crewell


The Jülich Observatory for Cloud Evolution (JOYCE), located at Forschungszentrum Jülich in the most western part of Germany, is a recently established platform for cloud research. The main objective of JOYCE is to provide observations, which improve our understanding of the cloudy boundary layer in a midlatitude environment. Continuous and temporally highly resolved measurements that are specifically suited to characterize the diurnal cycle of water vapor, stability, and turbulence in the lower troposphere are performed with a special focus on atmosphere–surface interaction. In addition, instruments are set up to measure the micro- and macrophysical properties of clouds in detail and how they interact with different boundary layer processes and the large-scale synoptic situation. For this, JOYCE is equipped with an array of state-of-the-art active and passive remote sensing and in situ instruments, which are briefly described in this scientific overview. As an example, a 24-h time series of the evolution of a typical cumulus cloud-topped boundary layer is analyzed with respect to stability, turbulence, and cloud properties. Additionally, we present longer-term statistics, which can be used to elucidate the diurnal cycle of water vapor, drizzle formation through autoconversion, and warm versus cold rain precipitation formation. Both case studies and long-term observations are important for improving the representation of clouds in climate and numerical weather prediction models.

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C. R. Wood, L. Järvi, R. D. Kouznetsov, A. Nordbo, S. Joffre, A. Drebs, T. Vihma, A. Hirsikko, I. Suomi, C. Fortelius, E. O'Connor, D. Moiseev, S. Haapanala, J. Moilanen, M. Kangas, A. Karppinen, T. Vesala, and J. Kukkonen

The Helsinki Urban Boundary-Layer Atmosphere Network (UrBAN: is a dedicated research-grade observational network where the physical processes in the atmosphere above the city are studied. Helsinki UrBAN is the most poleward intensive urban research observation network in the world and thus will allow studying some unique features such as strong seasonality. The network's key purpose is for the understanding of the physical processes in the urban boundary layer and associated fluxes of heat, momentum, moisture, and other gases. A further purpose is to secure a research-grade database, which can be used internationally to validate and develop numerical models of air quality and weather prediction. Scintillometers, a scanning Doppler lidar, ceilometers, a sodar, eddy-covariance stations, and radiometers are used. This equipment is supplemented by auxiliary measurements, which were primarily set up for general weather and/or air-quality mandatory purposes, such as vertical soundings and the operational Doppler radar network. Examples are presented as a testimony to the potential of the network for urban studies, such as (i) evidence of a stable boundary layer possibly coupled to an urban surface, (ii) the comparison of scintillometer data with sonic anemometry above an urban surface, (iii) the application of scanning lidar over a city, and (iv) combination of sodar and lidar to give a fuller range of sampling heights for boundary layer profiling.

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Continuous Evaluation of Cloud Profiles in Seven Operational Models Using Ground-Based Observations

A. J. Illingworth, R. J. Hogan, E.J. O'Connor, D. Bouniol, M. E. Brooks, J. Delanoé, D. P. Donovan, J. D. Eastment, N. Gaussiat, J. W. F. Goddard, M. Haeffelin, H. Klein Baltink, O. A. Krasnov, J. Pelon, J.-M. Piriou, A. Protat, H. W. J. Russchenberg, A. Seifert, A. M. Tompkins, G.-J. van Zadelhoff, F. Vinit, U. Willén, D. R. Wilson, and C. L. Wrench

The Cloudnet project aims to provide a systematic evaluation of clouds in forecast and climate models by comparing the model output with continuous ground-based observations of the vertical profiles of cloud properties. In the models, the properties of clouds are simplified and expressed in terms of the fraction of the model grid box, which is filled with cloud, together with the liquid and ice water content of the clouds. These models must get the clouds right if they are to correctly represent both their radiative properties and their key role in the production of precipitation, but there are few observations of the vertical profiles of the cloud properties that show whether or not they are successful. Cloud profiles derived from cloud radars, ceilometers, and dual-frequency microwave radiometers operated at three sites in France, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom for several years have been compared with the clouds in seven European models. The advantage of this continuous appraisal is that the feedback on how new versions of models are performing is provided in quasi-real time, as opposed to the much longer time scale needed for in-depth analysis of complex field studies. Here, two occasions are identified when the introduction of new versions of the ECMWF and Météo-France models leads to an immediate improvement in the representation of the clouds and also provides statistics on the performance of the seven models. The Cloudnet analysis scheme is currently being expanded to include sites outside Europe and further operational forecasting and climate models.

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