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Walter A. Petersen
,
Lawrence D. Carey
,
Steven A. Rutledge
,
Jason C. Knievel
,
Nolan J. Doesken
,
Richard H. Johnson
,
Thomas B. McKee
,
Thomas Vonder Haar
, and
John F. Weaver

On the evening of 28 July 1997 the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, experienced a devastating flash flood that caused five fatalities and over 200 million dollars in damage. Maximum accumulations of rainfall in the western part of the city exceeded 10 in. in a 6-h period. This study presents a multiscale meteorological overview of the event utilizing a wide variety of instrument platforms and data including rain gauge, CSU–CHILL multiparameter radar, Next Generation Radar, National Lightning Detection Network, surface and Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System observations, satellite observations, and synoptic analyses.

Many of the meteorological features associated with the Fort Collins flash flood typify those of similar events in the western United States. Prominent features in the Fort Collins case included the presence of a 500-hPa ridge axis over northeastern Colorado; a weak shortwave trough on the western side of the ridge; postfrontal easterly upslope flow at low levels; weak to moderate southwesterly flow aloft; a deep, moist warm layer in the sounding; and the occurrence of a quasi-stationary rainfall system. In contrast to previous events such as the Rapid City or Big Thompson floods, the thermodynamic environment of the Fort Collins storm exhibited only modest instability, consistent with low lightning flash rates and an absence of hail and other severe storm signatures.

Radar, rain gauge, and lightning observations provided a detailed view of the cloud and precipitation morphology. Polarimetric radar observations suggest that a coupling between warm-rain collision coalescence processes and ice processes played an important role in the rainfall production. Dual-Doppler radar and mesoscale wind analyses revealed that the low-level flow field associated with a bow echo located 60 km to the southeast of Fort Collins may have been responsible for a brief easterly acceleration in the low-level winds during the last 1.5 h of the event. The enhanced flow interacted with both topography and the convection located over Fort Collins, resulting in a quasi-stationary convective system and the heaviest rainfall of the evening.

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Mary C. Barth
,
Christopher A. Cantrell
,
William H. Brune
,
Steven A. Rutledge
,
James H. Crawford
,
Heidi Huntrieser
,
Lawrence D. Carey
,
Donald MacGorman
,
Morris Weisman
,
Kenneth E. Pickering
,
Eric Bruning
,
Bruce Anderson
,
Eric Apel
,
Michael Biggerstaff
,
Teresa Campos
,
Pedro Campuzano-Jost
,
Ronald Cohen
,
John Crounse
,
Douglas A. Day
,
Glenn Diskin
,
Frank Flocke
,
Alan Fried
,
Charity Garland
,
Brian Heikes
,
Shawn Honomichl
,
Rebecca Hornbrook
,
L. Gregory Huey
,
Jose L. Jimenez
,
Timothy Lang
,
Michael Lichtenstern
,
Tomas Mikoviny
,
Benjamin Nault
,
Daniel O’Sullivan
,
Laura L. Pan
,
Jeff Peischl
,
Ilana Pollack
,
Dirk Richter
,
Daniel Riemer
,
Thomas Ryerson
,
Hans Schlager
,
Jason St. Clair
,
James Walega
,
Petter Weibring
,
Andrew Weinheimer
,
Paul Wennberg
,
Armin Wisthaler
,
Paul J. Wooldridge
, and
Conrad Ziegler

Abstract

The Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry (DC3) field experiment produced an exceptional dataset on thunderstorms, including their dynamical, physical, and electrical structures and their impact on the chemical composition of the troposphere. The field experiment gathered detailed information on the chemical composition of the inflow and outflow regions of midlatitude thunderstorms in northeast Colorado, west Texas to central Oklahoma, and northern Alabama. A unique aspect of the DC3 strategy was to locate and sample the convective outflow a day after active convection in order to measure the chemical transformations within the upper-tropospheric convective plume. These data are being analyzed to investigate transport and dynamics of the storms, scavenging of soluble trace gases and aerosols, production of nitrogen oxides by lightning, relationships between lightning flash rates and storm parameters, chemistry in the upper troposphere that is affected by the convection, and related source characterization of the three sampling regions. DC3 also documented biomass-burning plumes and the interactions of these plumes with deep convection.

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