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Daniel T. Lindsey
Donald W. Hillger
Louie Grasso
John A. Knaff
, and
John F. Dostalek


By combining observations from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) 3.9- and 10.7-μm channels, the reflected component of the 3.9-μm radiance can be isolated. In this paper, these 3.9-μm reflectivity measurements of thunderstorm tops are studied in terms of their climatological values and their utility in diagnosing cloud-top microphysical structure. These measurements provide information about internal thunderstorm processes, including updraft strength, and may be useful for severe weather nowcasting. Three years of summertime thunderstorm-top 3.9-μm reflectivity values are analyzed to produce maps of climatological means across the United States. Maxima occur in the high plains and Rocky Mountain regions, while lower values are observed over much of the eastern United States. A simple model is used to establish a relationship between 3.9-μm reflectivity and ice crystal size at cloud top. As the mean diameter of a cloud-top ice crystal distribution decreases, more solar radiation near 3.9 μm is reflected. Using the North American Regional Reanalysis dataset, the thermodynamic environment that favors thunderstorms with large 3.9-μm reflectivity values is identified. In the high plains and mountains, environments with relatively dry boundary layers, steep lapse rates, and large vertical shear values favor thunderstorms with enhanced 3.9-μm reflectivity. Thunderstorm processes that lead to small ice crystals at cloud top are discussed, and a possible relationship between updraft strength and 3.9-μm reflectivity is presented.

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