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Bart Geerts
Qun Miao


Vertical velocity characteristics of the optically clear convective boundary layer (CBL) are examined by means of profiling airborne radar data collected in the central Great Plains during the International H2O Project, May–June 2002 (IHOP 2002). Clear-air echoes are sufficiently strong for the radar, a 95-GHz cloud radar, to detect most of the CBL at a resolution of ∼30 m. Vertical radar transects across the CBL are remarkably dominated by well-defined plumes of higher reflectivity. These echo plumes occupy most of the depth of the CBL in the developing and mature stages of the CBL. Gust probe data indicate that the plumes tend to correspond with ascending motion. Evidence exists in the literature, and arises from this study, that the clear-air scatterers are mostly small insects.

The close-range Doppler radar velocities, some 100 m above and below the aircraft, are compared to gust probe vertical velocities after both are corrected for aircraft motion.

It is found that the radar vertical velocities have a downward bias of 0.5 ± 0.2 m s−1 on average. This bias is of the same sign as that reported in wind profiler data in the CBL, but it is larger. The difference between aircraft and radar vertical velocities becomes larger in stronger updrafts. This does not happen in cases where the scatterers are hydrometeors: hydrometeors fall out at their terminal velocity, which does not directly depend on updraft speed.

The existence of the CBL echo plumes and radar “fine lines,” sustained by low-level air convergence, has long been attributed to a biotic response to updrafts. This response has been assumed to be controlled by air temperature; that is, insects subside when they encounter cold air in the upper CBL. The authors propose that the biotic response is not temperature controlled but, rather, is dependent on the vertical displacement.

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