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Robert J. Zamora, F. Martin Ralph, Edward Clark, and Timothy Schneider

Abstract

The NOAA Hydrometeorology Testbed (HMT) program has deployed soil moisture observing networks in the watersheds of the Russian River and the North Fork (NF) of the American River in northern California, and the San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona. These networks were designed to serve the combined needs of the hydrological, meteorological, agricultural, and climatological communities for observations of soil moisture on time scales that range from minutes to decades.

The networks are a major component of the HMT program that has been developed to accelerate the development and infusion of new observing technologies, modeling methods, and recent scientific research into the National Weather Service (NWS) offices and to help focus research and development efforts on key hydrological and meteorological forecast problems. These forecast problems are not only of interest to the NWS, but they also play a crucial role in providing input to water managers who work at the national, state, and local government levels to provide water for human consumption, agriculture, and other needs.

The HMT soil moisture networks have been specifically designed to capture the changes in soil moisture that are associated with heavy precipitation events and runoff from snowpack during the melt season. This paper describes the strategies used to site the networks and sensors as well as the selection, testing, and calibration of the soil moisture probes. In addition, two illustrative examples of the data gathered by the networks are shown.

The first example shows changes in soil moisture observed before and during a flood event on the Babocomari River tributary of the San Pedro River near Sierra Vista, Arizona, on 23 July 2008. The second example examines a 5-yr continuous time series of soil moisture gathered at Healdsburg, California. The time series illustrates the transition from a multiyear wet period to exceptionally dry conditions from a soil moisture perspective.

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Paul J. Neiman, F. Martin Ralph, Benjamin J. Moore, and Robert J. Zamora

Abstract

A 915-MHz wind profiler, a GPS receiver, and surface meteorological sites in and near California’s northern Central Valley (CV) provide the observational anchor for a case study on 23–25 October 2010. The study highlights key orographic influences on precipitation distributions and intensities across northern California during a landfalling atmospheric river (AR) and an associated Sierra barrier jet (SBJ). A detailed wind profiler/GPS analysis documents an intense AR overriding a shallow SBJ at ~750 m MSL, resulting in record early season precipitation. The SBJ diverts shallow, pre-cold-frontal, incoming water vapor within the AR poleward from the San Francisco Bay gap to the northern CV. The SBJ ultimately decays following the passage of the AR and trailing polar cold front aloft. A statistical analysis of orographic forcing reveals that both the AR and SBJ are crucial factors in determining the amount and spatial distribution of precipitation in the northern Sierra Nevada and in the Shasta–Trinity region at the northern terminus of the CV. As the AR and SBJ flow ascends the steep and tall terrain of the northern Sierra and Shasta–Trinity region, respectively, the precipitation becomes enhanced. Vertical profiles of the linear correlation coefficient quantify the orographic linkage between hourly upslope water vapor flux profiles and hourly rain rate. The altitude of maximum correlation (i.e., orographic controlling layer) is lower for the shallow SBJ than for the deeper AR (i.e., 0.90 versus 1.15 km MSL, respectively). This case study expands the understanding of orographic precipitation enhancement from coastal California to its interior. It also quantifies the connection between dry antecedent soils and reduced flood potential.

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L. Jay Miller, Margaret A. LeMone, William Blumen, Robert L. Grossman, Nimal Gamage, and Robert J. Zamora

Abstract

Observations taken over the period 8–10 March 1992 during the Storm-scale Operational and Research Meteorology Fronts Experiment Systems Test in the central United States are used to document the detailed low-level structure and evolution of a shallow, dry arctic front. The front was characterized by cloudy skies to its north side and clear skies to its south side. It was essentially two-dimensional in the zone of intense observations.

There was a significant diurnal cycle in the magnitude of the potential temperature gradient across both the subsynoptic and mesoscale frontal zones, but imposed upon an underlying, more gradual, increase over the three days. On the warm (cloudless) side., the temperature increased and decreased in response to the diurnal heating cycle, while on the cold (cloudy) side the shape of the temperature decrease from its warm-side value (first dropping rapidly and then slowly in an exponential-like manner) remained fairly steady. The authors attribute the strong diurnal variation in potential temperature gradient mostly to the effects of differential diabatic heating across the front due to differential cloud cover.

The front is described in terms of three scales: 1) a broad, subsynoptic frontal zone (∼250–300 km wide) of modest temperature and wind gradients; 2) a narrower mesoscale zone (∼15–20 km wide) with much larger gradients; and 3) a microscale zone of near-zero-order discontinuity (≤1–2 km wide). There was some narrowing (≲50 km) of the subsynoptic frontal zone, but the authors found no evidence for any significant contraction of this zone down to much smaller mesoscale sizes. In response to the differential diabatic heating, the strongest evolution occurred in the micro-mesoscale zone, where dual-Doppler radar and aircraft measurements revealed the development of a density-current-like structure in and behind the leading edge of cold air. Here the steepest gradients developed shortly after sunrise and then increased by an order of magnitude during the day, with leading-edge vorticity, divergence, and temperature gradients reaching maximum values of 10−2 s−1 and 8 K km−1. A narrow updraft, marked by cumulus clouds, grew in intensity above the leading edge through the day to a maximum of 5–8 m s−1. Stratus clouds lay in the cold air, their leading edge receding by noon to 10–20 km behind the cumulus line.

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V. Mohan Karyampudi, Michael L. Kaplan, Steven E. Koch, and Robert J. Zamora

Abstract

In this first of a two paper series, a sequence of dynamical processes involving the evolution of a mesoscale Ice cyclone and its subsequent interaction with a mesoscale tropopause fold downstream of the Rocky Mountains is investigated. These scale-interactive phenomena, which resulted from the jet streak interaction with the topography, were examined in detail using the observational data obtained from the Program for Regional Observing and Forecasting Services' mesonetwork and wind profilers, as well as conventional surface and rawin-sonde data and Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer satellite data over the Colorado region for the severe weather event that occurred during 13–14 April 1986.

Large-scale analysis indicated that as a baroclinic low pressure system approached the Rockies with its attendant upper-level jet streak, a typical prestorm environment over western Kansas formed in the early morning hours of 13 April. Hourly mesonet data analysis revealed the formation and eastward progression of a mesoscale Ice cyclone with a trailing wind-shift line identified as an internal bore initiated by a cold front (i.e., a prefrontal bore) in Part II. Analysis of winds and divergence including diagnostically derived temperature and height fields from Colorado wind profilers indicated that as the jet streak momentum propagated into a Acre stable region in the midtroposphere created by low-level adiabatic warming and midlevel cooling on the leeside of the Rockies, unbalanced flow conditions resulted at scales less than the Rossby radius of deformation. AS a consequence of geostrophic adjustment processes, mesoscale tropopause folding and upper-level frontogenesis occurred over the profiler network. Unbalanced upper-level frontogenesis resulted from the tilting of the isentropes by along-stream ageostrophic indirect circulations comprised of horizontal vertical velocity gradients across the tropopause fold. As the mesoscale tropopause fold extruded downwards to midlevels in association with the descending secondary upper-level jet streak forced by the geostrophic adjustment process, Ice cyclogenesis occurred due to the phasing of the upper-level front with the low-level Ice cyclone.

Synthesis of the mesonetwork and profiler observations suggest that high momentum in the midtroposphere associated with the descending branch of the jet stream just ahead of the prefrontal bore but behind the dryline. This surge of southwesterly momentum at the surface, largely responsible for blowing dust, was mostly ageostrophic and contributed to an increase in surface vorticity and moisture convergence as well as frontogenesis around the lee cyclone. A mesoscale conceptual model is proposed in order to explain the dynamical sequence of events involving lee cyclogenesis, dust stroms, and a tropopause fold that led to the severe weather environment over the Great Plains. In the companion paper (Part II), observational evidence of an internal bore occurring ahead of a cold front and comparisons with simple numerical model results are presented in order to understand the initiation and propagation of the prefrontal bore and its influence in triggering a squall line father downstream.

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Robert J. Zamora, Edward P. Clark, Eric Rogers, Michael B. Ek, and Timothy M. Lahmers

Abstract

The NOAA Hydrometeorology Testbed (HMT) program has deployed a soil moisture observing network in the Babocomari River basin located in southeastern Arizona. The Babocomari River is a major tributary of the San Pedro River. At 0000 UTC 23 July 2008, the second-highest flow during the period of record was measured just upstream of the location where the Babocomari River joins the main channel of the San Pedro River.

Upper-air and surface meteorological observations and Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) satellite images of integrated water vapor were used to establish the synoptic and mesoscale conditions that existed before the flood occurred. The analysis indicates that a weak Gulf of California surge initiated by Hurricane Fausto transported a warm moist tropical air mass into the lower troposphere over southern Arizona, setting the stage for the intense, deep convection that initiated the flooding on the Babocomari River. Observations of soil moisture and precipitation at five locations in the basin and streamflow measured at two river gauging stations enabled the documentation of the hydrometeorological conditions that existed before the flooding occurred. The observations suggest that soil moisture conditions as a function of depth, the location of semi-impermeable layers of sedimentary rock known as caliche, and the spatial distribution of convective precipitation in the basin confined the flooding to the lower part of the basin. Finally, the HMT soil moisture observations are compared with soil moisture products from the NOAA/NWS/NCEP Noah land surface model.

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David B. Parsons, Melvyn A. Shapiro, R. Michael Hardesty, Robert J. Zamora, and Janet M. Intrieri

Abstract

During spring and early summer, a surface confluence zone, often referred to as the dryline, forms in the midwestern United States between continental and maritime air masses. The dewpoint temperature across the dryline can vary in excess of 18°C in a distance of less than 10 km. The movement of the dryline varies diurnally with boundary layer growth over sloping terrain leading to an eastward apparent propagation of the dryline during the day and a westward advection or retrogression during the evening. In this study, we examine the finescale structure of a retrogressing, dryline using data taken by a Doppler lidar, a dual-channel radiometer, and serial rawinsonde ascents. While many previous studies were unable to accurately measure the vertical motions in the vicinity of the dryline, our lidar measurements suggest that the convergence at the dryline is intense with maximum vertical motions of ∼5 m s−1. The winds obtained from the Doppler lidar Measurements were combined with the equations of motion to derive perturbation fields of pressure and virtual potential temperature θv. Our observations indicate that the circulations associated with this retrogressing dryline were dominated by hot, dry air riding over a westward moving denser, moist flow in a manner similar to a density current. Gravity waves were observed above the dryline interface. Previous observational and numerical studies have shown that differential heating across the dryline may sometimes enhance regional pressure gradients and thus impact dryline movement. We propose that this regional gradient in surface heating in the presence of a confluent flow results in observed intense wind shifts and large horizontal gradients in θv across the dryline. The local gradient in θv influences the movement and flow characteristics of the dryline interface. This study is one of the most complete and novel uses of Doppler lidar to date.

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Shekhar Gupta, R. T. McNider, Michael Trainer, Robert J. Zamora, Kevin Knupp, and M. P. Singh

Abstract

Theoretical plume growth rates depend upon the atmospheric spatial energy spectrum. Current grid-based numerical models generally resolve large-scale (synoptic) energy, while planetary boundary layer turbulence is parameterized. Energy at intermediate scales is often neglected. In this study, boundary layer radar profilers are used to examine the temporal energy spectrum, which can provide information about the atmospheric structure affecting plume growth rates. A boundary layer model (BLM) into which the radar information has been assimilated is used to drive a Lagrangian particle model (LPM) that is subsequently employed to examine plume growth rates. Profiler and aircraft data taken during the 1995 Southern Oxidants Study in Nashville, Tennessee, are used in the model study for assimilation and evaluation. The results show that the BLM without assimilation significantly underestimates the strength of the diurnal–inertial spectral peak, which in turn causes an underestimate of plume spread. Comparison with measures of plume width from aircraft data also shows that assimilation of radar information greatly improves plume spread rates predicted by the LPM.

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Paul J. Neiman, M. A. Shapiro, R. Michael Hardesty, B. Boba Stankov, Rhidian T. Lawrence, Robert J. Zamora, and Tamara Hampel

Abstract

The NOAA/WPL pulsed coherent Doppler lidar was used during the Texas Frontal Experiment in 1985 to study mesoscale preconvective atmospheric conditions. On 22 April 1985, the Doppler lidar, in conjunction with serial rawinsonde ascents and National Weather Service rawinsonde ascents, observed atmospheric features such as middle-tropospheric frontal and vertical wind shear layers and the planetary boundary layer. The lidar showed unique evidence of the downward transport of strong winds from an elevated vertical speed shear (frontal) layer into the planetary boundary layer. The lidar provided further evidence of atmospheric processes such as clear-air turbulence within frontal layers, and dry convection turbulence within the superadiabatic planetary boundary layer. As a result, high-technology remote sensing instruments such as the Doppler lidar show considerable promise for future studies of small-scale weather systems in a nonprecipitating atmosphere.

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Robert J. Zamora, Ellsworth G. Dutton, Michael Trainer, Stuart A. McKeen, James M. Wilczak, and Yu-Tai Hou

Abstract

In this paper, solar irradiance forecasts made by mesoscale numerical weather prediction models are compared with observations taken during three air-quality experiments in various parts of the United States. The authors evaluated the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5) and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Eta Model. The observations were taken during the 2000 Texas Air Quality Experiment (TexAQS), the 2000 Central California Ozone Study (CCOS), and the New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS) 2002. The accuracy of the model forecast irradiances show a strong dependence on the aerosol optical depth. Model errors on the order of 100 W m−2 are possible when the aerosol optical depth exceeds 0.1. For smaller aerosol optical depths, the climatological attenuation used in the models yields solar irradiance estimates that are in good agreement with the observations.

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Brooks E. Martner, Jack B. Snider, Robert J. Zamora, Gregory P. Byrd, Thomas A. Niziol, and Paul I. Joe

Abstract

A destructive freezing-rain storm on 15 February 1990 was observed intensively with advanced ground-based remote sensors and conventional instruments by the Lake Ontario Winter Storms (LOWS) project in upstate New York. A deep layer of warm, moist, southwesterly flow overran a shallower layer of subfreezing, easterly flow ahead of a surface warm front. Precipitation at the surface changed from snowfall to ice pellets, to freezing rain, and, finally, to ordinary rain as an elevated layer of above-freezing air moved into the region and eventually extended to the ground. Measurements from a scanning Doppler radar, wind profilers, a microwave radiometer, and mobile rawinsondes provided detailed information on the storm's kinematic and thermodynamic structure and evolution, and allowed its basic microphysical structure to be inferred. The remote sensors detected signatures of the melting aloft that may be useful for improving detection and forecasts of freezing-rain hazards.

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