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Sebastian S. Harkema, Emily B. Berndt, and Christopher J. Schultz

Abstract

It has been theorized that thundersnow (TSSN) occurs in conjunction with heavy snowfall rates and in geographical regions where heavy-banded snow occurs more frequently. This study aims to objectively and quantitatively identify characteristics associated with TSSN to improve the situational awareness of heavy snowfall and associated hazards. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Services (NESDIS) merged Snowfall Rate (mSFR) product, and surface observations were utilized to characterize snowfall accumulation, snow-to-liquid ratio (SLR) values, and radar characteristics of heavy snowfall events from a GLM perspective. When at least 2 in. of snowfall accumulation occurred, areas with TSSN flashes identified by the thundersnow detection algorithm (TDA) were likely to receive, on average, a total of 24.5 cm (9.6 in.) of snowfall. TSSN was more likely to occur in snowfall rates less than 2.54 cm h−1 (1 in. h−1) and be associated with snow-to-liquid ratio (SLR) values between 8:1 and 10:1. It was determined that TSSN flashes observed by GLM occurred in isothermal reflectivity values less than 30 dBZ and average spatial offsets of 131 km between the lightning flash location and the heaviest snowfall rates were observed. GLM flashes in proximity of National Lightning Detection Network cloud-to-ground flashes and tall structures were found to be statistically different (p < 0.05) regarding snowfall rates, SLR values, and various Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor variables compared to other TSSN flashes. It was inferred that tower TSSN flashes, on median, were more likely to initiate within light-to-moderately rimed snowfall. Last, a heavy snowfall event was analyzed to demonstrate the capability of these products in identifying storm characteristics associated with TSSN.

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Erika L. Duran, Emily B. Berndt, and Patrick Duran

Abstract

Hyperspectral infrared satellite sounding retrievals are used to examine thermodynamic changes in the tropical cyclone (TC) environment associated with the diurnal cycle of radiation. Vertical profiles of temperature and moisture are retrieved from the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (SNPP) satellite system, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-20 (NOAA-20), and the Meteorological Operational (MetOp-A/B) satellite system, leveraging both infrared and microwave sounding technologies. Vertical profiles are binned radially based on distance from the storm center and composited at 4-h intervals to reveal the evolution of the diurnal cycle. For the three cases examined—Hurricane Dorian (2019), Hurricane Florence (2018), and Hurricane Irma (2017)—a marked diurnal signal is evident that extends through a deep layer of the troposphere. Statistically significant differences at the 95% level are observed in temperature, moisture, and lapse rate profiles, indicating a moistening and destabilization of the mid- to upper troposphere that is more pronounced near the inner core of the TC at night. Observations support a favorable environment for the formation of deep convection caused by diurnal differences in radiative heating tendencies, which could partially explain why new diurnal pulses tend to form around sunset. These findings demonstrate that the diurnal cycle of radiation affects TC thermodynamics through a deep layer of the troposphere, and suggest that hyperspectral infrared satellite sounding retrievals are valuable assets in detecting thermodynamic variations in TCs.

Open access
Sebastian S. Harkema, Christopher J. Schultz, Emily B. Berndt, and Phillip M. Bitzer

Abstract

This study examines characteristics of lightning in snowfall events (i.e., thundersnow, TSSN) from the perspective of the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) and the National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service (NESDIS) merged Snowfall Rate (mSFR) product. A thundersnow detection algorithm (TDA) was derived from the GLM and mSFR that resulted in a probability of detection (POD) of 66.7% when compared to the aviation routine weather report (METAR) reports of TSSN. However, using the TDA an additional 2175 lightning flashes within detected snowfall were identified that were not observed by the METAR reports, indicating that TSSN has been under reported in previous literature. TSSN flashes observed by GLM have mean flash areas, durations, and total optical energy outputs of 754 km2, 402 ms, and 1342 fJ, which are between the 50th and 99th percentile values for all flashes within the GLM field of view. A comparison with data from the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) indicated that the NLDN had at least one cloud or ground flash detection in 1709 of the 2214 flashes observed by GLM in snowfall. An average of 5.85 NLDN flashes was assigned to a single GLM flash when the NLDN flash data were constrained by the GLM flash duration and spatial footprint. Statistically significant (p < 0.01) differences in flash area and flash energy were found between flashes that were observed by the NLDN and those that were not. Additionally, when GLM was combined with the NLDN, at least 11.1% of flashes involved a tall human-made object like an antenna or wind turbine.

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