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Tammy M. Weckwerth, David B. Parsons, Steven E. Koch, James A. Moore, Margaret A. LeMone, Belay B. Demoz, Cyrille Flamant, Bart Geerts, Junhong Wang, and Wayne F. Feltz

The International H2O Project (IHOP_2002) is one of the largest North American meteorological field experiments in history. From 13 May to 25 June 2002, over 250 researchers and technical staff from the United States, Germany, France, and Canada converged on the Southern Great Plains to measure water vapor and other atmospheric variables. The principal objective of IHOP_2002 is to obtain an improved characterization of the time-varying three-dimensional water vapor field and evaluate its utility in improving the understanding and prediction of convective processes. The motivation for this objective is the combination of extremely low forecast skill for warm-season rainfall and the relatively large loss of life and property from flash floods and other warm-season weather hazards. Many prior studies on convective storm forecasting have shown that water vapor is a key atmospheric variable that is insufficiently measured. Toward this goal, IHOP_2002 brought together many of the existing operational and new state-of-the-art research water vapor sensors and numerical models.

The IHOP_2002 experiment comprised numerous unique aspects. These included several instruments fielded for the first time (e.g., reference radiosonde); numerous upgraded instruments (e.g., Wyoming Cloud Radar); the first ever horizontal-pointing water vapor differential absorption lidar (DIAL; i.e., Leandre II on the Naval Research Laboratory P-3), which required the first onboard aircraft avoidance radar; several unique combinations of sensors (e.g., multiple profiling instruments at one field site and the German water vapor DIAL and NOAA/Environmental Technology Laboratory Doppler lidar on board the German Falcon aircraft); and many logistical challenges. This article presents a summary of the motivation, goals, and experimental design of the project, illustrates some preliminary data collected, and includes discussion on some potential operational and research implications of the experiment.

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Bart Geerts, David Parsons, Conrad L. Ziegler, Tammy M. Weckwerth, Michael I. Biggerstaff, Richard D. Clark, Michael C. Coniglio, Belay B. Demoz, Richard A. Ferrare, William A. Gallus Jr., Kevin Haghi, John M. Hanesiak, Petra M. Klein, Kevin R. Knupp, Karen Kosiba, Greg M. McFarquhar, James A. Moore, Amin R. Nehrir, Matthew D. Parker, James O. Pinto, Robert M. Rauber, Russ S. Schumacher, David D. Turner, Qing Wang, Xuguang Wang, Zhien Wang, and Joshua Wurman

Abstract

The central Great Plains region in North America has a nocturnal maximum in warm-season precipitation. Much of this precipitation comes from organized mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). This nocturnal maximum is counterintuitive in the sense that convective activity over the Great Plains is out of phase with the local generation of CAPE by solar heating of the surface. The lower troposphere in this nocturnal environment is typically characterized by a low-level jet (LLJ) just above a stable boundary layer (SBL), and convective available potential energy (CAPE) values that peak above the SBL, resulting in convection that may be elevated, with source air decoupled from the surface. Nocturnal MCS-induced cold pools often trigger undular bores and solitary waves within the SBL. A full understanding of the nocturnal precipitation maximum remains elusive, although it appears that bore-induced lifting and the LLJ may be instrumental to convection initiation and the maintenance of MCSs at night.

To gain insight into nocturnal MCSs, their essential ingredients, and paths toward improving the relatively poor predictive skill of nocturnal convection in weather and climate models, a large, multiagency field campaign called Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) was conducted in 2015. PECAN employed three research aircraft, an unprecedented coordinated array of nine mobile scanning radars, a fixed S-band radar, a unique mesoscale network of lower-tropospheric profiling systems called the PECAN Integrated Sounding Array (PISA), and numerous mobile-mesonet surface weather stations. The rich PECAN dataset is expected to improve our understanding and prediction of continental nocturnal warm-season precipitation. This article provides a summary of the PECAN field experiment and preliminary findings.

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