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  • Author or Editor: David Mechem x
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David B. Mechem, Carly S. Wittman, Matthew A. Miller, Sandra E. Yuter, and Simon P. de Szoeke


Marine boundary layer clouds are modified by processes at different spatial and temporal scales. To isolate the processes governing aerosol–cloud–precipitation interactions, multiday synoptic variability of the environment must be accounted for. Information on the location of low clouds relative to the ridge–trough pattern gives insight into how cloud properties vary as a function of environmental subsidence and stability. The technique of self-organizing maps (SOMs) is employed to objectively classify the 500-hPa geopotential height patterns for 33 years of reanalysis fields (ERA-Interim) into pretrough, trough, posttrough, ridge, and zonal-flow categories. The SOM technique is applied to a region of prevalent marine low cloudiness over the eastern North Atlantic Ocean that is centered on the Azores island chain, the location of a long-term U.S. Department of Energy observation site. The Azores consistently lie in an area of substantial variability in synoptic configuration, thermodynamic environment, and cloud properties. The SOM method was run in two ways to emphasize multiday and seasonal variability separately. Over and near the Azores, there is an east-to-west sloshing back and forth of the western edge of marine low clouds associated with different synoptic states. The different synoptic states also exhibit substantial north–south variability in the position of high clouds. For any given month of the year, there is large year-to-year variability in the occurrence of different synoptic states. Hence, estimating the climatological behavior of clouds from short-term field campaigns has large uncertainties. This SOM approach is a robust method that is broadly applicable to characterizing synoptic regimes for any location.

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Valery M. Melnikov, Dusan S. Zrnić, Richard J. Doviak, Phillip B. Chilson, David B. Mechem, and Yefim L. Kogan


Sounding of nonprecipitating clouds with the 10-cm wavelength Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) is discussed. Readily available enhancements to signal processing and volume coverage patterns of the WSR-88D allow observations of a variety of clouds with reflectivities as low as −25 dBZ (at a range of 10 km). The high sensitivity of the WSR-88D, its wide velocity and unambiguous range intervals, and the absence of attenuation allow accurate measurements of the reflectivity factor, Doppler velocity, and spectrum width fields in clouds to ranges of about 50 km. Fields of polarimetric variables in clouds, observed with a research polarimetric WSR-88D, demonstrate an abundance of information and help to resolve Bragg and particulate scatter. The scanning, Doppler, and polarimetric capabilities of the WSR-88D allow real-time, three-dimensional mapping of cloud processes, such as transformations of hydrometeors between liquid and ice phases. The presence of ice particles is revealed by high differential reflectivities and the lack of correlation between reflectivity and differential reflectivity in clouds in contrast to that found for rain. Pockets of high differential reflectivities are frequently observed in clouds; maximal values of differential reflectivity exceed 8 dB, far above the level observed in rain. The establishment of the WSR-88D network consisting of 157 polarimetric radars can be used to collect cloud data at any radar site, making the network a potentially powerful tool for climatic studies.

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