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Joseph P. Zagrodnik, Lynn A. McMurdie, and Robert A. Houze Jr.

Abstract

The Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) documented precipitation and drop size distributions (DSDs) in landfalling midlatitude cyclones with gauges and disdrometers located at various distances from the coast and at different elevations on the windward side of the mountain range. Statistics of the drop size and gauge data for the season and case study analysis of a high-rainfall-producing storm of the atmospheric river type show that DSDs during stratiform raining periods exhibit considerable variability in regions of complex terrain. Seasonal statistics show that different relative proportions of drop sizes are present, depending on synoptic and mesoscale conditions, which vary within a single storm. The most frequent DSD regime contains modest concentrations of both small and large drops with synoptic factors near their climatological norms and moderate precipitation enhancement on the lower windward slopes. The heaviest rains are the most strongly enhanced on the lower slope and have DSDs marked by large concentrations of small to medium drops and varying concentrations of large drops. During the heavy-rain period of the case examined here, the low-level flow was onshore and entirely up terrain, the melting level was ~2.5 km, and stability moist neutral so that large amounts of small raindrops were produced. At the same time, melting ice particles produced at upper levels contributed varying amounts of large drops to the DSD, depending on the subsynoptic variability of the storm structure. When the low-level flow is directed downslope and offshore, small-drop production at low altitudes is reduced or eliminated.

Open access
Hannah C. Barnes, Joseph P. Zagrodnik, Lynn A. McMurdie, Angela K. Rowe, and Robert A. Houze Jr.

Abstract

This study examines Kelvin–Helmholtz (KH) waves observed by dual-polarization radar in several precipitating midlatitude cyclones during the Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) field campaign along the windward side of the Olympic Mountains in Washington State and in a strong stationary frontal zone in Iowa during the Iowa Flood Studies (IFloodS) field campaign. While KH waves develop regardless of the presence or absence of mountainous terrain, this study indicates that the large-scale flow can be modified when encountering a mountain range in such a way as to promote development of KH waves on the windward side and to alter their physical structure (i.e., orientation and amplitude). OLYMPEX sampled numerous instances of KH waves in precipitating clouds, and this study examines their effects on microphysical processes above, near, and below the melting layer. The dual-polarization radar data indicate that KH waves above the melting layer promote aggregation. KH waves centered in the melting layer produce the most notable signatures in dual-polarization variables, with the patterns suggesting that the KH waves promote both riming and aggregation. Both above and near the melting layer ice particles show no preferred orientation likely because of tumbling in turbulent air motions. KH waves below the melting layer facilitate the generation of large drops via coalescence and/or vapor deposition, increasing mean drop size and rain rate by only slight amounts in the OLYMPEX storms.

Open access
Joseph P. Zagrodnik, Lynn A. McMurdie, Robert A. Houze Jr., and Simone Tanelli

Abstract

As midlatitude cyclones pass over a coastal mountain range, the processes producing their clouds and precipitation are modified, leading to considerable spatial variability in precipitation amount and composition. Statistical diagrams of airborne precipitation radar transects, surface precipitation measurements, and particle size distributions are examined from nine cases observed during the Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX). Although the pattern of windward enhancement and leeside diminishment of precipitation was omnipresent, the degree of modulation was largely controlled by the synoptic environment associated with the prefrontal, warm, and postfrontal sectors of midlatitude cyclones. Prefrontal sectors contained homogeneous stratiform precipitation with a slightly enhanced ice layer on the windward slopes and rapid diminishment to a near-complete rain shadow in the lee. Warm sectors contained deep, intense enhancement over both the windward slopes and high terrain and less prominent rain shadows owing to downstream spillover of ice particles generated over terrain. Surface particle size distributions in the warm sector contained a broad spectrum of sizes and concentrations of raindrops on the lower windward side where high precipitation rates were achieved from varying degrees of both liquid and ice precipitation-generating processes. Spillover precipitation was rather homogeneous in nature and lacked the undulations in particle size and concentration that occurred at the windward sites. Postfrontal precipitation transitioned from isolated convective cells over ocean to a shallow, mixed convective–stratiform composition with broader coverage and greater precipitation rates over the sloping terrain.

Open access