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Brooks E. Martner, Robert M. Rauber, Roy M. Rasmussen, Erwin T. Prater, and Mohan K. Ramamurthy

A winter storm that crossed the continental United States in mid-February 1990 produced hazardous weather across a vast area of the nation. A wide range of severe weather was reported, including heavy snowfall; freezing rain and drizzle; thunderstorms with destructive winds, lightning, large hail, and tornadoes; prolonged heavy rain with subsequent flooding; frost damage to citrus orchards; and sustained destructive winds not associated with thunderstorms. Low-end preliminary estimates of impacts included 9 deaths, 27 injuries, and $120 million of property damage. At least 35 states and southeastern Canada were adversely affected. The storm occurred during the field operations of four independent atmospheric research projects that obtained special, detailed observations of it from the Rocky Mountains to the eastern Great Lakes.

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Kevin E. Trenberth, Aiguo Dai, Roy M. Rasmussen, and David B. Parsons

From a societal, weather, and climate perspective, precipitation intensity, duration, frequency, and phase are as much of concern as total amounts, as these factors determine the disposition of precipitation once it hits the ground and how much runs off. At the extremes of precipitation incidence are the events that give rise to floods and droughts, whose changes in occurrence and severity have an enormous impact on the environment and society. Hence, advancing understanding and the ability to model and predict the character of precipitation is vital but requires new approaches to examining data and models. Various mechanisms, storms and so forth, exist to bring about precipitation. Because the rate of precipitation, conditional on when it falls, greatly exceeds the rate of replenishment of moisture by surface evaporation, most precipitation comes from moisture already in the atmosphere at the time the storm begins, and transport of moisture by the storm-scale circulation into the storm is vital. Hence, the intensity of precipitation depends on available moisture, especially for heavy events. As climate warms, the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, which is governed by the Clausius–Clapeyron equation, is expected to rise much faster than the total precipitation amount, which is governed by the surface heat budget through evaporation. This implies that the main changes to be experienced are in the character of precipitation: increases in intensity must be offset by decreases in duration or frequency of events. The timing, duration, and intensity of precipitation can be systematically explored via the diurnal cycle, whose correct simulation in models remains an unsolved challenge of vital importance in global climate change. Typical problems include the premature initiation of convection, and precipitation events that are too light and too frequent. These challenges in observations, modeling, and understanding precipitation changes are being taken up in the NCAR “Water Cycle Across Scales” initiative, which will exploit the diurnal cycle as a test bed for a hierarchy of models to promote improvements in models.

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Roy Rasmussen, Bruce Baker, John Kochendorfer, Tilden Meyers, Scott Landolt, Alexandre P. Fischer, Jenny Black, Julie M. Thériault, Paul Kucera, David Gochis, Craig Smith, Rodica Nitu, Mark Hall, Kyoko Ikeda, and Ethan Gutmann

This paper presents recent efforts to understand the relative accuracies of different instrumentation and gauges with various windshield configurations to measure snowfall. Results from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Marshall Field Site will be highlighted. This site hosts a test bed to assess various solid precipitation measurement techniques and is a joint collaboration between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NCAR, the National Weather Service (NWS), and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The collaboration involves testing new gauges and other solid precipitation measurement techniques in comparison with World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reference snowfall measurements. This assessment is critical for any ongoing studies and applications, such as climate monitoring and aircraft deicing, that rely on accurate and consistent precipitation measurements.

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Mark T. Stoelinga, Peter V. Hobbs, Clifford F. Mass, John D. Locatelli, Brian A. Colle, Robert A. Houze Jr., Arthur L. Rangno, Nicholas A. Bond, Bradley F. Smull, Roy M. Rasmussen, Gregory Thompson, and Bradley R. Colman

Despite continual increases in numerical model resolution and significant improvements in the forecasting of many meteorological parameters, progress in quantitative precipitation forecasting (QPF) has been slow. This is attributable in part to deficiencies in the bulk microphysical parameterization (BMP) schemes used in mesoscale models to simulate cloud and precipitation processes. These deficiencies have become more apparent as model resolution has increased. To address these problems requires comprehensive data that can be used to isolate errors in QPF due to BMP schemes from those due to other sources. These same data can then be used to evaluate and improve the microphysical processes and hydrometeor fields simulated by BMP schemes. In response to the need for such data, a group of researchers is collaborating on a study titled the Improvement of Microphysical Parameterization through Observational Verification Experiment (IMPROVE). IMPROVE has included two field campaigns carried out in the Pacific Northwest: an offshore frontal precipitation study off the Washington coast in January–February 2001, and an orographic precipitation study in the Oregon Cascade Mountains in November–December 2001. Twenty-eight intensive observation periods yielded a uniquely comprehensive dataset that includes in situ airborne observations of cloud and precipitation microphysical parameters; remotely sensed reflectivity, dual-Doppler, and polarimetric quantities; upper-air wind, temperature, and humidity data; and a wide variety of surface-based meteorological, precipitation, and microphysical data. These data are being used to test mesoscale model simulations of the observed storm systems and, in particular, to evaluate and improve the BMP schemes used in such models. These studies should lead to improved QPF in operational forecast models.

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Sarah A. Tessendorf, Jeffrey R. French, Katja Friedrich, Bart Geerts, Robert M. Rauber, Roy M. Rasmussen, Lulin Xue, Kyoko Ikeda, Derek R. Blestrud, Melvin L. Kunkel, Shaun Parkinson, Jefferson R. Snider, Joshua Aikins, Spencer Faber, Adam Majewski, Coltin Grasmick, Philip T. Bergmaier, Andrew Janiszeski, Adam Springer, Courtney Weeks, David J. Serke, and Roelof Bruintjes


The Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE) project aims to study the impacts of cloud seeding on winter orographic clouds. The field campaign took place in Idaho between 7 January and 17 March 2017 and employed a comprehensive suite of instrumentation, including ground-based radars and airborne sensors, to collect in situ and remotely sensed data in and around clouds containing supercooled liquid water before and after seeding with silver iodide aerosol particles. The seeding material was released primarily by an aircraft. It was hypothesized that the dispersal of the seeding material from aircraft would produce zigzag lines of silver iodide as it dispersed downwind. In several cases, unambiguous zigzag lines of reflectivity were detected by radar, and in situ measurements within these lines have been examined to determine the microphysical response of the cloud to seeding. The measurements from SNOWIE aim to address long-standing questions about the efficacy of cloud seeding, starting with documenting the physical chain of events following seeding. The data will also be used to evaluate and improve computer modeling parameterizations, including a new cloud-seeding parameterization designed to further evaluate and quantify the impacts of cloud seeding.

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