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Troy J. Zaremba
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Larry Di Girolamo
,
Jesse R. Loveridge
, and
Greg M. McFarquhar

Abstract

Recent studies from the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE) demonstrated definitive radar evidence of seeding signatures in winter orographic clouds during three intensive operation periods (IOPs) where the background signal from natural precipitation was weak and a radar signal attributable to seeding could be identified as traceable seeding lines. Except for the three IOPs where seeding was detected, background natural snowfall was present during seeding operations and no clear seeding signatures were detected. This paper provides a quantitative analysis to assess if orographic cloud seeding effects are detectable using radar when background precipitation is present. We show that a 5-dB change in equivalent reflectivity factor Ze is required to stand out against background natural Ze variability. This analysis considers four radar wavelengths, a range of background ice water contents (IWC) from 0.012 to 1.214 g m−3, and additional IWC introduced by seeding ranging from 0.012 to 0.486 g m−3. The upper-limit values of seeded IWC are based on measurements of IWC from the Nevzorov probe employed on the University of Wyoming King Air aircraft during SNOWIE. This analysis implies that seeding effects will be undetectable using radar within background snowfall unless the background IWC is small, and the seeding effects are large. It therefore remains uncertain whether seeding had no effect on cloud microstructure, and therefore produced no signature on radar, or whether seeding did have an effect, but that effect was undetectable against the background reflectivity associated with naturally produced precipitation.

Significance Statement

Operational glaciogenic seeding programs targeting wintertime orographic clouds are funded by a range of stakeholders to increase snowpack. Glaciogenic seeding signatures have been observed by radar when natural background snowfall is weak but never when heavy background precipitation was present. This analysis quantitatively shows that seeding effects will be undetectable using radar reflectivity under conditions of background snowfall unless the background snowfall is weak, and the seeding effects are large. It therefore remains uncertain whether seeding had no effect on cloud microstructure, and therefore produced no signature on radar, or whether seeding did have an effect, but that effect was undetectable against the background reflectivity associated with naturally produced precipitation. Alternative assessment methods such as trace element analysis in snow, aircraft measurements, precipitation measurements, and modeling should be used to determine the efficacy of orographic cloud seeding when heavy background precipitation is present.

Restricted access
Bart Geerts
,
Coltin Grasmick
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Troy J. Zaremba
,
Lulin Xue
, and
Katja Friedrich

Abstract

Airborne vertically profiling Doppler radar data and output from a ∼1-km-grid-resolution numerical simulation are used to examine how relatively small-scale terrain ridges (∼10–25 km apart and ∼0.5–1.0 km above the surrounding valleys) impact cross-mountain flow, cloud processes, and surface precipitation in deep stratiform precipitation systems. The radar data were collected along fixed flight tracks aligned with the wind, about 100 km long between the Snake River Plain and the Idaho Central Mountains, as part of the 2017 Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime clouds: the Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE). Data from repeat flight legs are composited in order to suppress transient features and retain the effect of the underlying terrain. Simulations closely match observed series of terrain-driven deep gravity waves, although the simulated wave amplitude is slightly exaggerated. The deep waves produce pockets of supercooled liquid water in the otherwise ice-dominated clouds (confirmed by flight-level observations and the model) and distort radar-derived hydrometeor trajectories. Snow particles aloft encounter several wave updrafts and downdrafts before reaching the ground. No significant wavelike modulation of radar reflectivity or model ice water content occurs. The model does indicate substantial localized precipitation enhancement (1.8–3.0 times higher than the mean) peaking just downwind of individual ridges, especially those ridges with the most intense wave updrafts, on account of shallow pockets of high liquid water content on the upwind side, leading to the growth of snow and graupel, falling out mostly downwind of the crest. Radar reflectivity values near the surface are complicated by snowmelt, but suggest a more modest enhancement downwind of individual ridges.

Significance Statement

Mountains in the midlatitude belt and elsewhere receive more precipitation than the surrounding lowlands. The mountain terrain often is complex, and it remains unclear exactly where this precipitation enhancement occurs, because weather radars are challenged by beam blockage and the gauge network is too sparse to capture the precipitation heterogeneity over complex terrain. This study uses airborne profiling radar and high-resolution numerical simulations for four winter storms over a series of ridges in Idaho. One key finding is that while instantaneous airborne radar transects of the cross-mountain flow, vertical drafts, and reflectivity contain much transient small-scale information, time-averaged transects look very much like the model transects. The model indicates substantial surface precipitation enhancement over terrain, peaking over and just downwind of individual ridges. Radar observations suggest less enhancement, but the radar-based assessment is uncertain. The second key conclusion is that, even though orographic gravity waves are felt all the way up into the upper troposphere, the orographic precipitation enhancement is due to processes very close to the terrain.

Free access
Andrew Janiszeski
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Brian F. Jewett
, and
Troy J. Zaremba

Abstract

This paper examines ice particle re-organization by three-dimensional horizontal kinematic flows within the comma head regions of two U.S. East Coast winter storms, and the effect of reorganization on particle concentrations within snowbands in each storm. In these simplified experiments, the kinematic flows are from the initialization of the HRRR model. Ice particles falling through the comma head were started from either 9, 8, or 7 km altitude, spaced every 200 m, and were transported north or northwest, arriving within the north or northwest half of the primary snowband in each storm. The greatest particle concentration enhancement within each band was a factor of 2.32–3.84 for the 16-17 Dec 2020 storm and 1.76–2.32 for the 29-30 January 2022 storm. Trajectory analyses for particles originating at 4 km on the southeast side of the comma head beneath the dry slot showed that this region supplied particles to the south side of the band with particle enhancements of factor of 1.36–2.08 for the 16-17 Dec 2020 storm and 1.04–2.16 for the 29-30 January 2022 storm. Snowfall within the bands had two source regions: 1) on the north/northwestern side, from ice particles falling from the comma head and, 2) on the southeastern side, from particles forming at or below 4 km altitude and transported northwestward by low-level flow off the Atlantic. While the findings give information on the source of particles in the bands, they do not definitively determine the cause of precipitation banding since other factors, such as large-scale ascent and embedded convection, also contribute to snow growth.

Open access
Andrew Janiszeski
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Brian F. Jewett
,
Greg M. McFarquhar
,
Troy J. Zaremba
, and
John E. Yorks

Abstract

This paper explores whether particles within uniformly spaced generating cells falling at terminal velocity within observed 2D wind fields and idealized deformation flow beneath cloud top can be reorganized consistent with the presence of single and multibanded structures present on WSR-88D radars. In the first experiment, two-dimensional wind fields, calculated along cross sections normal to the long axis of snowbands observed during three northeast U.S. winter storms, were taken from the initialization of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh model. This experiment demonstrated that the greater the residence time of the particles in each of the three storms, the greater particle reorganization occurred. For experiments with longer residence times, increases in particle concentrations were nearly or directly collocated with reflectivity bands. For experiments with shorter residence times, particle reorganization still conformed to the band features but with less concentration enhancement. This experiment demonstrates that the combination of long particle residence time and net convergent cross-sectional flow through the cloud depth is sufficient to reorganize particles into locations consistent with precipitation bands. Increased concentrations of ice particles can then contribute, along with any dynamic forcing, to the low-level reflectivity bands seen on WSR-88D radars. In a second experiment, the impact of flow deformation on the reorganization of falling ice particles was investigated using an idealized kinematic model with stretching deformation flow of different depths and magnitudes. These experiments showed that deformation flow provides for little particle reorganization given typical deformation layer depths and magnitudes within the comma head of such storms.

Significance Statement

Past research with vertically pointing and scanning radars presents two different perspectives regarding snowfall organization in winter storms. Vertically pointing radars often observe cloud-top generating cells with precipitation fallstreaks descending into a broad stratiform echo at lower altitudes. In contrast, scanning radars often observe snowfall organized in quasi-linear bands. This work attempts to provide a connection between these two perspectives by examining how two-dimensional convergent and deformation flow occurring in winter storms can contribute to the reorganization of snowfall between cloud top and the ground.

Open access
Troy J. Zaremba
,
Kaylee Heimes
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Bart Geerts
,
Jeffrey R. French
,
Coltin Grasmick
,
Sarah A. Tessendorf
,
Lulin Xue
,
Katja Friedrich
,
Roy M. Rasmussen
,
Melvin L. Kunkel
, and
Derek R. Blestrud

Abstract

Updrafts in wintertime cloud systems over mountainous regions can be described as fixed, mechanically driven by the terrain under a given ambient wind and stability profile (i.e., vertically propagating gravity waves tied to flow over topography), and transient, associated primarily with vertical wind shear and conditional instability within passing weather systems. This analysis quantifies the magnitude of fixed and transient updraft structures over the Payette River basin sampled during the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE). Vertical motions were retrieved from Wyoming Cloud Radar measurements of radial velocity using the algorithm presented in Part I. Transient circulations were removed, and fixed orographic circulations were quantified by averaging vertical circulations along repeated cross sections over the same terrain during the campaign. Fixed orographic vertical circulations had magnitudes of 0.3–0.5 m s−1. These fixed vertical circulations were composed of a background circulation in which transient circulations were embedded. Transient vertical circulations are shown to be associated with transient wave motions, cloud-top generating cells, convection, and turbulence. Representative transient vertical circulations are illustrated, and data from rawinsondes over the Payette River basin are used to infer the relationship of the vertical circulations to shear and instability. Maximum updrafts are shown to exceed 5 m s−1 within Kelvin–Helmholtz waves, 4 m s−1 associated with transient gravity waves, 3 m s−1 in generating cells, 6 m s−1 in elevated convection, 4 m s−1 in surface-based deep convection, 5 m s−1 in boundary layer turbulence, and 9 m s−1 in shear-induced turbulence.

Free access
Kaylee Heimes
,
Troy J. Zaremba
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Sarah A. Tessendorf
,
Lulin Xue
,
Kyoko Ikeda
,
Bart Geerts
,
Jeffrey French
,
Katja Friedrich
,
Roy M. Rasmussen
,
Melvin L. Kunkel
, and
Derek R. Blestrud

Abstract

In Part II, two classes of vertical motions, fixed (associated with vertically propagating gravity waves tied to flow over topography) and transient (associated primarily with vertical wind shear and conditional instability within passing weather systems), were diagnosed over the Payette River basin of Idaho during the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE). This paper compares vertical motions retrieved from airborne Doppler radial velocity measurements with those from a 900-m-resolution model simulation to determine the impact of transient vertical motions on trajectories of ice particles initiated by airborne cloud seeding. An orographic forcing index, developed to compare vertical motion fields retrieved from the radar with the model, showed that fixed vertical motions were well resolved by the model while transient vertical motions were not. Particle trajectories were calculated for 75 cross-sectional pairs, each differing only by the observed and modeled vertical motion field. Wind fields and particle terminal velocities were otherwise identical in both trajectories so that the impact of transient vertical circulations on particle trajectories could be isolated. In 66.7% of flight-leg pairs, the distance traveled by particles in the model and observations differed by less than 5 km with transient features having minimal impact. In 9.3% of the pairs, model and observation trajectories landed within the ideal target seeding elevation range (>2000 m), whereas, in 77.3% of the pairs, both trajectories landed below the ideal target elevation. Particles in the observations and model descended into valleys on the mountains’ lee sides in 94.2% of cases in which particles traveled less than 37 km.

Free access
Troy J. Zaremba
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Bart Geerts
,
Jeffrey R. French
,
Sarah A. Tessendorf
,
Lulin Xue
,
Katja Friedrich
,
Courtney Weeks
,
Roy M. Rasmussen
,
Melvin L. Kunkel
, and
Derek R. Blestrud

Abstract

This paper examines the controls on supercooled liquid water content (SLWC) and drop number concentrations (Nt ,CDP) over the Payette River basin during the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE) campaign. During SNOWIE, 27.4% of 1-Hz in situ cloud droplet probe samples were in an environment containing supercooled liquid water (SLW). The interquartile range of SLWC, when present, was found to be 0.02–0.18 g m−3 and 13.3–37.2 cm−3 for Nt ,CDP, with the most extreme values reaching 0.40–1.75 g m−3 and 150–320 cm−3 in isolated regions of convection and strong shear-induced turbulence. SLWC and Nt ,CDP distributions are shown to be directly related to cloud-top temperature and ice particle concentrations, consistent with past research over other mountain ranges. Two classes of vertical motions were analyzed as potential controls on SLWC and Nt ,CDP, the first forced by the orography and fixed in space relative to the topography (stationary waves) and the second transient, triggered by vertical shear and instability within passing synoptic-scale cyclones. SLWC occurrence and magnitudes, and Nt ,CDP associated with fixed updrafts were found to be normally distributed about ridgelines when SLW was present. SLW was more likely to form at low altitudes near the terrain slope associated with fixed waves due to higher mixing ratios and larger vertical air parcel displacements at low altitudes. When considering transient updrafts, SLWC and Nt ,CDP appear more uniformly distributed over the flight track with little discernable terrain dependence as a result of time and spatially varying updrafts associated with passing weather systems. The implications for cloud seeding over the basin are discussed.

Restricted access
Troy J. Zaremba
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Kaylee Heimes
,
John E. Yorks
,
Joseph A. Finlon
,
Stephen D. Nicholls
,
Patrick Selmer
,
Lynn A. McMurdie
, and
Greg M. McFarquhar

Abstract

Cloud-top phase (CTP) impacts cloud albedo and pathways for ice particle nucleation, growth, and fallout within extratropical cyclones. This study uses airborne lidar, radar, and Rapid Refresh analysis data to characterize CTP within extratropical cyclones as a function of cloud-top temperature (CTT). During the 2020, 2022, and 2023 Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS) field campaign deployments, the Earth Resources 2 (ER-2) aircraft flew 26 research flights over the northeast and midwest United States to sample the cloud tops of a variety of extratropical cyclones. A training dataset was developed to create probabilistic phase classifications based on Cloud Physics Lidar measurements of known ice and liquid clouds. These classifications were then used to quantify dominant CTP in the top 150 m of clouds sampled by the Cloud Physics Lidar in storms during IMPACTS. Case studies are presented illustrating examples of supercooled liquid water at cloud top at different CTT ranges (−3° < CTTs < −35°C) within extratropical cyclones. During IMPACTS, 19.2% of clouds had supercooled liquid water present at cloud top. Supercooled liquid was the dominant phase in extratropical cyclone cloud tops when CTTs were >−20°C. Liquid-bearing cloud tops were found at CTTs as cold as −37°C.

Significance Statement

Identifying supercooled liquid cloud tops’ frequency is crucial for understanding ice nucleation mechanisms at cloud top, cloud radiative effects, and aircraft icing. In this study, airborne lidar, radar, and model temperature data from 26 research flights during the NASA IMPACTS campaign are used to characterize extratropical cyclone cloud-top phase (CTP) as a function of cloud-top temperature (CTT). The results show that liquid was the dominant CTP present in extratropical cyclone cloud tops when CTTs were >−20°C with decreasing supercooled liquid cloud-top frequency at temperatures < −20°C. Nevertheless, liquid was present at CTTs as cold as −37°C.

Open access
Megan M. Varcie
,
Troy J. Zaremba
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Greg M. McFarquhar
,
Joseph A. Finlon
,
Lynn A. McMurdie
,
Alexander Ryzhkov
,
Martin Schnaiter
,
Emma Järvinen
,
Fritz Waitz
,
David J. Delene
,
Michael R. Poellot
,
Matthew L. Walker McLinden
, and
Andrew Janiszeski

Abstract

On 7 February 2020, precipitation within the comma-head region of an extratropical cyclone was sampled remotely and in situ by two research aircraft, providing a vertical cross section of microphysical observations and fine-scale radar measurements. The sampled region was stratified vertically by distinct temperature layers and horizontally into a stratiform region on the west side, and a region of elevated convection on the east side. In the stratiform region, precipitation formed near cloud top as side-plane, polycrystalline, and platelike particles. These habits occurred through cloud depth, implying that the cloud-top region was the primary source of particles. Almost no supercooled water was present. The ice water content within the stratiform region showed an overall increase with depth between the aircraft flight levels, while the total number concentration slightly decreased, consistent with growth by vapor deposition and aggregation. In the convective region, new particle habits were observed within each temperature-defined layer along with detectable amounts of supercooled water, implying that ice particle formation occurred in several layers. Total number concentration decreased from cloud top to the −8°C level, consistent with particle aggregation. At temperatures > −8°C, ice particle concentrations in some regions increased to >100 L−1, suggesting secondary ice production occurred at lower altitudes. WSR-88D reflectivity composites during the sampling period showed a weak, loosely organized banded feature. The band, evident on earlier flight legs, was consistent with enhanced vertical motion associated with frontogenesis, and at least partial melting of ice particles near the surface. A conceptual model of precipitation growth processes within the comma head is presented.

Significance Statement

Snowstorms over the northeast United States have major impacts on travel, power availability, and commerce. The processes by which snow forms in winter storms over this region are complex and their snowfall totals are hard to forecast accurately because of a poor understanding of the microphysical processes within the clouds composing the storms. This paper presents a case study from the NASA IMPACTS field campaign that involved two aircraft sampling the storm simultaneously with radars, and probes that measure the microphysical properties within the storm. The paper examines how variations in stability and frontal structure influence the microphysical evolution of ice particles as they fall from cloud top to the surface within the storm.

Open access
Lulin Xue
,
Courtney Weeks
,
Sisi Chen
,
Sarah A. Tessendorf
,
Roy M. Rasmussen
,
Kyoko Ikeda
,
Branko Kosovic
,
Dalton Behringer
,
Jeffery R. French
,
Katja Friedrich
,
Troy J. Zaremba
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Christian P. Lackner
,
Bart Geerts
,
Derek Blestrud
,
Melvin Kunkel
,
Nick Dawson
, and
Shaun Parkinson

Abstract

A dry-air intrusion induced by the tropopause folding split the deep cloud into two layers resulting in a shallow orographic cloud with a supercooled liquid cloud top at around −15°C and an ice cloud above it on 19 January 2017 during the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE). The airborne AgI seeding of this case was simulated by the WRF Weather Modification (WRF-WxMod) Model with different configurations. Simulations at different grid spacing, driven by different reanalysis data, using different model physics were conducted to explore the ability of WRF-WxMod to capture the properties of natural and seeded clouds. The detailed model–observation comparisons show that the simulation driven by ERA5 data, using Thompson–Eidhammer microphysics with 30% of the CCN climatology, best captured the observed cloud structure and supercooled liquid water properties. The ability of the model to correctly capture the wind field was critical for successful simulation of the seeding plume locations. The seeding plume features and ice number concentrations within them from the large-eddy simulations (LES) are in better agreement with observations than non-LES runs mostly due to weaker AgI dispersion associated with the finer grid spacing. Seeding effects on precipitation amount and impacted areas from LES seeding simulations agreed well with radar-derived values. This study shows that WRF-WxMod is able to simulate and quantify observed features of natural and seeded clouds given that critical observations are available to validate the model. Observation-constrained seeding ensemble simulations are proposed to quantify the AgI seeding impacts on wintertime orographic clouds.

Significance Statement

Recent observational work has demonstrated that the impact of airborne glaciogenic seeding of orographic supercooled liquid clouds is detectable and can be quantified in terms of the extra ground precipitation. This study aims, for the first time, to simulate this seeding impact for one well-observed case. The stakes are high: if the model performs well in this case, then seasonal simulations can be conducted with appropriate configurations after validations against observations, to determine the impact of a seeding program on the seasonal mountain snowpack and runoff, with more fidelity than ever. High–resolution weather simulations inherently carry uncertainty. Within the envelope of this uncertainty, the model compares very well to the field observations.

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