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T. Connor Nelson, James Marquis, Adam Varble, and Katja Friedrich

Abstract

The Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, and Mesoscale/Microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO) and Cloud, Aerosol, and Complex Terrain Interactions (CACTI) projects deployed a high-spatiotemporal-resolution radiosonde network to examine environments supporting deep convection in the complex terrain of central Argentina. This study aims to characterize atmospheric profiles most representative of the near-cloud environment (in time and space) to identify the mesoscale ingredients affecting storm initiation and growth. Spatiotemporal autocorrelation analysis of the soundings reveals that there is considerable environmental heterogeneity, with boundary layer thermodynamic and kinematic fields becoming statistically uncorrelated on scales of 1–2 h and 30 km. Using this as guidance, we examine a variety of environmental parameters derived from soundings collected within close proximity (30 km in space and 30 min in time) of 44 events over 9 days where the atmosphere either: 1) supported the initiation of sustained precipitating convection, 2) yielded weak and short-lived precipitating convection, or 3) produced no precipitating convection in disagreement with numerical forecasts from convection-allowing models (i.e., Null events). There are large statistical differences between the Null event environments and those supporting any convective precipitation. Null event profiles contained larger convective available potential energy, but had low free-tropospheric relative humidity, higher freezing levels, and evidence of limited horizontal convergence near the terrain at low levels that likely suppressed deep convective growth. We also present evidence from the radiosonde and satellite measurements that flow–terrain interactions may yield gravity wave activity that affects CI outcome.

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Hugh Morrison, John M. Peters, Adam C. Varble, Walter M. Hannah, and Scott E. Giangrande

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that cumulus updrafts often consist of a succession of discrete rising thermals with spherical vortex-like circulations. In this paper, a theory is developed for why this “thermal chain” structure occurs. Theoretical expressions are obtained for a passive tracer, buoyancy, and vertical velocity in axisymmetric moist updrafts. Analysis of these expressions suggests that the thermal chain structure arises from enhanced lateral mixing associated with intrusions of dry environmental air below an updraft’s vertical velocity maximum. This dry-air entrainment reduces buoyancy locally. Consequently, the updraft flow above levels of locally reduced buoyancy separates from below, leading to a breakdown of the updraft into successive discrete thermals. The range of conditions in which thermal chains exist is also analyzed from the theoretical expressions. A transition in updraft structure from isolated rising thermal, to thermal chain, to starting plume occurs with increases in updraft width, environmental relative humidity, and/or convective available potential energy. Corresponding expressions for the bulk fractional entrainment rate ε are also obtained. These expressions indicate rather complicated entrainment behavior of ascending updrafts, with local enhancement of ε up to a factor of ~2 associated with the aforementioned environmental-air intrusions, consistent with recent large-eddy simulation (LES) studies. These locally large entrainment rates contribute significantly to overall updraft dilution in thermal chain-like updrafts, while other regions within the updraft can remain relatively undilute. Part II of this study compares results from the theoretical expressions to idealized numerical simulations and LES.

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John M. Peters, Hugh Morrison, Adam C. Varble, Walter M. Hannah, and Scott E. Giangrande

Abstract

Research has suggested that the structure of deep convection often consists of a series of rising thermals, or “thermal chain,” which contrasts with existing conceptual models that are used to construct cumulus parameterizations. Simplified theoretical expressions for updraft properties obtained in Part I of this study are used to develop a hypothesis explaining why this structure occurs. In this hypothesis, cumulus updraft structure is strongly influenced by organized entrainment below the updraft’s vertical velocity maximum. In a dry environment, this enhanced entrainment can locally reduce condensation rates and increase evaporation, thus eroding buoyancy. For moderate-to-large initial cloud radius R, this breaks up the updraft into a succession of discrete pulses of rising motion (i.e., a thermal chain). For small R, this leads to the structure of a single, isolated rising thermal. In contrast, moist environments are hypothesized to favor plume-like updrafts for moderate-to-large R. In a series of axisymmetric numerical cloud simulations, R and environmental relative humidity (RH) are systematically varied to test this hypothesis. Vertical profiles of fractional entrainment rate, passive tracer concentration, buoyancy, and vertical velocity from these runs agree well with vertical profiles calculated from the theoretical expressions in Part I. Analysis of the simulations supports the hypothesized dependency of updraft structure on R and RH, that is, whether it consists of an isolated thermal, a thermal chain, or a plume, and the role of organized entrainment in driving this dependency. Additional three-dimensional (3D) turbulent cloud simulations are analyzed, and the behavior of these 3D runs is qualitatively consistent with the theoretical expressions and axisymmetric simulations.

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James N. Marquis, Adam C. Varble, Paul Robinson, T. Connor Nelson, and Katja Friedrich

Abstract

Data from scanning radars, radiosondes, and vertical profilers deployed during three field campaigns are analyzed to study interactions between cloud-scale updrafts associated with initiating deep moist convection and the surrounding environment. Three cases are analyzed in which the radar networks permitted dual-Doppler wind retrievals in clear air preceding and during the onset of surface precipitation. These observations capture the evolution of (i) the mesoscale and boundary layer flow, and (ii) low-level updrafts associated with deep moist convection initiation (CI) events yielding sustained or short-lived precipitating storms. The elimination of convective inhibition did not distinguish between sustained and unsustained CI events, though the vertical distribution of convective available potential energy may have played a role. The clearest signal differentiating the initiation of sustained versus unsustained precipitating deep convection was the depth of the low-level horizontal wind convergence associated with the mesoscale flow feature triggering CI, a sharp surface wind shift boundary, or orographic upslope flow. The depth of the boundary layer relative to the height of the LFC failed to be a consistent indicator of CI potential. Widths of the earliest detectable low-level updrafts associated with sustained precipitating deep convection were ~3–5 km, larger than updrafts associated with surrounding boundary layer turbulence (~1–3 km wide). It is hypothesized that updrafts of this larger size are important for initiating cells to survive the destructive effects of buoyancy dilution via entrainment.

Open access
Russ S. Schumacher, Deanna A. Hence, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Robert J. Trapp, Karen A. Kosiba, Joshua Wurman, Paola Salio, Martin Rugna, Adam C. Varble, and Nathan R. Kelly

Abstract

During the Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, and Mesoscale/Microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations-Cloud, Aerosol, and Complex Terrain Interactions (RELAMPAGO-CACTI) field experiments in 2018–19, an unprecedented number of balloon-borne soundings were collected in Argentina. Radiosondes were launched from both fixed and mobile platforms, yielding 2712 soundings during the period 15 October 2018–30 April 2019. Approximately 20% of these soundings were collected by highly mobile platforms, strategically positioned for each intensive observing period, and launching approximately once per hour. The combination of fixed and mobile soundings capture both the overall conditions characterizing the RELAMPAGO-CACTI campaign, as well as the detailed evolution of environments supporting the initiation and upscale growth of deep convective storms, including some that produced hazardous hail and heavy rainfall. Episodes of frequent convection were characterized by sufficient quantities of moisture and instability for deep convection, along with deep-layer vertical wind shear supportive of organized or rotating storms. A total of 11 soundings showed most unstable convective available potential energy (MUCAPE) exceeding 6000 J kg−1, comparable to the extreme instability observed in other parts of the world with intense deep convection. Parameters used to diagnose severe-storm potential showed that conditions were often favorable for supercells and severe hail, but not for tornadoes, primarily because of insufficient low-level wind shear. High-frequency soundings also revealed the structure and evolution of the boundary layer leading up to convection initiation, convectively generated cold pools, the South American low-level jet (SALLJ), and elevated nocturnal convection. This sounding dataset will enable improved understanding and prediction of convective storms and their surroundings in subtropical South America, as well as comparisons with other heavily studied regions such as the central United States that have not previously been possible.

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Adam C. Varble, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Paola Salio, Joseph C. Hardin, Nitin Bharadwaj, Paloma Borque, Paul J. DeMott, Zhe Feng, Thomas C. J. Hill, James N. Marquis, Alyssa Matthews, Fan Mei, Rusen Öktem, Vagner Castro, Lexie Goldberger, Alexis Hunzinger, Kevin R. Barry, Sonia M. Kreidenweis, Greg M. McFarquhar, Lynn A. McMurdie, Mikhail Pekour, Heath Powers, David M. Romps, Celeste Saulo, Beat Schmid, Jason M. Tomlinson, Susan C. van den Heever, Alla Zelenyuk, Zhixiao Zhang, and Edward J. Zipser

Abstract

The Cloud, Aerosol, and Complex Terrain Interactions (CACTI) field campaign was designed to improve understanding of orographic cloud life cycles in relation to surrounding atmospheric thermodynamic, flow, and aerosol conditions. The deployment to the Sierras de Córdoba range in north-central Argentina was chosen because of very frequent cumulus congestus, deep convection initiation, and mesoscale convective organization uniquely observable from a fixed site. The C-band Scanning Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Precipitation Radar was deployed for the first time with over 50 ARM Mobile Facility atmospheric state, surface, aerosol, radiation, cloud, and precipitation instruments between October 2018 and April 2019. An intensive observing period (IOP) coincident with the RELAMPAGO field campaign was held between 1 November and 15 December during which 22 flights were performed by the ARM Gulfstream-1 aircraft. A multitude of atmospheric processes and cloud conditions were observed over the 7-month campaign, including numerous orographic cumulus and stratocumulus events; new particle formation and growth producing high aerosol concentrations; drizzle formation in fog and shallow liquid clouds; very low aerosol conditions following wet deposition in heavy rainfall; initiation of ice in congestus clouds across a range of temperatures; extreme deep convection reaching 21-km altitudes; and organization of intense, hail-containing supercells and mesoscale convective systems. These comprehensive datasets include many of the first ever collected in this region and provide new opportunities to study orographic cloud evolution and interactions with meteorological conditions, aerosols, surface conditions, and radiation in mountainous terrain.

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Stephen W. Nesbitt, Paola V. Salio, Eldo Ávila, Phillip Bitzer, Lawrence Carey, V. Chandrasekar, Wiebke Deierling, Francina Dominguez, Maria Eugenia Dillon, C. Marcelo Garcia, David Gochis, Steven Goodman, Deanna A. Hence, Karen A. Kosiba, Matthew R. Kumjian, Timothy Lang, Lorena Medina Luna, James Marquis, Robert Marshall, Lynn A. McMurdie, Ernani de Lima Nascimento, Kristen L. Rasmussen, Rita Roberts, Angela K. Rowe, Juan José Ruiz, Eliah F.M.T. São Sabbas, A. Celeste Saulo, Russ S. Schumacher, Yanina Garcia Skabar, Luiz Augusto Toledo Machado, Robert J. Trapp, Adam C. Varble, James Wilson, Joshua Wurman, Edward J. Zipser, Ivan Arias, Hernán Bechis, and Maxwell A. Grover

Abstract

This article provides an overview of the experimental design, execution, education and public outreach, data collection, and initial scientific results from the Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, and Mesoscale/Microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO) field campaign. RELAMPAGO was a major field campaign conducted in the Córdoba and Mendoza provinces in Argentina and western Rio Grande do Sul State in Brazil in 2018–19 that involved more than 200 scientists and students from the United States, Argentina, and Brazil. This campaign was motivated by the physical processes and societal impacts of deep convection that frequently initiates in this region, often along the complex terrain of the Sierras de Córdoba and Andes, and often grows rapidly upscale into dangerous storms that impact society. Observed storms during the experiment produced copious hail, intense flash flooding, extreme lightning flash rates, and other unusual lightning phenomena, but few tornadoes. The five distinct scientific foci of RELAMPAGO—convection initiation, severe weather, upscale growth, hydrometeorology, and lightning and electrification—are described, as are the deployment strategies to observe physical processes relevant to these foci. The campaign’s international cooperation, forecasting efforts, and mission planning strategies enabled a successful data collection effort. In addition, the legacy of RELAMPAGO in South America, including extensive multinational education, public outreach, and social media data gathering associated with the campaign, is summarized.

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