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Jennifer C. DeHart and Robert A. Houze Jr.


Airborne radar data collected within Hurricane Karl (2010) provide a high-resolution glimpse of variations in the vertical precipitation structure around complex terrain in eastern Mexico. Widespread precipitation north of Karl’s track traced the strong gradient of terrain, suggesting orographic enhancement. Although the airborne radar did not sample the period of peak precipitation, time series of surface rainfall at three locations near the inner core show greater precipitation where flow was oriented to rise over the terrain. In regions of upslope flow, radar observations reveal reflectivity enhancement within 1–2 km of the surface. The shallow nature of the enhancement points to orographically generated cloud water accreted by falling drops as a mechanism consistent with prior studies, while the heterogeneous nature of the enhancement suggests shallow convection was playing a role. In contrast, regions of downslope flow were characterized by uniform reflectivity above the ground and fallstreaks originating above the melting level. Unlike most previously studied tropical cyclones passing over topography, Karl made landfall on a mountainous continent, not an island. As Karl weakened and decayed over land, the vertical structure of the radar echo deteriorated north of the storm center, and infrared satellite imagery revealed a strong reduction in the upper-level cloud coverage; however, a small region of intense convection appeared and produced locally heavy rainfall as Karl was close to dissipation. These results indicate that orographic modification processes in a landfalling tropical cyclone are not static, and surface precipitation is highly sensitive to the changes.

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Jennifer C. DeHart, Robert A. Houze Jr., and Robert F. Rogers


Airborne Doppler radar data collected in tropical cyclones by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration WP-3D aircraft over an 8-yr period (2003–10) are used to statistically analyze the vertical structure of tropical cyclone eyewalls with reference to the deep-layer shear. Convective evolution within the inner core conforms to patterns shown by previous studies: convection initiates downshear right, intensifies downshear left, and weakens upshear. Analysis of the vertical distribution of radar reflectivity and vertical air motion indicates the development of upper-level downdrafts in conjunction with strong convection downshear left and a maximum in frequency upshear left. Intense updrafts and downdrafts both conform to the shear asymmetry pattern. While strong updrafts occur in the eyewall, intense downdrafts show far more radial variability, particularly in the upshear-left quadrant, though they concentrate along the eyewall edges. Strong updrafts are collocated with low-level inflow and upper-level outflow superimposed on the background flow. In contrast, strong downdrafts occur in association with low-level outflow and upper-level inflow.

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Robert A. Houze Jr., Lynn A. McMurdie, Walter A. Petersen, Mathew R. Schwaller, William Baccus, Jessica D. Lundquist, Clifford F. Mass, Bart Nijssen, Steven A. Rutledge, David R. Hudak, Simone Tanelli, Gerald G. Mace, Michael R. Poellot, Dennis P. Lettenmaier, Joseph P. Zagrodnik, Angela K. Rowe, Jennifer C. DeHart, Luke E. Madaus, Hannah C. Barnes, and V. Chandrasekar


The Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) took place during the 2015/16 fall–winter season in the vicinity of the mountainous Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. The goals of OLYMPEX were to provide physical and hydrologic ground validation for the U.S.–Japan Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite mission and, more specifically, to study how precipitation in Pacific frontal systems is modified by passage over coastal mountains. Four transportable scanning dual-polarization Doppler radars of various wavelengths were installed. Surface stations were placed at various altitudes to measure precipitation rates, particle size distributions, and fall velocities. Autonomous recording cameras monitored and recorded snow accumulation. Four research aircraft supplied by NASA investigated precipitation processes and snow cover, and supplemental rawinsondes and dropsondes were deployed during precipitation events. Numerous Pacific frontal systems were sampled, including several reaching “atmospheric river” status, warm- and cold-frontal systems, and postfrontal convection.

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