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Brian A. Colle, Justin B. Wolfe, W. James Steenburgh, David E. Kingsmill, Justin A. W. Cox, and Jason C. Shafer


This paper investigates the kinematic flow and precipitation evolution of a winter storm over and upstream of the Wasatch Mountains [Intermountain Precipitation Experiment third intensive observing period (IPEX IOP3)] using a multiply nested version of the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University (PSU)––National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5). Validation using in situ aircraft data, radiosondes, ground-based radar, and surface observations showed that the MM5, which featured four domains with 36-, 12-, 4-, and 1.33-km grid spacing, realistically simulated the observed partial blocking of the 8–12 m s−1 ambient southwesterly flow and development of a convergence zone and enhanced lowland precipitation region upwind of the initial Wasatch slope. The MM5 also properly simulated the advance of this convergence zone toward the base of the Wasatch during the passage of a midlevel trough, despite not fully capturing the westerly wind shift accompanying the trough.

Accurate simulation of the observed precipitation over the central Wasatch Mountains (within 25% of observed at all stations) required a horizontal grid spacing of 1.33 km. Despite close agreement with the observed surface precipitation, the Reisner2 bulk microphysical scheme produced too much supercooled cloud water and too little snow aloft. A model microphysical budget revealed that the Reisner2 generated over half of the surface precipitation through riming and accretion, rather than snow deposition and aggregation as implied by the observations. Using an intercept for the snow size distribution that allows for greater snow concentrations aloft improved the snow predictions and reduced the cloud water overprediction.

Sensitivity studies illustrate that the reduced surface drag of the Great Salt Lake (GSL) enhanced the convergence zone and associated lowland precipitation enhancement upstream of the Wasatch Mountains. The presence of mountain ranges south of the Great Salt Lake appears to have weakened the along-barrier flow and windward convergence, resulting in a slight decrease in windward precipitation enhancement. Diabatic cooling from falling precipitation was also important for maintaining the blocked flow.

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Brian A. Colle, Matthew F. Garvert, Justin B. Wolfe, Clifford F. Mass, and Christopher P. Woods


This paper investigates the microphysical pathways and sensitivities within the Reisner-2 bulk microphysical parameterization (BMP) of the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5) for the Improvement of Microphysical Parameterization through Observational Verification Experiment (IMPROVE)-2 field experiment on 13–14 December 2001. A microphysical budget over the windward slope at 1.33-km horizontal grid spacing was calculated, in which the importance of each microphysical process was quantified relative to the water vapor loss (WVL) rate. Over the windward Cascades, the largest water vapor loss was associated with condensation (73% of WVL) and snow deposition (24%), and the windward surface precipitation resulted primarily from accretion of cloud water by rain (27% of WVL), graupel fallout and melt (19%), and snowmelt (6%). Two-thirds of the snow generated aloft spilled over into the lee in an area of model overprediction, resulting in windward precipitation efficiency of only 50%. Even with the large amount of precipitation spillover, the windward precipitation was still overpredicted in many locations.

A series of experiments were completed using different snowfall speeds, cloud water autoconversion, threshold riming values for snow to graupel autoconversion, and slope intercepts for snow. The surface precipitation was most sensitive to those parameters associated with the snow size distribution and fall speed, while decreasing the riming threshold for snow to graupel conversion had the greatest positive impact on the precipitation forecast. All simulations overpredicted cloud water over the lower windward slopes, had too little cloud water over the crest, and had too much ice at moderate-to-large sizes aloft. Riming processes were important, since without supercooled water there were bull’s-eyes of spurious snow spillover over the lee slopes.

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Matthew F. Garvert, Christopher P. Woods, Brian A. Colle, Clifford F. Mass, Peter V. Hobbs, Mark T. Stoelinga, and Justin B. Wolfe


This paper compares airborne in situ observations of cloud microphysical parameters with the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5) simulations, using the Reisner-2 bulk microphysical parameterization, for a heavy precipitation event over the Oregon Cascades on 13–14 December 2001.

The MM5 correctly replicated the extent of the snow field and the growth of snow particles by vapor deposition measured along aircraft flight tracks between altitudes of 4.9 and 6 km, but overpredicted the mass concentrations of snow. The model produced a broader number distribution of snow particles than observed, overpredicting the number of moderate-to-large-sized snow particles and underpredicting the number of small particles observed along the aircraft flight track. Over the mountain crest, the model overpredicted depositional growth of snow and mass concentrations of snow, but underpredicted the amount of cloud liquid water and conversion of snow to graupel. The misclassification of graupel as snow and excessive amounts of snow resulted in the model overpredicting precipitation on the lee slopes and in localized areas along the foothills of the Cascades. The model overpredicted cloud liquid water over the lower windward slopes and foothills, where accretion of cloud liquid water by rain was the primary precipitation-producing mechanism.

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