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Jian-Jian Wang and Lawrence D. Carey

Abstract

A primary goal of the South China Sea Monsoon Experiment (SCSMEX), a major field campaign of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), is to define the initiation, structure, evolution, and dynamics of precipitation processes associated with the onset of the South China Sea (SCS) summer monsoon. In this study, dual-Doppler and dual-polarimetric radar analysis techniques are used to investigate the development and structure of a squall-line system observed on 24 May 1998. The focus is the linkage between the airflow and the microphysical fields through the system.

The squall-line system, including three distinct lines, persisted from 1200 UTC 24 May to the following day. A detailed study was performed on the structure of the second and most intense line, lasting for over 10 h. Compared to tropical squall lines observed in other regions, this narrow squall-line system had some interesting features including 1) maximum reflectivity as high as 55 dBZ; 2) relatively little stratiform rainfall that preceded instead of trailed the convective line; and 3) a broad vertical velocity maximum in the rear part of the system, rather than a narrow ribbon of vertical velocity maximum near the leading edge.

Polarimetric radar–inferred microphysical (e.g., hydrometeor type, amount, and size) and rainfall properties are placed in the context of the mesoscale morphology and dual-Doppler-derived kinematics for this squall-line system. A comparison is made between results from this study for SCSMEX and the previous studies for the TRMM Large-Scale Biosphere–Atmosphere experiment (LBA). It was found that precipitation over the SCS monsoon region during the summer monsoon onset was similar to the precipitation over the Amazon monsoon region during the westerly regime of the TRMM–LBA, which has previously been found to be closer to typical conditions over tropical oceans. Both of these cases showed lower rain rates and rainwater contents, smaller raindrops, and significantly lower ice water contents between 5 and 8 km than the precipitation over the Amazon during the easterly regime of the TRMM–LBA with more tropical continental characteristics.

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Lawrence D. Carey and Walter A. Petersen

Abstract

Estimating raindrop size has been a long-standing objective of polarimetric radar–based precipitation retrieval methods. The relationship between the differential reflectivity Z dr and the median volume diameter D 0 is typically derived empirically using raindrop size distribution observations from a disdrometer, a raindrop physical model, and a radar scattering model. Because disdrometers are known to undersample large raindrops, the maximum drop diameter D max is often an assumed parameter in the rain physical model. C-band Z dr is sensitive to resonance scattering at drop diameters larger than 5 mm, which falls in the region of uncertainty for D max. Prior studies have not accounted for resonance scattering at C band and D max uncertainty in assessing potential errors in drop size retrievals. As such, a series of experiments are conducted that evaluate the effect of D max parameterization on the retrieval error of D 0 from a fourth-order polynomial function of C-band Z dr by varying the assumed D max through the range of assumptions found in the literature. Normalized bias errors for estimating D 0 from C-band Z dr range from −8% to 15%, depending on the postulated error in D max. The absolute normalized bias error increases with C-band Z dr, can reach 10% for Z dr as low as 1–1.75 dB, and can increase from there to values as large as 15%–45% for larger Z dr, which is a larger potential bias error than is found at S and X band. Uncertainty in D max assumptions and the associated potential D 0 retrieval errors should be noted and accounted for in future C-band polarimetric radar studies.

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Lawrence D. Carey and Steven A. Rutledge

Abstract

One of the primary scientific objectives of the Maritime Continent Thunderstorm Experiment was to study cloud electrification processes in tropical island convection, in particular, the coupling between ice phase precipitation and lightning production. To accomplish this goal, a C-band polarimetric radar was deployed in the Tropics (11.6°S, 130.8°E) for the first time, accompanied by a suite of lightning measurements. Using observations of the propagation-corrected horizontal reflectivity and differential reflectivity, along with specific differential phase, rain and ice masses were estimated during the entire life cycle of an electrically active tropical convective complex (known locally as Hector) over the Tiwi Islands on 28 November 1995. Hector’s precipitation structure as inferred from these raw and derived radar fields was then compared in time and space to the measured surface electric field, cloud-to-ground (CG) and total lightning flash rates, and ground strike locations.

During Hector’s developing stage, precipitating convective cells along island sea breezes were dominated by warm rain processes. No significant electric fields or lightning were associated with this stage of Hector, despite substantial rainfall rates. Aided by gust front forcing, a cumulus merger process resulted in larger, taller, and more intense convective complexes that were dominated by mixed-phase precipitation processes. During the mature phase of Hector, lightning and the surface electric field were strongly correlated to the mixed phase ice mass and rainfall. Merged convective complexes produced 97% of the rainfall and mixed-phase ice mass and 100% of the CG lightning. As Hector dissipated, lightning activity rapidly ceased.

As evidenced from the multiparameter radar observations, the multicell nature of Hector resulted in the continuous lofting of supercooled drops to temperatures between −10° and −20°C in discrete updraft cores during both the early and mature phases. The freezing of these drops provided instantaneous precipitation-sized ice particles that may have subsequently rimed and participated in thunderstorm electrification via the noninductive charging mechanism.

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Lawrence D. Carey and Kurt M. Buffalo

Abstract

In this study, it is hypothesized that the mesoscale environment can indirectly control the cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning polarity of severe storms by directly affecting their structural, dynamical, and microphysical properties, which in turn directly control cloud electrification and ground flash polarity. A more specific hypothesis, which has been supported by past observational and laboratory charging studies, suggests that broad, strong updrafts and associated large liquid water contents in severe storms lead to the generation of an inverted charge structure and enhanced +CG lightning production. The corollary is that environmental conditions favoring these kinematic and microphysical characteristics should support severe storms generating an anomalously high (>25%) percentage of +CG lightning (i.e., positive storms) while environmental conditions relatively less favorable should sustain storms characterized by a typical (≤25%) percentage of +CG lightning (i.e., negative storms). Forty-eight inflow proximity soundings were analyzed to characterize the environment of nine distinct mesoscale regions of severe storms (4 positive and 5 negative) on 6 days during May–June 2002 over the central United States. This analysis clearly demonstrated significant and systematic differences in the mesoscale environments of positive and negative storms, which were consistent with the stated hypothesis. When compared to negative storms, positive storms occurred in environments associated with a drier low to midtroposphere, higher cloud-base height, smaller warm cloud depth, stronger conditional instability, larger 0–3 km AGL wind shear, stronger 0–2 km AGL storm relative wind speed, and larger buoyancy in the mixed-phase zone, at a statistically significant level. Differences in the warm cloud depth of positive and negative storms were by far the most dramatic, suggesting an important role for this parameter in controlling CG lightning polarity. In this study, strong correlations between the mesoscale environment and CG lightning polarity were demonstrated. However, causality could not be verified due to a lack of in situ observations to confirm the hypothesized microphysical, dynamical, and electrical responses to variations in environmental conditions that ultimately determined the dominant CG polarity. Future observational field programs and cloud modeling studies should focus on these critical intermediary processes.

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Scott M. Steiger, Richard E. Orville, and Lawrence D. Carey

Abstract

Total lightning data from the Lightning Detection and Ranging (LDAR II) research network in addition to cloud-to-ground flash data from the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) and data from the Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas, Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) station (KFWS) were examined from individual cells within mesoscale convective systems that crossed the Dallas–Fort Worth region on 13 October 2001, 27 May 2002, and 16 June 2002. LDAR II source density contours were comma shaped, in association with severe wind events within mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) on 13 October 2001 and 27 May 2002. This signature is similar to the radar reflectivity bow echo. The source density comma shape was apparent 15 min prior to a severe wind report and lasted more than 20 min during the 13 October storm. Consistent relationships between severe straight-line winds, radar, and lightning storm cell characteristics (e.g., lightning heights) were not found for cells within MCSs as was the case for severe weather in supercells in Part I of this study. Cell interactions within MCSs are believed to weaken these relationships as reflectivity and lightning from nearby storms contaminate the cells of interest. Another hypothesis for these weak relations is that system, not individual cell, processes are responsible for severe straight-line winds at the surface. Analysis of the total lightning structure of the 13 October 2001 MCS showed downward-sloping source density contours behind the main convective line into the stratiform region. This further supports a charge advection mechanism in developing the stratiform charge structure. Bimodal vertical source density distributions were observed within MCS convection close to the center of the LDAR II network, while the lower mode was not detected at increasing range.

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Christopher J. Schultz, Walter A. Petersen, and Lawrence D. Carey

Abstract

Previous studies have demonstrated that rapid increases in total lightning activity (intracloud + cloud-to-ground) are often observed tens of minutes in advance of the occurrence of severe weather at the ground. These rapid increases in lightning activity have been termed “lightning jumps.” Herein, the authors document a positive correlation between lightning jumps and the manifestation of severe weather in thunderstorms occurring across the Tennessee Valley and Washington D.C. A total of 107 thunderstorms from the Tennessee Valley; Washington, D.C.; Dallas, Texas; and Houston, Texas, were examined in this study. Of the 107 thunderstorms, 69 thunderstorms fall into the category of nonsevere and 38 into the category of severe. From the dataset of 69 isolated nonsevere thunderstorms, an average, peak, 1-min flash rate of 10 flashes per minute was determined. A variety of severe thunderstorm types were examined for this study, including a mesoscale convective system, mesoscale convective vortex, tornadic outer rainbands of tropical remnants, supercells, and pulse severe thunderstorms. Of the 107 thunderstorms, 85 thunderstorms (47 nonsevere, 38 severe) were from the Tennessee Valley and Washington, D.C., and these 85 thunderstorms tested six lightning jump algorithm configurations (Gatlin, Gatlin 45, 2σ, 3σ, Threshold 10, and Threshold 8). Performance metrics for each algorithm were then calculated, yielding encouraging results from the limited sample of 85 thunderstorms. The 2σ lightning jump algorithm had a high probability of detection (POD; 87%), a modest false-alarm rate (FAR; 33%), and a solid Heidke skill score (0.75). These statistics exceed current NWS warning statistics with this dataset; however, this algorithm needs further testing because there is a large difference in sample sizes. A second and more simplistic lightning jump algorithm named the Threshold 8 lightning jump algorithm also shows promise, with a POD of 81% and a FAR of 41%. Average lead times to severe weather occurrence for these two algorithms were 23 min. The overall goal of this study is to advance the development of an operationally applicable jump algorithm that can be used with either total lightning observations made from the ground, or in the near future from space using the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite Series R (GOES-R) Geostationary Lightning Mapper.

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Kelsey B. Thompson, Monte G. Bateman, and Lawrence D. Carey

Abstract

Lightning stroke data from both the World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) and the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network (ENTLN) were compared to lightning group data from the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) from 1 January 2010 through 30 June 2011. The region of study, from 39°S to 39°N latitude, chosen based on the orbit of LIS, and 164°E east to 17°W longitude, chosen to approximate the possible Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) longitude, was considered in its entirety and then divided into geographical subregions. Over this 18-month time period, WWLLN had an 11.0% entire region, 13.2% North American, 6.2% South American, 16.4% Atlantic Ocean, and 18.9% Pacific Ocean coincidence percent (CP) value. The ENTLN CP values were 28.5%, 63.3%, 2.2%, 3.0%, and 2.5%, respectively. During the 18 months, WWLLN CP values remained rather consistent but low and often higher over ocean than land; ENTLN CP values showed large spatial and temporal variability. With both networks, North America had less variability during summer months than winter months and higher CP values during winter months than summer months. The highest ENTLN CP values were found in the southeastern United States, especially in a semicircle that extended from central Oklahoma, through Texas, along the northern Gulf of Mexico, across southern Florida, and along the U.S. East Coast. There was no significant change in CP values over time; the lowest monthly North American ENTLN CP value was found in June 2011 at 48.1%, the last month analyzed. These findings are consistent with most ENTLN sensors being located in the United States.

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Retha Matthee Mecikalski, Anthony L. Bain, and Lawrence D. Carey

Abstract

The Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry (DC3) experiment seeks to understand the kinematic and microphysical controls on the lightning behavior of deep moist convection. This study utilized multiple dual-polarization Doppler radars across northern Alabama to quantify microphysical and kinematic properties and processes that often serve as precursors to lightning, such as the graupel echo volume, graupel mass, and convective updraft volume. The focus here was on one multicellular complex that occurred on 21 May 2012 in northern Alabama during DC3. The graupel echo volume and the graupel mass in the charging region correlated well with the total lightning flash rate (FR), and even better than the updraft volumes and maximum updraft velocities. The flash length scales (LS) and flash areas were generally anticorrelated to the FR, while it was correlated to the nonprecipitation ice volume. More specifically, the presence of smaller flashes was associated with a stronger lower positive charge region caused by larger graupel volumes, stronger updraft volumes, and stronger maximum updraft velocities while larger flashes occurred during lower FRs and were associated with a weakened lower positive charge region in combination with a stronger upper positive charge region, weaker updraft velocities, a smaller graupel volume and mass, and an increase in nonprecipitation ice volume.

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Christopher J. Schultz, Walter A. Petersen, and Lawrence D. Carey

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Many studies over the past several decades have attempted to correlate trends in lightning (e.g., rates, polarity) to severe weather occurrence. These studies mainly used cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning information due to the ease of data availability, high detection efficiency, and broad coverage across the United States, with somewhat inconclusive results. Conversely, it has been demonstrated that trends in total lightning are more robustly correlated to severe weather occurrence, with rapid increases in total lightning observed 10s of minutes prior to the onset of severe weather. Unfortunately, total lightning observations are not as numerous, or available over the same areal coverage domain, as provided by CG networks. Relatively few studies have examined concurrent trends in both total and CG lightning within the same severe thunderstorm, or even large sets of thunderstorms using an objective lightning jump algorithm. Multiple studies have shown that the total flash rate rapidly increases prior to the onset of severe weather. What is untested within the same framework is the use of CG information to perform the same task. Herein, total and CG lightning trends for 711 thunderstorms occurring in four regions of the country were examined to demonstrate the increased utility that total lightning provides over CG lightning, specifically within the framework of developing a useful lightning-based severe weather warning decision support tool. Results indicate that while both lightning datasets demonstrate the presence of increased lightning activity prior to the onset of severe weather, the use of total lightning trends was more effective than CG trends [probability of detection (POD), 79% versus 66%; false alarm rate (FAR), 36% versus 53%; critical success index (CSI), 55% versus 38%; Heidke skill score (HSS), 0.71 versus 0.55]. Moreover, 40% of false alarms associated with total lightning, and 16% of false alarms with CG lightning trends, occurred when a lightning jump associated with a severe weather “warning” was already in effect. If these false alarms are removed, the FAR drops from 36% to 22% for total lightning and from 53% to 44% for CG lightning. Importantly, average lead times prior to severe weather occurrence were higher using total lightning as compared with CG lightning (20.65 versus 13.54 min). The ultimate goal of this study was to demonstrate the increased utility of total lightning information that the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) will provide to operational meteorology in anticipation of severe convective weather on a hemispheric scale once Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) is deployed in the next decade.

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Lawrence D. Carey, Steven A. Rutledge, and Walter A. Petersen

Abstract

The majority (61%) of severe storm reports (i.e., large hail and tornado) during the 1989–98 warm seasons (April–September) were associated with predominantly (>90%) negative cloud-to-ground (PNCG) lightning. Across the contiguous United States, only 15% of severe storm reports were characterized by predominantly (>50%) positive CG (PPCG) lightning activity. However, significant regional variability occurred in the relationship between warm season severe storm reports and CG lightning polarity. In the eastern United States, a significant fraction (81%) of severe storm reports occurred nearby PNCG lightning while only 2% of severe storms were associated with PPCG lightning. The CG lightning behavior was quite different over the northern plains; only 28% of severe storm reports were linked with PNCG lightning while 43% were characterized by PPCG lightning. Although the direct physical relationship is still not evident, this regional variability appears to be at least partially explained by differences in the meteorological environment of severe storms producing PPCG and PNCG lightning.

The locations of the monthly frequency maxima of severe storms that produced PPCG and PNCG lightning were systematically offset with respect to the climatological monthly position of the surface θ e ridge on severe outbreak days. Severe storms that produced PPCG lightning generally occurred west and northwest of the θ e ridge in the upstream θ e gradient region. Severe storms generating PNCG lightning were located southeast of the PPCG lightning maxima, closer to the axis of the θ e ridge in higher mean values of θ e.

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