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Matthew R. Kumjian and Kelly Lombardo

Abstract

A detailed microphysical model of hail growth is developed and applied to idealized numerical simulations of deep convective storms. Hailstone embryos of various sizes and densities may be initialized in and around the simulated convective storm updraft, and then are tracked as they are advected and grow through various microphysical processes. Application to an idealized squall line and supercell storm results in a plausibly realistic distribution of maximum hailstone sizes for each. Simulated hail growth trajectories through idealized supercell storms exhibit many consistencies with previous hail trajectory work that used observed storms. Systematic tests of uncertain model parameters and parameterizations are performed, with results highlighting the sensitivity of hail size distributions to these changes. A set of idealized simulations is performed for supercells in environments with varying vertical wind shear to extend and clarify our prior work. The trajectory calculations reveal that, with increased zonal deep-layer shear, broader updrafts lead to increased residence time and thus larger maximum hail sizes. For cases with increased meridional low-level shear, updraft width is also increased, but hailstone sizes are smaller. This is a result of decreased residence time in the updraft, owing to faster northward flow within the updraft that advects hailstones through the growth region more rapidly. The results suggest that environments leading to weakened horizontal flow within supercell updrafts may lead to larger maximum hailstone sizes.

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Matthew R. Kumjian and Wiebke Deierling

ABSTRACT

Lightning flashes during snowstorms occur infrequently compared to warm-season convection. The rarity of such thundersnow events poses an additional hazard because the lightning is unexpected. Because cloud electrification in thundersnow storms leads to relatively few lightning discharges, studying thundersnow events may offer insights into mechanisms for charging and possible thresholds required for lightning discharges. Observations of four northern Colorado thundersnow events that occurred during the 2012/13 winter are presented. Four thundersnow events in one season strongly disagrees with previous climatologies that used surface reports, implying thundersnow may be more common than previously thought. Total lightning information from the Colorado Lightning Mapping Array and data from conterminous United States lightning detection networks are examined to investigate the snowstorms’ electrical properties and to compare them to typical warm-season thunderstorms. Data from polarimetric WSR-88Ds near Denver, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, are used to reveal the storms’ microphysical structure and determine operationally relevant signatures related to storm electrification. Most lightning occurred within convective cells containing graupel and pristine ice. However, one flash occurred in a stratiform snowband, apparently triggered by a tower. Depolarization streaks were observed in the radar data prior to the flash, indicating electric fields strong enough to orient pristine ice crystals. Direct comparisons of similar lightning- and nonlightning-producing convective cells reveal that though both cells likely produced graupel, the lightning-producing cell had larger values of specific differential phase and polarimetric radar–derived ice mass. Compared to warm-season thunderstorms, the analyzed thundersnow storms had similar electrical properties but lower flash rates and smaller vertical depths, suggesting they are weaker, ordinary thunderstorms lacking any warm (>0°C) cloud depth.

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Cameron R. Homeyer and Matthew R. Kumjian

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The authors present observations of the microphysical characteristics of deep convection that overshoots the altitude of the extratropical tropopause from analysis of the polarimetric radar variables of radar reflectivity factor at horizontal polarization Z H, differential reflectivity Z DR, and specific differential phase K DP. Identified overshooting convective storms are separated by their organization and intensity into three classifications: organized convection, discrete ordinary convection, and discrete supercell convection. Composite analysis of identified storms for each classification reveals microphysical features similar to those found in previous studies of deep convection, with deep columns of highly positive Z DR and K DP representing lofting of liquid hydrometeors within the convective updraft and above the melting level. In addition, organized and discrete supercell classifications show distinct near-zero Z DR minima aligned horizontally with and at altitudes higher than the updraft column features, likely indicative of the frequent presence of large hail in each case. Composites for organized convective systems show a similar Z DR minimum throughout the portion of the convective core that is overshooting the tropopause, corresponding to Z H in the range of 15–30 dBZ and negative K DP observations, in agreement with the scattering properties of small hail and/or lump or conical graupel. Additional analyses of the evolution of overshooting storms reveals that the Z DR minima indicative of hail in the middle and upper troposphere and graupel in the overshooting top are associated with the mature and decaying stages of overshooting, respectively, supporting their inferred contributions to the observed polarimetric fields.

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Kara J. Sulia and Matthew R. Kumjian

Abstract

The bulk adaptive habit model (AHM) explicitly predicts ice particle aspect ratio, improving the representation of microphysical processes and properties, including ice–liquid-phase partitioning. With the unique ability to predict ice particle shape and density, the AHM is combined with an offline forward operator to produce fields of simulated polarimetric variables. An evaluation of AHM-forward-simulated dual-polarization radar signatures in an idealized Arctic mixed-phase cloud is presented. Interpretations of those signatures are provided through microphysical model output using the large-eddy simulation mode of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model.

Vapor-grown ice properties are associated with distinct observable signatures in polarimetric radar variables, with clear sensitivities to the simulated ice particle properties, including ice number, size, and distribution shape. In contrast, the liquid droplet number has little influence on both polarimetric and microphysical variables in the case presented herein. Polarimetric quantities are sensitive to the dominating crystal habit type in a volume, with enhancements for aspect ratios much lower or higher than unity. This synthesis of a microphysical model and a polarimetric forward simulator is a first step in the evaluation of detailed AHM microphysics.

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Anthony C. Didlake Jr. and Matthew R. Kumjian

Abstract

Dual-polarization radar observations were taken of Hurricane Arthur prior to and during landfall, providing needed insight into the microphysics of tropical cyclone precipitation. A total of 30 h of data were composited and analyzed by annuli capturing storm features (eyewall, inner rainbands, and outer rainbands) and by azimuth relative to the deep-layer environmental wind shear vector. Polarimetric radar variables displayed distinct signatures indicating a transition from convective to stratiform precipitation in the downshear-right to downshear-left quadrants, which is an organization consistent with the expected kinematic asymmetry of a sheared tropical cyclone. In the downshear-right quadrant, vertical profiles of differential reflectivity Z DR and copolar correlation coefficient ρ HV were more vertically stretched within and above the melting layer at all annuli, which is attributed to convective processes. An analysis of specific differential phase K DP indicated that nonspherical ice particles had an increased presence in two layers: just above the melting level and near 8-km altitude. Here, convective updrafts generated ice particles in the lower layer, which were likely columnar crystals, and increased the available moisture in the upper layer, leading to increased planar crystal growth. A sharp transition in hydrometeor population occurred downwind in the downshear-left quadrant where Z DR and ρ HV profiles were more peaked within the melting layer. Above the melting layer, these signatures indicated reduced ice column counts and shape diversity owing to aggregation in a predominantly stratiform regime. The rainband quadrants exhibited a sharper transition compared to the eyewall quadrants owing to weaker winds and longer distances that decreased azimuthal mixing of ice hydrometeors.

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Kara J. Sulia and Matthew R. Kumjian

Abstract

A new adaptive habit model (AHM) grows ice crystals through vapor deposition while evolving ice particle properties, including shape and effective density. The AHM provides an opportunity to investigate observed microphysical processes through the computation of polarimetric variables and corroboration with microphysical model output. This study is unique because the polarimetric scattering calculations are computed using predicted microphysical parameters rather than a priori assumptions that are imposed within the scattering calculations in the forward simulator, allowing for a more effective comparison to radar observations. Through the simulation of a case in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado using the Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model, it is found that the AHM approximates ice mass, shape, cloud vertical structure, and temporal evolution as reflected through polarimetric quantities compared to observations. AHM reflectivity magnitudes are similar to those observed with radar and are an improvement over spherical ice crystal assumptions.

Further analyses are completed to examine the effect of microphysical processes on the evolution of the differential reflectivity and specific differential phase, both of which are simulated using the AHM. Simulations reveal a polarimetric response to ice crystal mass, number, size, density, and aspect ratio. While results reveal the need for model improvements (e.g., parameterizations for aggregation rate), testing forward-simulated radar fields against observations is a first step in the validation of model microphysical and precipitation processes.

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Dana M. Tobin and Matthew R. Kumjian

Abstract

Recent studies document a polarimetric radar signature of refreezing. The signature is characterized by a low-level enhancement in differential reflectivity Z DR and a decrease in the copolar correlation coefficient ρ hv within a region of decreasing radar reflectivity factor at horizontal polarization Z H toward the ground, called the refreezing layer (RFL). The evolution of the signature is examined during three winter storms in which the surface precipitation-type transitions from ice pellets to freezing rain. A modified quasi-vertical profile (QVP) technique is developed, which creates inverse-distance-weighted profiles using all available polarimetric data within a specified range from the radar location. Using this new technique reveals that the RFL descends in time prior to the transition from ice pellets to freezing rain and intersects the ground at the approximate transition time. Transition times are estimated using both crowdsourced and automated precipitation-type reports within a specified domain around the radar. These radar-estimated transition times are compared to a recently developed precipitation-classification algorithm based on Rapid Refresh (RAP) model wet-bulb temperature T w profiles to explore potential benefits of analyzing QVPs during transition events. The descent of the RFL in the cases analyzed herein is related to low-level warm-air advection (WAA). A simple method for forecasting the transition time using QVPs is presented for cases of constant WAA. The repeatability of the refreezing signature’s descent in ice pellet to freezing rain transition events suggests the potential for its use in operational settings to create or modify short-term forecasts.

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Matthew R. Kumjian and Alexander V. Ryzhkov

Abstract

Data from polarimetric radars offer remarkable insight into the microphysics of convective storms. Numerous tornadic and nontornadic supercell thunderstorms have been observed by the research polarimetric Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) in Norman, Oklahoma (KOUN); additional storm data come from the Enterprise Electronics Corporation “Sidpol” C-band polarimetric radar in Enterprise, Alabama, as well as the King City C-band polarimetric radar in Ontario, Canada. A number of distinctive polarimetric signatures are repeatedly found in each of these storms. The forward-flank downdraft (FFD) is characterized by a signature of hail observed as near-zero Z DR and high Z HH. In addition, a shallow region of very high Z DR is found consistently on the southern edge of the FFD, called the Z DR “arc.” The Z DR and K DP columns and midlevel “rings” of enhanced Z DR and depressed ρ HV are usually observed in the vicinity of the main rotating updraft and in the rear-flank downdraft (RFD). Tornado touchdown is associated with a well-pronounced polarimetric debris signature. Similar polarimetric features in supercell thunderstorms have been reported in other studies. The data considered here are taken from both S- and C-band radars from different geographic locations and during different seasons. The consistent presence of these features may be indicative of fundamental processes intrinsic to supercell storms. Hypotheses on the origins, as well as microphysical and dynamical interpretations of these signatures, are presented. Implications about storm morphology for operational applications are suggested.

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Matthew R. Kumjian and Olivier P. Prat

Abstract

The impact of the collisional warm-rain microphysical processes on the polarimetric radar variables is quantified using a coupled microphysics–electromagnetic scattering model. A one-dimensional bin-microphysical rain shaft model that resolves explicitly the evolution of the drop size distribution (DSD) under the influence of collisional coalescence and breakup, drop settling, and aerodynamic breakup is coupled with electromagnetic scattering calculations that simulate vertical profiles of the polarimetric radar variables: reflectivity factor at horizontal polarization Z H, differential reflectivity Z DR, and specific differential phase K DP. The polarimetric radar fingerprint of each individual microphysical process is quantified as a function of the shape of the initial DSD and for different values of nominal rainfall rate. Results indicate that individual microphysical processes (collisional processes, evaporation) display a distinctive signature and evolve within specific areas of Z HZ DR and Z DRK DP space. Furthermore, a comparison of the resulting simulated vertical profiles of the polarimetric variables with radar and disdrometer observations suggests that bin-microphysical parameterizations of drop breakup most frequently used are overly aggressive for the largest rainfall rates, resulting in very “tropical” DSDs heavily skewed toward smaller drops.

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Matthew R. Kumjian and Kelly A. Lombardo

Abstract

The recent Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) network upgrade to dual-polarization capabilities allows for bulk characterization of microphysical processes in northeastern U.S. winter storms for the first time. In this study, the quasi-vertical profile (QVP) technique (wherein data from a given elevation angle scan are azimuthally averaged and the range coordinate is converted to height) is extended and applied to polarimetric WSR-88D observations of six Northeast winter storms to survey their evolving, bulk vertical microphysical and kinematic structures. These analyses are supplemented using hourly analyses from the Rapid Refresh (RAP) model. Regions of ascent inferred from QVPs were consistently associated with notable polarimetric signatures, implying planar crystal growth when near −15°C, and riming and secondary ice production at higher temperatures. The heaviest snowfall occurred most often when ascent and enhanced propagation differential phase shift () occurred near −15°C. When available, limited surface observations confirmed heavy snowfall rates and revealed large snow-to-liquid ratios at these times. Other cases revealed sudden, large melting-layer excursions associated with precipitation-type transitions near the surface. RAP analyses failed to capture such complex evolution, demonstrating the added value of dual-polarization radar observations in these scenarios and the potential use of radar data for assessing model performance in real time. These insights are a preliminary step toward better understanding the complex processes in northeastern U.S. winter storms.

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