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Neil P. Lareau

Abstract

Doppler and Raman lidar observations of vertical velocity and water vapor mixing ratio are used to probe the physics and statistics of subcloud and cloud-base latent heat fluxes during cumulus convection at the ARM Southern Great Plains (SGP) site in Oklahoma, United States. The statistical results show that latent heat fluxes increase with height from the surface up to ~0.8Z i (where Z i is the convective boundary layer depth) and then decrease to ~0 at Z i. Peak fluxes aloft exceeding 500 W m−2 are associated with periods of increased cumulus cloud cover and stronger jumps in the mean humidity profile. These entrainment fluxes are much larger than the surface fluxes, indicating substantial drying over the 0–0.8Z i layer accompanied by moistening aloft as the CBL deepens over the diurnal cycle. We also show that the boundary layer humidity budget is approximately closed by computing the flux divergence across the 0–0.8Z i layer. Composite subcloud velocity and water vapor anomalies show that clouds are linked to coherent updraft and moisture plumes. The moisture anomaly is Gaussian, most pronounced above 0.8Z i and systematically wider than the velocity anomaly, which has a narrow central updraft flanked by downdrafts. This size and shape disparity results in downdrafts characterized by a high water vapor mixing ratio and thus a broad joint probability density function (JPDF) of velocity and mixing ratio in the upper CBL. We also show that cloud-base latent heat fluxes can be both positive and negative and that the instantaneous positive fluxes can be very large (~10 000 W m−2). However, since cloud fraction tends to be small, the net impact of these fluxes remains modest.

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Neil P. Lareau and John D. Horel

Abstract

The position and variability of storm tracks across western North America are examined during the October–April cool seasons spanning 1989–2010. The location and intensity of storms are represented by strong synoptic-scale ascent, which is diagnosed by the alternative balance omega equation applied to ECMWF Re-Analysis Interim data. This dynamically filtered method removes poorly resolved updrafts arising from subsynoptic-scale phenomena such as convection and mountain waves. The resulting vertical motions are illustrated for the case of a strong storm traversing the western United States.

Summary statistics of synoptic-scale ascent are compiled over months, seasons, and the entire 21-yr period. Locations exhibiting high mean values of ascent are deemed to represent storm tracks. The climatological-mean storm track exhibits a sinusoidal shape across the eastern Pacific and western North America. The composite evolution of strong storms moving along specific segments of the storm track show regional differences (e.g., storms poleward of 50°N tend to result from progressive low-amplitude troughs progressing through the mean planetary ridge, while storms over the western United States are initiated by digging troughs that temporarily suppress the mean ridge).

Seasonal shifts in the storm track are pronounced and exhibit coherent regional patterns. Interannual variations in synoptic-scale ascent indicate meridional shifts in position as well as changes in the degree of amplification within the dominant sinusoidal storm track. These changes in structure are related to the phase of ENSO: El Niño (La Niña) winters favor zonal (amplified) and southern (northern) storm tracks.

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Neil P. Lareau and John D. Horel

Abstract

High-resolution idealized numerical simulations are used to examine the turbulent removal of cold-air pools commonly observed in mountain valleys and basins. A control simulation with winds aloft increasing from 0.5 to 20 m s−1 over 20 h combined with typical cold-air pool stratification illustrates the interplay over time of lowering of the top of the cold-air pool, spillover downstream of the valley from the upper reaches of the cold-air pool, wavelike undulations affecting the cold-air pool’s depth and stratification across the valley, and smaller temporal- and spatial-scale Kelvin–Helmholtz waves within the uppermost layers of the cold-air pool. The heat budget within the cold-air pool demonstrates the nearly compensating effects of vertical and horizontal advection combined with turbulent heating of the upper portion of the cold-air pool and cooling in the layers immediately above the cold-air pool. Sensitivities of turbulent mixing in cold-air pools to stratification and upstream terrain are examined. Although the characteristics of the turbulent mixing differ as the stratification and topography are modified, a bulk parameter [the cold-air pool Froude number (Fr)] characterizes the onset and amplification of turbulent mixing and the time of cold-air pool removal. When Fr > 1, Kelvin–Helmholtz waves and turbulent heat fluxes commence. Turbulent heat flux and wave activity increase until Fr = 2, after which the cold-air pool breaks down and is removed from the valley. The rate of cold-air pool removal is proportional to its strength; that is, a strong inversion generates larger heat fluxes once turbulent erosion is underway.

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Neil P. Lareau and Craig B. Clements

Abstract

The time-mean and time-varying smoke and velocity structure of a wildfire convective plume is examined using a high-resolution scanning Doppler lidar. The mean plume is shown to exhibit the archetypal form of a bent-over plume in a crosswind, matching the well-established Briggs plume-rise equation. The plume cross section is approximately Gaussian and the plume radius increases linearly with height, consistent with plume-rise theory. The Briggs plume-rise equation is subsequently inverted to estimate the mean fire-generated sensible heat flux, which is found to be 87 kW m−2. The mean radial velocity structure of the plume indicates flow convergence into the plume base and regions of both convective overshoot and sinking flow in the upper plume. The updraft speed in the lower plume is estimated to be 13.5 m s−1 by tracking the leading edge of a convective element ascending through the plume. The lidar data also reveal aspects of entrainment processes during the plume rise. For example, the covariation of the radial velocity and smoke perturbations are shown to dilute the smoke concentration with height.

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Neil P. Lareau, Yunyan Zhang, and Stephen A. Klein

Abstract

The boundary layer controls on shallow cumulus (ShCu) convection are examined using a suite of remote and in situ sensors at ARM Southern Great Plains (SGP). A key instrument in the study is a Doppler lidar that measures vertical velocity in the CBL and along cloud base. Using a sample of 138 ShCu days, the composite structure of the ShCu CBL is examined, revealing increased vertical velocity (VV) variance during periods of medium cloud cover and higher VV skewness on ShCu days than on clear-sky days. The subcloud circulations of 1791 individual cumuli are also examined. From these data, we show that cloud-base updrafts, normalized by convective velocity, vary as a function of updraft width normalized by CBL depth. It is also found that 63% of clouds have positive cloud-base mass flux and are linked to coherent updrafts extending over the depth of the CBL. In contrast, negative mass flux clouds lack coherent subcloud updrafts. Both sets of clouds possess narrow downdrafts extending from the cloud edges into the subcloud layer. These downdrafts are also present adjacent to cloud-free updrafts, suggesting they are mechanical in origin. The cloud-base updraft data are subsequently combined with observations of convective inhibition to form dimensionless “cloud inhibition” (CI) parameters. Updraft fraction and liquid water path are shown to vary inversely with CI, a finding consistent with CIN-based closures used in convective parameterizations. However, we also demonstrate a limited link between CBL vertical velocity variance and cloud-base updrafts, suggesting that additional factors, including updraft width, are necessary predictors for cloud-base updrafts.

Open access
Craig B. Clements, Neil P. Lareau, David E. Kingsmill, Carrie L. Bowers, Chris P. Camacho, Richard Bagley, and Braniff Davis

Abstract

The Rapid Deployments to Wildfires Experiment (RaDFIRE) was a meteorological field campaign aimed at observing fire–atmosphere interactions during active wildfires. Using a rapidly deployable scanning Doppler lidar, airborne Doppler radar, and a suite of other instruments, the field campaign sampled 21 wildfires from 2013 to 2016 in the western United States. Observations include rotating convective plumes, plume interactions with stable layers and multilayered smoke detrainment, convective plume entrainment processes, smoke-induced density currents, and aircraft in situ observations of developing pyrocumulus. Collectively, these RaDFIRE observations highlight the range of meteorological phenomena associated with wildfires, especially plume dynamics, and will provide a valuable dataset for the modeling community.

Open access
Neil P. Lareau, Erik Crosman, C. David Whiteman, John D. Horel, Sebastian W. Hoch, William O. J. Brown, and Thomas W. Horst

The Persistent Cold-Air Pool Study (PCAPS) was conducted in Utah's Salt Lake valley from 1 December 2010 to 7 February 2011. The field campaign's primary goal was to improve understanding of the physical processes governing the evolution of multiday cold-air pools (CAPs) that are common in mountain basins during the winter. Meteorological instrumentation deployed throughout the Salt Lake valley provided observations of the processes contributing to the formation, maintenance, and destruction of 10 persistent CAP episodes. The close proximity of PCAPS field sites to residences and the University of Utah campus allowed many undergraduate and graduate students to participate in the study.

Ongoing research, supported by the National Science Foundation, is using the PCAPS dataset to examine CAP evolution. Preliminary analyses reveal that variations in CAP thermodynamic structure are attributable to a multitude of physical processes affecting local static stability: for example, synoptic-scale processes impact changes in temperatures and cloudiness aloft while variations in boundary layer forcing modulate the lower levels of CAPs. During episodes of strong winds, complex interactions between the synoptic and mesoscale f lows, local thermodynamic structure, and terrain lead to both partial and complete removal of CAPs. In addition, the strength and duration of CAP events affect the local concentrations of pollutants such as PM2.5.

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