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Qun Miao and Bart Geerts

Abstract

Several radar fine lines, all with a humidity contrast, were sampled in the central Great Plains during the 2002 International H2O Project (IHOP). This study primarily uses aircraft and airborne millimeter-wave radar observations to dynamically interpret the presence and vertical structure of these fine lines as they formed within the well-developed convective boundary layer. In all cases the fine line represents a boundary layer convergence zone. This convergence sustains a sharp contrast in humidity, and usually in potential temperature, across the fine line. The key question addressed herein is whether, at the scale examined here (∼10 km), the airmass contrast itself, in particular the horizontal density (virtual potential temperature) difference and resulting solenoidal circulation, is responsible for the sustained convergence and the radar fine line. For the 10 cases examined herein, the answer is affirmative.

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Bart Geerts and Qun Miao

Abstract

Vertical velocity characteristics of the optically clear convective boundary layer (CBL) are examined by means of profiling airborne radar data collected in the central Great Plains during the International H2O Project, May–June 2002 (IHOP 2002). Clear-air echoes are sufficiently strong for the radar, a 95-GHz cloud radar, to detect most of the CBL at a resolution of ∼30 m. Vertical radar transects across the CBL are remarkably dominated by well-defined plumes of higher reflectivity. These echo plumes occupy most of the depth of the CBL in the developing and mature stages of the CBL. Gust probe data indicate that the plumes tend to correspond with ascending motion. Evidence exists in the literature, and arises from this study, that the clear-air scatterers are mostly small insects.

The close-range Doppler radar velocities, some 100 m above and below the aircraft, are compared to gust probe vertical velocities after both are corrected for aircraft motion.

It is found that the radar vertical velocities have a downward bias of 0.5 ± 0.2 m s−1 on average. This bias is of the same sign as that reported in wind profiler data in the CBL, but it is larger. The difference between aircraft and radar vertical velocities becomes larger in stronger updrafts. This does not happen in cases where the scatterers are hydrometeors: hydrometeors fall out at their terminal velocity, which does not directly depend on updraft speed.

The existence of the CBL echo plumes and radar “fine lines,” sustained by low-level air convergence, has long been attributed to a biotic response to updrafts. This response has been assumed to be controlled by air temperature; that is, insects subside when they encounter cold air in the upper CBL. The authors propose that the biotic response is not temperature controlled but, rather, is dependent on the vertical displacement.

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Bart Geerts and Qun Miao

Abstract

A train of Kelvin–Helmholtz billows in a deep stratiform cloud over a mountain range is documented using data from a high-resolution vertically pointing airborne Doppler radar. The billows had a spacing of 2–2.5 km and a small aspect ratio. The formation and decay of the billows appear to be related to flow acceleration over a mountain.

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Bart Geerts, Qun Miao, and Yang Yang

Abstract

Airborne vertically pointing Doppler radar data collected in 10 winter storms over the Medicine Bow Range in Wyoming are used to examine the importance of boundary layer (BL) turbulence for orographic precipitation growth. In all 10 cases, the cloud-base temperature was below 0°C and the bulk Froude number was more than 1.0, implying little or no blocking of the flow by the mountain barrier. Seven of the 10 storms sampled were postfrontal, with weak static stability and relatively shallow cloud tops.

Doppler vertical velocity transects depict an approximately 1-km-deep turbulent layer draped over the terrain, sometimes clearly distinct from the stratified flow in the free troposphere aloft, where vertical motion is largely controlled by gravity wave dynamics. Spectral analysis of near-surface Doppler vertical velocity data in terrain-following coordinates reveals an inertial subrange with decreasing power with height toward the BL top. The composite of radar data profiles from the 10 flights is analyzed in frequency-by-altitude diagrams, with altitude expressed above ground level. These diagrams indicate a wide range of vertical velocities in the BL, and rapid snow growth within the BL as air rises through the cloud base, especially when BL turbulence is more intense. This snow growth is concentrated on the windward side of mountains, above the terrain–cloud base intersection. The dominant snow growth mechanism in the BL (i.e., by accretion or vapor deposition) cannot be established because of restrictions in aircraft flight level over complex terrain. Snow aggregation may have contributed to the observed rapid increase in reflectivity in the BL along the windward slope.

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Bart Geerts, Qun Miao, and J. Cory Demko

Abstract

Surface and upper-air data, collected as part of the Cumulus Photogrammetric, In Situ, and Doppler Observations (CuPIDO) experiment during the 2006 monsoon season around the Santa Catalina Mountains in southeast Arizona, are used to study the diurnal variation of the mountain-scale surface convergence and its thermal forcing. The thermal forcing is examined in terms of a horizontal pressure gradient force, which is derived assuming hydrostatic balance. The mountain is ∼30 km in diameter, ∼2 km high, and relatively isolated. The environment is characterized by weak winds, a deep convective boundary layer in the afternoon, and sufficient low-level moisture for orographic cumulus convection on most days.

The katabatic, divergent surface flow at night and anabatic, convergent flow during the day are in phase with the diurnal variation of the horizontal pressure gradient force, which points toward the mountain during the day and away from the mountain at night. The daytime pressure deficit over the mountain of 0.5–1.0 mb is hydrostatically consistent with the observed 1–2-K virtual potential temperature excess over the mountain. The interplay between surface convergence and orographic thunderstorms is examined, and the consequence of deep convection (outflow spreading) is more apparent than its possible trigger (enhanced convergence).

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Qun Miao, Bart Geerts, and Margaret LeMone

Abstract

Aircraft and airborne millimeter-wave radar observations are used to interpret the dynamics of radar echoes and radar-inferred updrafts within the well-developed, weakly sheared continental convective boundary layer. Vertically pointing radar reflectivity and Doppler velocity data collected above and below the aircraft, flying along fixed tracks in the central Great Plains during the International H2O Project (IHOP_2002), are used to define echo plumes and updraft plumes, respectively. Updraft plumes are generally narrower than echo plumes, but both types of plumes have the dynamical properties of buoyant eddies, especially at low levels. This buoyancy is driven both by temperature excess and water vapor excess over the ambient air. Plumes that are better defined in terms of reflectivity or updraft strength tend to be more buoyant.

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J. Cory Demko, Bart Geerts, Qun Miao, and Joseph A. Zehnder

Abstract

Aircraft and surface measurements of the boundary layer transport of mass and moisture toward an isolated, heated mountain are presented. The data were collected around the Santa Catalina Mountains in Arizona, 20–30 km in diameter, during the North American monsoon, on days with weak winds and cumulus congestus to cumulonimbus development over the mountain. Flights in the boundary layer around the mountain and surface station data indicate that mountain-scale anabatic surface wind generally develops shortly after sunrise, peaking at ∼1 m s−1 in strength close to solar noon. There is some evidence for a toroidal heat island circulation, with divergence in the upper boundary layer. The aircraft data and mainly the diurnal surface temperature and pressure patterns confirm that this circulation is driven by surface heating over the mountain. Three case studies suggest that growth spurts of orographic cumulus and cumulonimbus are not preceded by enhanced mountain-scale mass convergence near the surface, and that the decay of orographic deep convection is associated with divergence around the mountain.

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Bart Geerts, Qun Miao, Yang Yang, Roy Rasmussen, and Daniel Breed

Abstract

Data from an airborne vertically pointing millimeter-wave Doppler radar are used to study the cloud microphysical effect of glaciogenic seeding of cold-season orographic clouds. Fixed flight tracks were flown downstream of ground-based silver iodide (AgI) generators in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Wyoming. Composite data from seven flights, each with a no-seeding period followed by a seeding period, indicate that radar reflectivity was higher near the ground during the seeding periods. Several physical considerations argue in favor of the hypothesis that the increase in near-surface reflectivity is attributed to AgI seeding. While the increase in near-surface reflectivity and thus snowfall rate are statistically significant, caution is warranted in view of the large natural variability of weather conditions and the small size of the dataset.

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Lindsay J. Bennett, Tammy M. Weckwerth, Alan M. Blyth, Bart Geerts, Qun Miao, and Yvette P. Richardson

Abstract

The Boundary Layer Evolution (BLE) missions of the International H2O Project (IHOP_2002) were designed to provide comprehensive observations of the distribution of water vapor in the quiescent boundary layer and its evolution during the early morning. The case study discussed in this paper presents detailed observations of the development of the boundary layer from before sunrise through to the period of growth of the mature convective boundary layer (CBL) during the 14 June 2002 BLE mission. The large number of remote sensing platforms, including the multiple instruments collocated at the Homestead Profiling Site, provided a detailed set of measurements of the growth and structure of the CBL.

The observations describe the classic evolution of a daytime CBL, beginning with a shallow nocturnal boundary layer (NBL) below the remnants of the previous day’s mixed layer, or residual layer. The vertical distribution of humidity in these layers during the early morning was affected by advection of dry air and by gravity waves. About an hour after sunrise a CBL developed, and gradually deepened with time as it mixed out the NBL and residual layer. The growth of the top of the CBL was particularly well observed because of the strong vertical gradients in temperature, humidity, and aerosol concentration. As the CBL deepened and the average CBL wind speed decreased, the mode of convective organization evolved from horizontal convective rolls to open-celled convection. A unique set of detailed measurements of the structure of the open cells was obtained from multiple instruments including the Doppler-on-Wheels radar, the Mobile Integrated Profiling System wind profiler, and the Scanning Raman lidar. They showed the relationship between open cells, thermals, mantle echoes, and the CBL top.

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Margaret A. LeMone, Fei Chen, Mukul Tewari, Jimy Dudhia, Bart Geerts, Qun Miao, Richard L. Coulter, and Robert L. Grossman

Abstract

Fair-weather data from the May–June 2002 International H2O Project (IHOP_2002) 46-km eastern flight track in southeast Kansas are compared to simulations using the advanced research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled to the Noah land surface model (LSM), to gain insight into how the surface influences convective boundary layer (CBL) fluxes and structure, and to evaluate the success of the modeling system in representing CBL structure and evolution. This offers a unique look at the capability of the model on scales the length of the flight track (46 km) and smaller under relatively uncomplicated meteorological conditions.

It is found that the modeled sensible heat flux H is significantly larger than observed, while the latent heat flux (LE) is much closer to observations. The slope of the best-fit line ΔLE/ΔH to a plot of LE as a function of H, an indicator of horizontal variation in available energy H + LE, for the data along the flight track, was shallower than observed. In a previous study of the IHOP_2002 western track, similar results were explained by too small a value of the parameter C in the Zilitinkevich equation used in the Noah LSM to compute the roughness length for heat and moisture flux from the roughness length for momentum, which is supplied in an input table; evidence is presented that this is true for the eastern track as well. The horizontal variability in modeled fluxes follows the soil moisture pattern rather than vegetation type, as is observed; because the input land use map does not capture the observed variation in vegetation. The observed westward rise in CBL depth is successfully modeled for 3 of the 4 days, but the actual depths are too high, largely because modeled H is too high. The model reproduces the timing of observed cumulus cloudiness for 3 of the 4 days.

Modeled clouds lead to departures from the typical clear-sky straight line relating surface H to LE for a given model time, making them easy to detect. With spatial filtering, a straight slope line can be recovered. Similarly, larger filter lengths are needed to produce a stable slope for observed fluxes when there are clouds than for clear skies.

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