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Delain A. Edman and Richard Selin

Abstract

The violent eruption of the Mt. Saint Helens volcano on 18 May 1980 was examined using GOES-EAST satellite imagery. The University of Wisconsin McIDAS system was used to display the imagery and derive a number of plume measurements—including the plume's area, temperature, speed and an estimate of plume height. A thickening of the surrounding cirrus shield was observed (believed to be associated with gravity wave activity) as well as two distinct phases of volcanic activity that occurred during the eruption. A comparison of the Mt. Saint Helens eruption to the 1979 Soufriere eruptions revealed that the Mt. Saint Helens volcanic eruption produced a much larger plume, indicative of a more violent eruption. It is also shown that the height of the plume could not be reliably extracted from the infrared data due to the low tropopause in the vicinity of the volcano.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin and Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

This study examines observed mesoscale surface pressure, temperature, and wind features of bow echoes. Bow-echo events in the area of the Oklahoma Mesonet are selected for study to take advantage of high-resolution surface data. Thirty-six cases are identified using 2-km-resolution radar reflectivity data over a 4-yr period (2002–05); their surface features are interrogated using the mesonet data. Distinct surface features usually associated with squall lines, the mesohigh and cold pool, are found to also accompany bow echoes. A common surface pattern preceding bowing is identified. Prior to new bowing development, the mesohigh surges ahead of the convective line while the cold pool remains centered behind it. Surface winds shift to a ground-relative outflow pattern upon arrival of the mesohigh surge. Approximately 30 min later, a new bowing segment forms with its apex slightly to the left (with respect to the direction of system motion) of the mesohigh surge. The cold pool follows the convective line as it bows. This process is termed the “pressure surge–new bowing” cycle, and a conceptual model is presented. In one representative case, the surface signature of a gravity wave, identified through spatial and temporal filtering, is tracked. It is presumed to be generated by deep heating within the convective line. The wave moved at nearly 35 m s−1 and has heretofore been undetected in mesoanalysis studies. Two other distinct features, a sharp pressure rise and temperature drop, were also observed at all mesonet stations affected by the system. Possible explanations for these features in terms of a gravity current, gravity wave, or atmospheric bore are explored.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin and Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

Numerical simulations of the 13 March 2003 bow echo over Oklahoma are used to evaluate bow echo development and its relationship with gravity wave generation. Multiple fast-moving (with speeds of 30–35 m s−1) gravity waves are generated in association with fluctuations in the first vertical mode of heating in the convective line. The surface impacts of four such waves are observed in Oklahoma Mesonet data during this case. Observations of surface pressure surges ahead of convective lines prior to the bowing process are reproduced; a slower gravity wave produced in the simulation is responsible for a prebowing pressure surge. This slower gravity wave, moving at approximately 11 m s−1, is generated by an increase in low-level microphysical cooling associated with an increase in rear-to-front flow and low-level downdrafts shortly before bowing. The wave moves ahead of the convective line and is manifested at the surface by a positive pressure surge. The pattern of low-level vertical motion associated with this wave, in conjunction with higher-frequency gravity waves generated by multicellularity of the convective line, increases the immediate presystem CAPE by approximately 250 J kg−1 just ahead of the bowing segment of the convective line. Increased presystem CAPE aids convective updraft strength in that segment despite amplified updraft tilt due to a stronger cold pool and surface-based rear-to-front flow, compared to updraft strength in other, nonbowing segments of the convective line.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin, Susan C. van den Heever, and Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

The sensitivity of a case study bow-echo simulation to eight different microphysical schemes in the Weather Research and Forecasting model was tested, with a focus on graupel parameter characteristics. The graupel parameter in one scheme was modified to have a larger mean size and faster fall speed to represent hail (“hail like”). The goal of the study was to measure the sensitivity of five parameters that are important to operational forecasters to graupel properties: timing of bowing development, system speed, wind gusts, system areal coverage, and accumulated precipitation.

The time each system initiated bowing varied by as much as 105 min. Simulations containing graupel with smaller mean size and slower fall speed (“graupel like”) bowed earlier due to increased microphysical cooling and stronger cold pools. These same systems had reduced precipitation efficiency, producing a peak storm-total accumulation of 36 mm, compared to a hail-like peak value of 237 mm, and observed a peak value of 53 mm. Faster-falling hail-like hydrometeors reached the surface with minimal melting, producing the largest accumulations. Graupel-like systems had 10-m wind gusts 73% stronger compared to hail-like systems, due to stronger low-level downdrafts. Systems with a smaller mean graupel size were 19% faster, also due to increased microphysical cooling. The size of the convective region varied by 150%, although this was partially due to scheme differences other than the graupel parameter.

The significant differences in bow-echo characteristics produced by graupel property variations in convective-resolving models emphasize careful microphysical parameterization design. These sensitivities have forecasting implications, as graupel characteristics vary depending on the ambient environment and other factors. Detailed observations of graupel properties are recommended.

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Rebecca D. Adams-Selin, Susan C. van den Heever, and Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

The effect of changes in microphysical cooling rates on bow echo development and longevity are examined through changes to graupel parameterization in the Advanced Research Weather Research and Forecasting Model (ARW-WRF). Multiple simulations are performed that test the sensitivity to different graupel size distributions as well as the complete removal of graupel. It is found that size distributions with larger and denser, but fewer, graupel hydrometeors result in a weaker cold pool due to reduced microphysical cooling rates. This yields weaker midlevel (3–6 km) buoyancy and pressure perturbations, a later onset of more elevated rear inflow, and a weaker convective updraft. The convective updraft is also slower to tilt rearward, and thus bowing occurs later. Graupel size distributions with more numerous, smaller, and lighter hydrometeors result in larger microphysical cooling rates, stronger cold pools, more intense midlevel buoyancy and pressure gradients, and earlier onset of surface-based rear inflow; these systems develop bowing segments earlier. A sensitivity test with fast-falling but small graupel hydrometeors revealed that small mean size and slow fall speed both contribute to the strong cooling rates. Simulations entirely without graupel are initially weaker, because of limited contributions from cooling by melting of the slowly falling snow. However, over the next hour increased rates of melting snow result in an increasingly more intense system with new bowing. Results of the study indicate that the development of a bow echo is highly sensitive to microphysical processes, which presents a challenge to the prediction of these severe weather phenomena.

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Jennifer D. Hegarty, Jasper Lewis, Erica L. McGrath-Spangler, John Henderson, Amy Jo Scarino, Philip DeCola, Richard Ferrare, Micheal Hicks, Rebecca D. Adams-Selin, and Ellsworth J. Welton

Abstract

The daytime planetary boundary layer (PBL) was examined for the Deriving Information on Surface Conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality (DISCOVER-AQ) Baltimore (Maryland)–Washington, D.C., campaign of July 2011 using PBL height (PBLH) retrievals from aerosol backscatter measurements from ground-based micropulse lidar (MPL), the NASA Langley Research Center airborne High Spectral Resolution Lidar-1 (HSRL-1), and the Cloud–Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) on the Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite. High-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations with horizontal grid spacing of 1 km and different combinations of PBL schemes, urban parameterization, and sea surface temperature inputs were evaluated against PBLHs derived from lidars, ozonesondes, and radiosondes. MPL and WRF PBLHs depicted a growing PBL in the morning that reached a peak height by midafternoon. WRF PBLHs calculated from gridded output profiles generally showed more rapid growth and higher peak heights than did the MPLs, and all WRF–lidar differences were dependent on model configuration, PBLH calculation method, and synoptic conditions. At inland locations, WRF simulated an earlier descent of the PBL top in the afternoon relative to the MPL retrievals and radiosonde PBLHs. At Edgewood, Maryland, the influence of the Chesapeake Bay breeze on the PBLH was captured by both the ozonesonde and WRF data but generally not by the MPL PBLH retrievals because of generally weaker gradients in the aerosol backscatter profile and limited normalized relative backscatter data near the top height of the marine layer.

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