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Robert Cifelli and Steven A. Rutledge

Abstract

Wind profiler data wore used to determine the vertical motion structure in four tropical mcsoscale convective systems (MCSs), which occurred during the Down Under Doppler and Electricity Experiment (DUNDEE) near Darwin. Northern Territory, Australia. Three of the MCSs occurred during the monsoon-break convective regime and one occurred during the monsoon regime. In the break regime cases (each with a leading convective and trailing stratiform region structure), the wind profiler sampled low-level convective cells on the leading edge of the convective region, trailed by deeper updrafts of comparable magnitude. Surface rainfall measurements from a network of raingauges showed two comparable peaks in rainfall intensity that roughly corresponded to the passage of low-level and deep convective updraft (71%–80% of the system total rainfall was associated with the passage of the convective line). In the stratiform region, the profiler data showed generally weak vertical drafts (<1 m s−1) and the presence of both mesoscale upward and downward motion (17%–28% of the system total rainfall was associated with the passage of the stratiform region). Deep subsidence in the transition zone located between the convective and stratiform regions was also documented in each of the break regime cases. Composite vertical motion profiles in different regions of the break MCSs were constructed and the salient features of the profiles are described. The composite vertical motion profiles are compared to similar profiles from different graphical regions.

The evolution of the monsoon MCS was different from the break regime cases. This system was characterized by a series of convective updrafts embedded in stratiform cloud.

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Sergey Y. Matrosov, Robert Cifelli, and David Gochis

Abstract

The utility of X-band polarimetric radar to provide rainfall estimations with high spatial and temporal resolution in heavy convective precipitation in the presence of hail is explored. A case study involving observations of strong convective cells with a transportable polarimetric X-band radar near Boulder, Colorado, is presented. These cells produced rain–hail mixtures with a significant liquid fraction, causing local flash floods and debris flow in an environmentally sensitive burn area that had been previously affected by wildfire. It is demonstrated that the specific differential phase shift (K DP)–based rainfall estimator provided liquid accumulations that were in relatively good agreement with a network of high-density rain gauges and experimental disdrometers. This estimator was also able to capture the significant variability of accumulated rainfall in a relatively small area of interest, and the corresponding results were not significantly affected by hail. Hail presence, however, was a likely reason for significant overestimation of rainfall retrievals for X-band radar approaches that are based on radar-reflectivity Ze measurements that have been corrected for attenuation in rain. Even greater overestimations were observed with the S-band radar of the weather-service network. In part because of larger range distances, these radar data could not correctly reproduce the spatial variability of rainfall in the burn area.

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Robert Cifelli, Lawrence Carey, Walter A. Petersen, and Steven A. Rutledge

Abstract

Dual-Doppler radar data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Large Scale Biosphere–Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (TRMM-LBA) field campaign are used to determine characteristic kinematic and reflectivity vertical structures associated with precipitation features observed during the wet season in the southwest region of Amazonia. Case studies of precipitating systems during TRMM-LBA as well as overarching satellite studies have shown large differences in convective intensity associated with changes that develop in low-level easterly flow [east regime (ER)] and westerly flow [west regime (WR)]. This study attempts to examine the vertical kinematic and heating structure of convection across the spectrum of precipitation features that occurred in each regime.

Results show that convection in the ER is characterized by more intense updrafts and larger radar reflectivities above the melting level, in agreement with results from lightning detection networks. These regime differences are consistent with contrasts in composite thermal buoyancy between the regimes: above the boundary layer, the environment in the ER is characterized by a greater virtual temperature excess for near-surface rising parcels. Both regimes showed a peak in intensity during the late afternoon hours, as evidenced by radar reflectivity and kinematic characteristics, consistent with previous studies of rainfall and lightning in the Rondônia (TRMM-LBA) region. After sunset, however, convective intensity in the WR decreases much more abruptly compared to the ER. In the stratiform–weak convective region, the ER showed both reflectivity and kinematic characteristics of classic stratiform structure after sunset through the early morning hours, consistent with the life cycle of mesoscale conjective systems (MCSs). Apparent heating (Q 1) profiles were constructed for each regime assuming the vertical advection of dry static energy was the dominant forcing term. The resulting profiles show a peak centered near 8 km in the convective regions of both regimes, although the ER has a broader maximum compared to the WR. The breadth of the ER diabatic heating peak is consistent with the more dominant role of ice processes in ER convection.

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Timothy J. Lang, Steven A. Rutledge, and Robert Cifelli

Abstract

The spatial and temporal variability of convection during the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) was examined via analysis of three-dimensional polarimetric radar data. Terrain bands were defined as the Gulf of California (over water) and elevations of 0–500 m above mean sea level (MSL; coastal plain), 500–1500 m MSL, and >1500 m MSL. Convective rainfall over the Gulf typically featured the smallest values of median volume diameter (D 0) regardless of rain rate. Gulf convection also contained reduced precipitation-sized ice water mass but proportionally more liquid water mass compared to convection over land. These maritime characteristics were magnified during disturbed meteorological regimes, which typically featured increased precipitation over the Gulf and adjacent coastal plain. Overall, the results suggest increased reliance on warm-rain collision and coalescence at the expense of ice-based precipitation growth processes for convective rainfall over the Gulf, relative to the land. Over land D 0, ice, and liquid water mass all increased with decreasing terrain elevation, suggesting intensification of convection as it moved off the Sierra Madre Occidental. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that both warm-rain and ice-based rainfall processes play important roles in precipitation formation over land. Coastal-plain convection underwent microphysical modifications during disturbed meteorological regimes that were similar to Gulf convection, but the changes were less dramatic. High-terrain convection experienced little microphysical variability regardless of meteorological regime.

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Janice L. Bytheway, Mimi Hughes, Kelly Mahoney, and Robert Cifelli

Abstract

The Russian River in northern California is an important hydrological resource that typically depends on a few significant precipitation events per year, often associated with atmospheric rivers (ARs), to maintain its annual water supply. Because of the highly variable nature of annual precipitation in the region, accurate quantitative precipitation estimates (QPEs) are necessary to drive hydrologic models and inform water management decisions. The basin’s location and complex terrain present a unique challenge to QPEs, with sparse in situ observations and mountains that inhibit remote sensing by ground radars. Gridded multisensor QPE datasets can fill in the gaps but are susceptible to both the errors and uncertainties from the ingested datasets and uncertainties due to interpolation methods. In this study a dense network of independently operated rain gauges is used to evaluate gridded QPE from the Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) during 44 precipitation events occurring during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 wet seasons (October–March). The MRMS QPE products matched the gauge estimates of precipitation reasonably well in approximately half the cases but failed to capture the spatial distribution and intensity of the rainfall in the remaining cases. ERA-Interim reanalysis data suggest that the differences in performance are related to synoptic-scale patterns and AR landfall location. These synoptic-scale differences produce different rainfall distributions and influence basin-scale winds, potentially creating regions of small-scale precipitation enhancement or suppression. Data from four profiling radars indicated that a larger fraction of the precipitation in poorly captured events occurred as shallow stratiform rain unobserved by radar.

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Robert Cifelli, Steven A. Rutledge, Dennis J. Boccippio, and Thomas Matejka

Abstract

Vertical motion profiles can be diagnosed with the mass continuity equation using horizontal divergence fields derived from various single-Doppler radar techniques such as EVAD (extended velocity-azimuth display), CEVAD (concurrent extended velocity-azimuth display), and VVP (volume velocity processing). These methods allow for the retrieval of mesoscale air motions in precipitating regions when the wind field is relatively homogeneous. In contrast, VHF wind profiler data can provide a direct measurement of vertical motion, albeit across a much smaller domain compared to the single-Doppler radar techniques. In this study, we compare horizontal divergence and vertical motion patterns derived from the various single-Doppler methods with those obtained from VHF profiler data.

The diagnosed profiles of horizontal divergence and vertical velocity from the single-Doppler (scanning radar) techniques are in qualitative agreement in the lower troposphere but often exhibit large variability at higher levels. Because of less stringent radar echo requirements, the VVP technique often analyzed data above the top of the EVAD-CEVAD analysis domain, resulting in a deeper layer of upper-level divergence. The CEVAD technique often produced a deeper and larger region of upward motion despite similar profiles of divergence, probably due to the CEVAD top boundary condition specification of particle terminal fall speed as opposed to the vertical air motion, as well as to the adjustment procedure employed during the regression solution.

The wind profiler data showed much larger vertical gradients and magnitudes of divergence and vertical velocity when averaged over the same time interval required to collect data for a single-Doppler retrieval. However, when all the available data were composited, the high-frequency variability in the wind profiler retrievals was reduced resulting in relatively good agreement between all analysis methods. The wind profiler usually sampled vertical motion (divergence) several kilometers above the single-Doppler retrievals, which the authors attribute to the stringent precipitation echo coverage requirements imposed by the scanning radar analysis techniques, thus limiting their vertical extent new echo top.

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Sergey Y. Matrosov, Robert Cifelli, Allen White, and Timothy Coleman

Abstract

Scanning polarimetric measurements from the operational Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) systems are evaluated for the retrievals of snow-level (SL) heights, which are located below the 0°C isotherm and represent the altitude within the melting layer (ML) where snow changes to rain. The evaluations are conducted by intercomparisons of the SL estimates obtained from the Beale Air Force Base WSR-88D unit (KBBX) during a wet season 6-month period (from October 2012 to March 2013) and robust SL height measurements h SL from a high-resolution vertically pointing Doppler snow-level profiler deployed near Oroville, California. It is shown that a mean value height measurement h L3 between the estimates of the ML top and bottom, which can be derived from the WSR-88D level-III (L3) ML products, provides relatively unbiased estimates of SL heights with a standard deviation of about 165 m. There is little azimuthal variability in derived values of h L3, which is, in part, due to the use of higher radar beam tilts and azimuthal smoothing of the level-III ML products. Height estimates h rho based on detection of the ML minima of the copolar cross-correlation coefficient ρ hv calculated from the WSR-88D level-II products are slightly better correlated with profiler-derived SL heights, though they are biased low by about 113 m with respect to h SL. If this bias is accounted for, the standard deviation of the ρ hv minima–based SL estimates is generally less than 100 m. Overall, the results of this study indicate that, at least for closer radar ranges (up to ~13–15 km), the operational radar polarimetric data can provide snow-level estimates with a quality similar to those from the dedicated snow-level radar profilers.

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Stephen W. Nesbitt, Robert Cifelli, and Steven A. Rutledge

Abstract

Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR), TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI), and Visible and Infrared Scanner (VIRS) observations within the Precipitation Feature (PF) database have been analyzed to examine regional variability in rain area and maximum horizontal extent of rainfall features, and role of storm morphology on rainfall production (and thus modes where vertically integrated heating occurs). Particular attention is focused on the sampling geometry of the PR and the resulting impact on PF statistics across the global Tropics. It was found that 9% of rain features extend to the edge of the PR swath, with edge features contributing 42% of total rainfall. However, the area (maximum dimension) distribution of PR features is similar to the wider-swath TMI up until a truncation point of nearly 30 000 km2 (250 km), so a large portion of the feature size spectrum may be examined using the PR as with past ground-based studies.

This study finds distinct differences in land and ocean storm morphology characteristics, which lead to important differences in rainfall modes regionally. A larger fraction of rainfall comes from more horizontally and vertically developed PFs over land than ocean due to the lack of shallow precipitation in both relative and absolute frequency of occurrence, with a trimodal distribution of rainfall contribution versus feature height observed over the ocean. Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are found to be responsible for up to 90% of rainfall in selected land regions. Tropicswide, MCSs are responsible for more than 50% of rainfall in almost all regions with average annual rainfall exceeding 3 mm day−1. Characteristic variability in the contribution of rainfall by feature type is shown over land and ocean, which suggests new approaches for improved convective parameterizations.

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Sergey Y. Matrosov, Patrick C. Kennedy, and Robert Cifelli

Abstract

Correcting observed polarimetric radar variables for attenuation and differential attenuation effects in rain is important for meteorological applications involving measurements at attenuating frequencies such as those at X band. The results of estimating the coefficients in the correction-scheme relations from dual-wavelength polarimetric radar measurements of rainfall involving attenuating and nonattenuating frequencies are described. Such coefficients found directly from measurements are essentially free from different assumptions about drop shapes, drop size distributions, and/or relations between different radar variables that are typically used in many attenuation and differential attenuation correction schemes. Experimentally based estimates derived using dual-wavelength radar measurements conducted during a project in northern Colorado indicate values of the coefficients in the attenuation–differential phase quasi-linear relations at X band in the approximate range of 0.20–0.31 dB deg−1. The corresponding coefficients in the differential attenuation–differential phase relations are in the range of 0.052–0.065 dB deg−1.

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Robert Cifelli, Timothy Lang, Steven A. Rutledge, Nick Guy, Edward J. Zipser, Jon Zawislak, and Robert Holzworth

Abstract

The evolution of an African easterly wave is described using ground-based radar and ancillary datasets from three locations in West Africa: Niamey, Niger (continental), Dakar, Senegal (coastal), and Praia, Republic of Cape Verde (oceanic). The data were collected during the combined African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (AMMA) and NASA AMMA (NAMMA) campaigns in August–September 2006.

Two precipitation events originated within the wave circulation and propagated with the wave across West Africa. Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) associated with these events were identified at all three sites ahead of, within, and behind the 700-mb wave trough. An additional propagating event was indentified that originated east of the wave and moved through the wave circulation. The MCS activity associated with this event did not show any appreciable change resulting from its interaction with the wave. The MCS characteristics at each site were different, likely due to a combination of life cycle effects and changes in relative phasing between the propagating systems and the position of low-level convergence and thermodynamic instability associated with the wave. At the ocean and coastal sites, the most intense convection occurred ahead of the wave trough where both high CAPE and low-level convergence were concentrated. At the continental site, convection was relatively weak owing to the fact that the wave dynamics and thermodynamics were not in sync when the systems passed through Niamey. The only apparent effect of the wave on MCS activity at the continental site was to extend the period of precipitation activity during one of the events that passed through coincident with the 700-mb wave trough. Convective organization at the land sites was primarily in the form of squall lines and linear MCSs oriented perpendicular to the low-level shear. The organization at the oceanic site was more complicated, transitioning from linear MCSs to widespread stratiform cloud with embedded convection. The precipitation activity was also much longer lived at the oceanic site due to the wave becoming nearly stationary near the Cape Verdes, providing an environment supportive of deep convection for an extended period.

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