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S. H. Melfi and D. Whiteman

Observations of the water-vapor mixing ratio in the lower atmosphere and its temporal evolution have been made with a Raman lidar. Comparison with an independent radiosonde measurement indicated excellent agreement. The moisture structure, observed up to an altitude of 5 km and over an 80-min period during the early morning of 30 April 1985 (the present lidar is limited to night operation), showed temporal variations of several atmospheric features which could not be resolved by balloon soundings. Application of the lidar should provide the opportunity to study details of atmospheric moisture, its structure, and its evolution in a manner never before realized.

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S. H. Melfi and Stephen P. Palm

Abstract

Linear features in a clear convective boundary layer (CBL) over the North Atlantic Ocean were studied during a weak cold air outbreak using a down-looking airborne lidar. Sequential lidar profiles were placed together and color coded to provide images of aerosol and molecular scattering from below the aircraft to the ocean surface, over a 36-km segment of a flight track approximately 150 km off the coast of southern Virginia. The aircraft flew on a path approximately perpendicular to the expected orientation of cloud streets if they had formed. The lidar image clearly shows randomly sized convective cells in the CBL, grouping under the crests of a gravity wave in the stable troposphere. It is suggested that the wave develops as energetic convective cells in the CBL penetrate into the stable layer aloft and act as obstructions to the relative flow. An analytic study, published in 1965, demonstrates that vertical disturbances on the top of the CBL adjust to be in resonance with a horizontal gravity wave in the free troposphere. The results of the study along with an interpretation of the lidar images have led to the development of a simple conceptual model that is used to estimate the spacing and orientation of long linear convective features in the midlatitude CBL. In addition, the conceptual model can explain the change in cloud street patterns with increasing fetch, seen in satellite images. Comparisons with observations from this study and five other midlatitude field programs show good agreement. A suggestion for future research is presented.

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S. H. Melfi, D. Whiteman, and R. Ferrare

Abstract

This paper presents the results of a field program using a ground-based Raman lidar system to observe changes in moisture profiles as a cold and a warm front passed over the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The lidar operating only during darkness is capable of providing continuous high vertical resolution profiles of water vapor mixing ratio and aerosol scattering ratio from near the surface to about 7 km altitude. The lidar data acquired on three consecutive nights from shortly after sunset to shortly before sunrise, along with upper air data from specially launched rawinsondes, have provided a unique visualization of the detailed structure of the two fronts.

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Reinout Boers, S. H. Melfi, and Stephen P. Palm

Abstract

Two cold-air outbreaks were studied during the Genesis of Atlantic Lows Experiment. A lidar system was operated to observe the boundary layer evolution and the development of clouds. On the first day (30 January 1986) boundary layer rise was less than 50% of the value for the second day (2 March 1986). On the first day only a thin broken cloud cover formed, while on the second day a thick solid cloud deck formed—although the average moisture content was 60% of that on the first day. A trajectory slab model was employed to simulate the evolution of the layer over the ocean near the cast Atlantic shore. The model allows for vertical gradients in conservative variables under neutrally buoyant conditions. The primary effect of these assumptions, which are based on observed thermodynamic profiles, is to reduce cloudiness to be more in line with observations. Boundary layer depth was reasonably well predicted as was sensible and latent heat flux.

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Stephen P. Palm, Denise Hagan, Geary Schwemmer, and S. H. Melfi

Abstract

A new technique for retrieving near-surface moisture and profiles of mixing ratio and potential temperature through the depth of the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) using airborne lidar and multichannel infrared radiometer data is presented. Data gathered during an extended field campaign over the Atlantic Ocean in support of the Lidar In-space Technology Experiment are used to generate 16 moisture and temperature retrievals that are then compared with dropsonde measurements. The technique utilizes lidar-derived statistics on the height of cumulus clouds that frequently cap the MABL to estimate the lifting condensation level. Combining this information with radiometer-derived sea surface temperature measurements, an estimate of the near-surface moisture can be obtained to an accuracy of about 0.8 g kg−1. Lidar-derived statistics on convective plume height and coverage within the MABL are then used to infer the profiles of potential temperature and moisture with a vertical resolution of 20 m. The rms accuracy of derived MABL average moisture and potential temperature is better than 1 g kg−1 and 1°C, respectively. The method relies on the presence of a cumulus-capped MABL, and it was found that the conditions necessary for use of the technique occurred roughly 75% of the time. The synergy of simple aerosol backscatter lidar and infrared radiometer data also shows promise for the retrieval of MABL moisture and temperature from space.

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S. H. Melfi, J. D. Spinhirne, S-H. Chou, and S. P. Palm

Abstract

Observations of a convective planetary boundary layer (PBL) were made with an airborne, downward-looking lidar system over the Atlantic Ocean during a cold air outbreak. The lidar data revealed well-organized, regularly spaced cellular convection with dominant spacial scales between two and four times the height of the boundary layer. It is demonstrated that the lidar can accurately measure the structure of the PBL with high vertical and horizontal resolution. Parameters important for PBL modeling such as entrainment zone thickness, entrainment rate, PBL height and relative heat flux can be inferred from the lidar data. It is suggested that wind shear at the PBL top may influence both entrainment and convective cell size.

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Steven E. Koch, Paul B. Dorian, R. Ferrare, S. H. Melfi, William C. Skillman, and D. Whiteman

Abstract

Detailed moisture observations from a ground-based Raman lidar and special radiosonde data of two disturbances associated with a dissipating gust front are presented. A synthesis of the lidar data with conventional meteorological data, in conjunction with theoretical calculations and comparison to laboratory studies, leads to the conclusion that the disturbances seen in both the lidar and accompanying barograph data represent a weak gravity current and an associated undular bore. The disturbances display excellent coherence over hundreds of kilometers upstream of the lidar site. Bore formation occurs at the leading edge of the gust front coincidentally with the rapid weakening of the gravity current. Analysis suggests that the bore was generated by the collapse of the gravity current into a stable, nocturnal inversion layer, and subsequently propagated along this wave guide at nearly twice the speed of the gravity current.

The Raman lidar provided detailed measurements of the vertical structure of the bore and its parent generation mechanism. A mean bore depth of 1.9 km is revealed by the lidar, whereas a depth of 2.2 km is predicted from hydraulic theory. Observed and calculated bore speeds were also found to agree reasonably well with one another (∼ ±20%). Comparison of these observations with those of internal bores generated by thunderstorms in other studies reveals that this bore was exceedingly strong, being responsible for nearly tripling the height of a surface-based inversion that had existed ahead of the bore and dramatically increasing the depth of the moist layer due to strong vertical mixing. Subsequent appearance of the relatively shallow gravity current underneath this mixed region resulted in the occurrence of an elevated mixed layer, as confirmed with the special radiosonde measurements.

A synthesis of the lidar and radiosonde observations indicates that bore-induced parcel displacements attenuated rapidly at the same height as the level of strongest wave trapping predicted from the theory of Crook. This trapping mechanism, which is due to the existence of a low-level jet, results in a long-lived bore, and seems to he a common phenomenon in the environment of thunderstorm-generated bores and solitary waves. Despite the weakening of a capping inversion by this strong and persistent bore, analysis indicates that the 30-min averaged lifting of 0.7 m s−1 was confined to a too shallow layer near the surface to trigger deep convection, and could only produce scattered low clouds as deduced from the lidar measurements.

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J. E. M. Goldsmith, Scott E. Bisson, Richard A. Ferrare, Keith D. Evans, David N. Whiteman, and S. H. Melfi

Raman lidar is a leading candidate for providing the detailed space- and time-resolved measurements of water vapor needed by a variety of atmospheric studies. Simultaneous measurements of atmospheric water vapor are described using two collocated Raman lidar systems. These lidar systems, developed at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and Sandia National Laboratories, acquired approximately 12 hours of simultaneous water vapor data during three nights in November 1992 while the systems were collocated at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Although these lidar systems differ substantially in their design, measured water vapor profiles agreed within 0.15 g kg−1 between altitudes of 1 and 5 km. Comparisons with coincident radiosondes showed all instruments agreed within 0.2 g kg−1 in this same altitude range. Both lidars also clearly showed the advection of water vapor in the middle troposphere and the pronounced increase in water vapor in the nocturnal boundary layer that occurred during one night.

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R. A. Ferrare, S. H. Melfi, D. N. Whiteman, K. D. Evans, F. J. Schmidlin, and D. O'C. Starr

Abstract

This paper examines the calibration characteristics of the NASA/GSFC Raman water vapor lidar during three field experiments that occurred between 1991 and 1993. The lidar water vapor profiles are calibrated using relative humidity profiles measured by AIR and Vaisala radiosondes. The lidar calibration computed using the AIR radiosonde, which uses a carbon hygristor to measure relative humidity, was 3%–5% higher than that computed using the Vaisala radiosonde, which uses a thin film capacitive element. These systematic differences were obtained for relative humidities above 30% and so cannot be explained by the known poor low relative humidity measurements associated with the carbon hygristor. The lidar calibration coefficient was found to vary by less than 1% over this period when determined using the Vaisala humidity data and by less than 5% when using the AIR humidity data. The differences between the lidar relative humidity profiles and those measured by these radiosondes are also examined. These lidar–radiosonde comparisons are used in combination with a numerical model of the lidar system to assess the altitude range of the GSFC lidar. The model results as well as the radiosonde comparisons indicate that for a lidar located at sea level measuring a typical midlatitude water vapor profile, the absolute error in relative humidity for a 10-min, 75-m resolution profile is less than 10% for altitudes below 8.5 km. Model results show that this maximum altitude can be extended to 10 km by increasing the averaging time and/or reducing the range resolution.

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J. R. Wang, S. H. Melfi, P. Racette, D. N. Whitemen, L. A. Chang, R. A. Ferrare, K. D. Evans, and F. J. Schmidlin

Abstract

Simultaneous measurements of atmospheric water vapor were made by the Millimeter-wave Imaging Radiometer (MIR), Raman lidar, and rawinsondes. Two types of rawinsonde sensor packages (AIR and Vaisala) were carried by the same balloon. The measured water vapor profiles from Raman lidar, and the Vaisala and AIR sondes were used in the radiative transfer calculations. The calculated brightness temperatures were compared with those measured from the MIR at all six frequencies (89, 150, 183.3 ± 1, 183.3 ±3, 183.3 ±7, and 220 GHz). The results show that the MIR-measured brightness temperatures agree well (within ±K) with those calculated from the Raman lidar and Vaisala measurements. The brightness temperatures calculated from the AIR sondes differ from the MIR measurements by as much as 10 K, which can be attributed to low sensitivity of the AIR sondes at relative humidity less than 20%. Both calculated and the MIR-measured brightness temperatures were also used to retrieve water vapor profiles. These retrieved profiles were compared with those measured by the Raman lidar and rawinsondes. The results of these comparisons suggest that the MIR can measure the brightness of a target to an accuracy of at most ±K and is capable of retrieving useful water vapor profiles.

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