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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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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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R. Kwok, T. Markus, J. Morison, S. P. Palm, T. A. Neumann, K. M. Brunt, W. B. Cook, D. W. Hancock, and G. F. Cunningham

Abstract

The sole instrument on the upcoming Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-2) altimetry mission is a micropulse lidar that measures the time of flight of individual photons from laser pulses transmitted at 532 nm. Prior to launch, the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL) serves as an airborne implementation for testing and development. This paper provides a first examination of MABEL data acquired on two flights over sea ice in April 2012: one north of the Arctic coast of Greenland and the other in the east Greenland Sea. The phenomenology of photon distributions in the sea ice returns is investigated. An approach to locate the surface and estimate its elevation in the distributions is described, and its achievable precision is assessed. Retrieved surface elevations over relatively flat leads in the ice cover suggest that precisions of several centimeters are attainable. Restricting the width of the elevation window used in the surface analysis can mitigate potential biases in the elevation estimates due to subsurface returns at 532 nm. Comparisons of nearly coincident elevation profiles from MABEL with those acquired by an analog lidar show good agreement. Discrimination of ice and open water, a crucial step in the determination of sea ice freeboard and the estimation of ice thickness, is facilitated by contrasts in the observed signal–background photon statistics. Future flight paths will sample a broader range of seasonal ice conditions for further evaluation of the year-round profiling capabilities and limitations of the MABEL instrument.

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V. Mohan Karyampudi, Stephen P. Palm, John A. Reagen, Hui Fang, William B. Grant, Raymond M. Hoff, Cyril Moulin, Harold F. Pierce, Omar Torres, Edward V. Browell, and S. Harvey Melfi

Lidar observations collected during the Lidar In-space Technology Experiment experiment in conjunction with the Meteosat and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts data have been used not only to validate the Saharan dust plume conceptual model constructed from the GARP (Global Atmospheric Research Programme) Atlantic Tropical Experiment data, but also to examine the vicissitudes of the Saharan aerosol including their optical depths across the west Africa and east Atlantic regions. Optical depths were evaluated from both the Meteosat and lidar data. Back trajectory calculations were also made along selected lidar orbits to verify the characteristic anticyclonic rotation of the dust plume over the eastern Atlantic as well as to trace the origin of a dust outbreak over West Africa.

A detailed synoptic analysis including the satellite-derived optical depths, vertical lidar backscattering cross section profiles, and back trajectories of the 16–19 September 1994 Saharan dust outbreak over the eastern Atlantic and its origin over West Africa during the 12–15 September period have been presented. In addition, lidar-derived backscattering profiles and optical depths were objectively analyzed to investigate the general features of the dust plume and its geographical variations in optical thickness. These analyses validated many of the familiar characteristic features of the Saharan dust plume conceptual model such as (i) the lifting of the aerosol over central Sahara and its subsequent transport to the top of the Saharan air layer (SAL), (ii) the westward rise of the dust layer above the gradually deepening marine mixed layer and the sinking of the dust-layer top, (iii) the anticyclonic gyration of the dust pulse between two consecutive trough axes, (iv) the dome-shaped structure of the dust-layer top and bottom, (v) occurrence of a middle-level jet near the southern boundary of the SAL, (vi) transverse–vertical circulations across the SAL front including their possible role in the initiation of a squall line to the southside of the jet that ultimately developed into a tropical storm, and (vii) existence of satellite-based high optical depths to the north of the middle-level jet in the ridge region of the wave.

Furthermore, the combined analyses reveal a complex structure of the dust plume including its origin over North Africa and its subsequent westward migration over the Atlantic Ocean. The dust plume over the west African coastline appears to be composed of two separate but narrow plumes originating over the central Sahara and Lake Chad regions, in contrast to one single large plume shown in the conceptual model. Lidar observations clearly show that the Saharan aerosol over North Africa not only consist of background dust (Harmattan haze) but also wind-blown aerosol from fresh dust outbreaks. They further exhibit maximum dust concentration near the middle-level jet axis with downward extension of heavy dust into the marine boundary layer including a clean dust-free trade wind inversion to the north of the dust layer over the eastern Atlantic region. The lidar-derived optical depths show a rapid decrease of optical depths away from land with maximum optical depths located close to the midlevel jet, in contrast to north of the jet shown by satellite estimates and the conceptual model. To reduce the uncertainties in estimating extinction-to-backscattering ratio for optical depth calculations from lidar data, direct aircraft measurements of optical and physical properties of the Saharan dust layer are needed.

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