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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


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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The Arm Program's Water Vapor Intensive Observation Periods

Overview, Initial Accomplishments, and Future Challenges

H. E. Revercomb, D. D. Turner, D. C. Tobin, R. O. Knuteson, W. F. Feltz, J. Barnard, J. Bösenberg, S. Clough, D. Cook, R. Ferrare, J. Goldsmith, S. Gutman, R. Halthore, B. Lesht, J. Liljegren, H. Linné, J. Michalsky, V. Morris, W. Porch, S. Richardson, B. Schmid, M. Splitt, T. Van Hove, E. Westwater, and D. Whiteman

A series of water vapor intensive observation periods (WVIOPs) were conducted at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) site in Oklahoma between 1996 and 2000. The goals of these WVIOPs are to characterize the accuracy of the operational water vapor observations and to develop techniques to improve the accuracy of these measurements.

The initial focus of these experiments was on the lower atmosphere, for which the goal is an absolute accuracy of better than 2% in total column water vapor, corresponding to ~1 W m−2 of infrared radiation at the surface. To complement the operational water vapor instruments during the WVIOPs, additional instrumentation including a scanning Raman lidar, microwave radiometers, chilled-mirror hygrometers, a differential absorption lidar, and ground-based solar radiometers were deployed at the ARM site. The unique datasets from the 1996, 1997, and 1999 experiments have led to many results, including the discovery and characterization of a large (> 25%) sonde-to-sonde variability in the water vapor profiles from Vaisala RS-80H radiosondes that acts like a height-independent calibration factor error. However, the microwave observations provide a stable reference that can be used to remove a large part of the sonde-to-sonde calibration variability. In situ capacitive water vapor sensors demonstrated agreement within 2% of chilled-mirror hygrometers at the surface and on an instrumented tower. Water vapor profiles retrieved from two Raman lidars, which have both been calibrated to the ARM microwave radiometer, showed agreement to within 5% for all altitudes below 8 km during two WVIOPs. The mean agreement of the total precipitable water vapor from different techniques has converged significantly from early analysis that originally showed differences up to 15%. Retrievals of total precipitable water vapor (PWV) from the ARM microwave radiometer are now found to be only 3% moister than PWV derived from new GPS results, and about 2% drier than the mean of radiosonde data after a recently defined sonde dry-bias correction is applied. Raman lidar profiles calibrated using tower-mounted chilled-mirror hygrometers confirm the expected sensitivity of microwave radiometer data to water vapor changes, but it is drier than the microwave radiometer (MWR) by 0.95 mm for all PWV amounts. However, observations from different collocated microwave radiometers have shown larger differences than expected and attempts to resolve the remaining inconsistencies (in both calibration and forward modeling) are continuing.

The paper concludes by outlining the objectives of the recent 2000 WVIOP and the ARM–First International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) Regional Experiment (FIRE) Water Vapor Experiment (AFWEX), the latter of which switched the focus to characterizing upper-tropospheric humidity measurements.

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D. W. Stahle, R. D. D'Arrigo, P. J. Krusic, M. K. Cleaveland, E. R. Cook, R. J. Allan, J. E. Cole, R. B. Dunbar, M. D. Therrell, D. A. Gay, M. D. Moore, M. A. Stokes, B. T. Burns, J. Villanueva-Diaz, and L. G. Thompson

Exactly dated tree-ring chronologies from ENSO-sensitive regions in subtropical North America and Indonesia together register the strongest ENSO signal yet detected in tree-ring data worldwide and have been used to reconstruct the winter Southern Oscillation index (SOI) from 1706 to 1977. This reconstruction explains 53% of the variance in the instrumental winter SOI during the boreal cool season (December–February) and was verified in the time, space, and frequency domains by comparisons with independent instrumental SOI and sea surface temperature (SST) data. The large-scale SST anomaly patterns associated with ENSO in the equatorial and North Pacific during the 1879–1977 calibration period are reproduced in detail by this reconstruction. Cross-spectral analyses indicate that the reconstruction reproduces over 70% of the instrumental winter SOI variance at periods between 3.5 and 5.6 yr, and over 88% in the 4-yr frequency band. Oscillatory modes of variance identified with singular spectrum analysis at ~3.5,4.0, and 5.8 yr in both the instrumental and reconstructed series exhibit regimelike behavior over the 272-yr reconstruction. The tree-ring estimates also suggest a statistically significant increase in the interannual variability of winter SOI, more frequent cold events, and a slightly stronger sea level pressure gradient across the equatorial Pacific from the mid–nineteenth to twentieth centuries. Some of the variability in this reconstruction must be associated with background climate influences affecting the ENSO teleconnection to subtropical North America and may not arise solely from equatorial ENSO forcing. However, there is some limited independent support for the nineteenth to twentieth century changes in tropical Pacific climate identified in this reconstruction and, if substantiated, it will have important implications to the low-frequency dynamics of ENSO.

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Allen B. White, Brad Colman, Gary M. Carter, F. Martin Ralph, Robert S. Webb, David G. Brandon, Clark W. King, Paul J. Neiman, Daniel J. Gottas, Isidora Jankov, Keith F. Brill, Yuejian Zhu, Kirby Cook, Henry E. Buehner, Harold Opitz, David W. Reynolds, and Lawrence J. Schick

The Howard A. Hanson Dam (HHD) has brought flood protection to Washington's Green River Valley for more than 40 years and opened the way for increased valley development near Seattle. However, following a record high level of water behind the dam in January 2009 and the discovery of elevated seepage through the dam's abutment, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declared the dam “unsafe.” NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) and National Weather Service (NWS) worked together to respond rapidly to this crisis for the 2009/10 winter season, drawing from innovations developed in NWS offices and in NOAA's Hydrometeorology Test-bed (HMT).

New data telemetry was added to 14 existing surface rain gauges, allowing the gauge data to be ingested into the NWS rainfall database. The NWS Seattle Weather Forecast Office produced customized daily forecasts, including longer-lead-time hydrologic outlooks and new decision support services tailored for emergency managers and the public, new capabilities enabled by specialized products from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and from HMT. The NOAA Physical Sciences Division (PSD) deployed a group of specialized instruments on the Washington coast and near the HHD that constituted two atmospheric river (AR) observatories (AROs) and conducted special HMT numerical model forecast runs. Atmospheric rivers are narrow corridors of enhanced water vapor transport in extratropical oceanic storms that can produce heavy orographic precipitation and anomalously high snow levels, and thus can trigger flooding. The AROs gave forecasters detailed vertical profile observations of AR conditions aloft, including monitoring of real-time water vapor transport and comparison with model runs.

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Paul W. Staten, Kevin M. Grise, Sean M. Davis, Kristopher B. Karnauskas, Darryn W. Waugh, Amanda C. Maycock, Qiang Fu, Kerry Cook, Ori Adam, Isla R. Simpson, Robert J Allen, Karen Rosenlof, Gang Chen, Caroline C. Ummenhofer, Xiao-Wei Quan, James P. Kossin, Nicholas A. Davis, and Seok-Woo Son


Over the past 15 years, numerous studies have suggested that the sinking branches of Earth’s Hadley circulation and the associated subtropical dry zones have shifted poleward over the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. Early estimates of this tropical widening from satellite observations and reanalyses varied from 0.25° to 3° latitude per decade, while estimates from global climate models show widening at the lower end of the observed range. In 2016, two working groups, the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) working group on the Changing Width of the Tropical Belt and the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) Tropical Width Diagnostics Intercomparison Project, were formed to synthesize current understanding of the magnitude, causes, and impacts of the recent tropical widening evident in observations. These working groups concluded that the large rates of observed tropical widening noted by earlier studies resulted from their use of metrics that poorly capture changes in the Hadley circulation, or from the use of reanalyses that contained spurious trends. Accounting for these issues reduces the range of observed expansion rates to 0.25°–0.5° latitude decade‒1—within the range from model simulations. Models indicate that most of the recent Northern Hemisphere tropical widening is consistent with natural variability, whereas increasing greenhouse gases and decreasing stratospheric ozone likely played an important role in Southern Hemisphere widening. Whatever the cause or rate of expansion, understanding the regional impacts of tropical widening requires additional work, as different forcings can produce different regional patterns of widening.

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G. Vaughan, J. Methven, D. Anderson, B. Antonescu, L. Baker, T. P. Baker, S. P. Ballard, K. N. Bower, P. R. A. Brown, J. Chagnon, T. W. Choularton, J. Chylik, P. J. Connolly, P. A. Cook, R. J. Cotton, J. Crosier, C. Dearden, J. R. Dorsey, T. H. A. Frame, M. W. Gallagher, M. Goodliff, S. L. Gray, B. J. Harvey, P. Knippertz, H. W. Lean, D. Li, G. Lloyd, O. Martínez–Alvarado, J. Nicol, J. Norris, E. Öström, J. Owen, D. J. Parker, R. S. Plant, I. A. Renfrew, N. M. Roberts, P. Rosenberg, A. C. Rudd, D. M. Schultz, J. P. Taylor, T. Trzeciak, R. Tubbs, A. K. Vance, P. J. van Leeuwen, A. Wellpott, and A. Woolley


The Diabatic Influences on Mesoscale Structures in Extratropical Storms (DIAMET) project aims to improve forecasts of high-impact weather in extratropical cyclones through field measurements, high-resolution numerical modeling, and improved design of ensemble forecasting and data assimilation systems. This article introduces DIAMET and presents some of the first results. Four field campaigns were conducted by the project, one of which, in late 2011, coincided with an exceptionally stormy period marked by an unusually strong, zonal North Atlantic jet stream and a succession of severe windstorms in northwest Europe. As a result, December 2011 had the highest monthly North Atlantic Oscillation index (2.52) of any December in the last 60 years. Detailed observations of several of these storms were gathered using the U.K.’s BAe 146 research aircraft and extensive ground-based measurements. As an example of the results obtained during the campaign, observations are presented of Extratropical Cyclone Friedhelm on 8 December 2011, when surface winds with gusts exceeding 30 m s–1 crossed central Scotland, leading to widespread disruption to transportation and electricity supply. Friedhelm deepened 44 hPa in 24 h and developed a pronounced bent-back front wrapping around the storm center. The strongest winds at 850 hPa and the surface occurred in the southern quadrant of the storm, and detailed measurements showed these to be most intense in clear air between bands of showers. High-resolution ensemble forecasts from the Met Office showed similar features, with the strongest winds aligned in linear swaths between the bands, suggesting that there is potential for improved skill in forecasts of damaging winds.

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