Supercooled Liquid Water and Ice Crystal Distributions Within Sierra Nevada Winter Storms

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  • a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Auburn, CA 95603
  • | b Atmospheric Environment Service, Downsview, Ontario, Canada M3H 5T4
  • | c Electronic Techniques Inc., Auburn, CA 95603
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Abstract

Cloud physics data measured by aircraft during two successive winter field seasons (1978–79 and 1979–80) of the Sierra Cooperative Pilot Project operating over the Sierra Nevada Range have been examined in order to determine the distributions of supercooled liquid water and ice crystals. Results indicate that convective clouds provide the greatest likelihood of significant supercooled water. The Sierra barrier appears to optimize these conditions 40 to 90 km upwind of the crest within pockets of horizontal extent up to 64 km, although these conditions were greatly reduced at temperatures less than −10°C. The dominance of liquid water content over ice crystal concentration was maximized 7–10 h after the 700 mb trough passage. Area-wide and banded clouds, which make up the remaining precipitation events, showed only small amounts of supercooled water and general abundance of ice crystals. The largest liquid water contents were observed at the greatest temperatures, usually 0° to −5°C. Such climatological information suggests that a weather modification program to enhance snowfall should concentrate primarily on the convective clouds.

Abstract

Cloud physics data measured by aircraft during two successive winter field seasons (1978–79 and 1979–80) of the Sierra Cooperative Pilot Project operating over the Sierra Nevada Range have been examined in order to determine the distributions of supercooled liquid water and ice crystals. Results indicate that convective clouds provide the greatest likelihood of significant supercooled water. The Sierra barrier appears to optimize these conditions 40 to 90 km upwind of the crest within pockets of horizontal extent up to 64 km, although these conditions were greatly reduced at temperatures less than −10°C. The dominance of liquid water content over ice crystal concentration was maximized 7–10 h after the 700 mb trough passage. Area-wide and banded clouds, which make up the remaining precipitation events, showed only small amounts of supercooled water and general abundance of ice crystals. The largest liquid water contents were observed at the greatest temperatures, usually 0° to −5°C. Such climatological information suggests that a weather modification program to enhance snowfall should concentrate primarily on the convective clouds.

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