A Study of the Source of Entrained Air in Montana Cumuli

Alan M. Blyth Physics Department and Geophysical Research Center. N.M.I.M.T., Socorro, New Mexico

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William A. Cooper National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Jørgen B. Jensen National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

Data gathered by the University of Wyoming King Air, the Atmospheric Environmental Services Twin otter and an NCAR Queen Air were used in thermodynamic analyses to determine the sources of environmental air entrained into cumulus clouds. The measurements were made in clouds ranging from small cumuli a few kilometers deep to a large supercell system. Previous results have indicated that the source of entrained air in continental cumuli is generally above the flight level, often near cloud top. The results reported here, however, suggest that the source of entrained air is close to, or slightly above, the observation level of the aircraft, even when the aircraft descends through different levels in the cloud. The results are consistent with the idea that cumulus clouds consist of thermal-like elements from which the least buoyant mixed parcels are shed off and the most buoyant mixed parcels may continue with the general ascent. A schematic model of cumulus convection is presented and supported by measurements of air motions in small cumulus clouds.

Abstract

Data gathered by the University of Wyoming King Air, the Atmospheric Environmental Services Twin otter and an NCAR Queen Air were used in thermodynamic analyses to determine the sources of environmental air entrained into cumulus clouds. The measurements were made in clouds ranging from small cumuli a few kilometers deep to a large supercell system. Previous results have indicated that the source of entrained air in continental cumuli is generally above the flight level, often near cloud top. The results reported here, however, suggest that the source of entrained air is close to, or slightly above, the observation level of the aircraft, even when the aircraft descends through different levels in the cloud. The results are consistent with the idea that cumulus clouds consist of thermal-like elements from which the least buoyant mixed parcels are shed off and the most buoyant mixed parcels may continue with the general ascent. A schematic model of cumulus convection is presented and supported by measurements of air motions in small cumulus clouds.

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