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  1. Abstract

    Current bulk microphysical parameterization schemes underpredict precipitation intensities and drop size distributions (DSDs) during warm rain periods, particularly upwind of coastal terrain. To help address this deficiency, this study introduces a set of modifications, called RCON, to the liquid-phase (warm rain) parameterization currently used in the Thompson–Eidhammer microphysical parameterization scheme. RCON introduces several model modifications, motivated by evaluating simulations from a bin scheme, which together result in more accurate precipitation simulations during periods of warm rain. Among the most significant changes are 1) the use of a wider cloud water DSD of lognormal shape instead of the gamma DSD used by the Thompson–Eidhammer parameterization and 2) enhancement of the cloud-to-rain autoconversion parameterization. Evaluation of RCON is performed for two warm rain events and an extended period during the Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) field campaign of winter 2015/16. We show that RCON modifications produce more realistic precipitation distributions and rain DSDs than the default Thompson–Eidhammer configuration. For the multimonth OLYMPEX period, we show that rain rates, rainwater mixing ratios, and raindrop number concentrations were increased relative to the Thompson–Eidhammer microphysical parameterization, while concurrently decreasing raindrop diameters in liquid-phase clouds. These changes are consistent with an increase in simulated warm rain. Finally, real-time evaluation of the scheme from August 2021 to August 2022 demonstrated improved precipitation prediction over coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest.

    Significance Statement

    Although the accurate simulation of warm rain is critical to forecasting the hydrology of coastal areas and windward slopes, many warm rain parameterizations underpredict precipitation in these locations. This study introduces and evaluates modifications to the Thompson–Eidhammer microphysics parameterization scheme that significantly improve the accuracy of rainfall prediction in those regions.

     
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  2. Abstract

    This study documents the spatial and temporal distribution of the South American low-level jet (SALLJ) and quantifies its impact on the convective environment using a 6.5-month convection-permitting simulation during the Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, And Mesoscale/Microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations and Clouds, Aerosols, and Complex Terrain Interactions (RELAMPAGO-CACTI) campaigns. Overall, the simulation reproduces the observed SALLJ characteristics in central Argentina near the Sierras de Córdoba (SDC), a focal point for terrain-focused upscale growth. SALLJs most frequently occur in the summer with maxima to the northwest and east of the SDC and minima over the higher terrain. The shallower SALLJs (<1750 m) have a strong overnight skew, while the elevated jets are more equally spread throughout the day. SALLJ periods often have higher amounts of low-level moisture and instability compared to non-SALLJ periods, with these impacts increasing over time when the SALLJ is present and decreasing afterward. The SALLJ may enhance low-level wind shear magnitudes (particularly when accounting for the jet height); however, enhancement is somewhat limited due to the presence of speed shear in most situations. SALLJ periods are associated with low-level directional shear favorable for organized convection and an orientation of cloud-layer wind shear parallel to the terrain, which could favor upscale growth. A case study is shown in which the SALLJ influenced both the magnitude and direction of wind shear concurrent with convective upscale growth near the SDC. This study highlights the complex relationship between the SALLJ and its impacts during periods of widespread convection.

    Significance Statement

    Areas of enhanced low-level winds, or low-level jets, likely promote favorable conditions for upscale growth, the processes by which storms grow larger. Central Argentina is an ideal place to study the influence of low-level jets on upscale growth as storms often stay connected to the Sierras de Córdoba Mountain range, growing over a relatively small area. This study uses model data to describe the distribution and impact of the South American low-level jet on the storm environment. The South American low-level jet is frequently found near the Sierras de Córdoba, and moisture and convective instability increase when it is present. However, the jet’s impact on other conditions important for upscale growth, such as vertical wind shear, is not as straightforward.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Midlatitude cyclones approaching coastal mountain ranges experience flow modifications on a variety of scales including orographic lift, blocking, mountain waves, and valley flows. During the 2015/16 Olympic Mountain Experiment (OLYMPEX), a pair of scanning ground radars observed precipitating clouds as they were modified by these orographically induced flows. The DOW radar, positioned to scan up the windward Quinault Valley, conducted RHI scans during 285 h of precipitation, 80% of which contained reversed, down-valley flow at lower levels. The existence of down-valley flow in the Quinault Valley was found to be well correlated with upstream flow blocking and the large-scale sea level pressure gradient orientated down the valley. Deep down-valley flow occurred in environments with high moist static stability and southerly winds, conditions that are common in prefrontal sectors of midlatitude cyclones in the coastal Pacific Northwest. Finally, a case study of prolonged down-valley flow in a prefrontal storm sector was simulated to investigate whether latent heat absorption (cooling) contributed to the event. Three experiments were conducted: a Control simulation and two simulations where the temperature tendencies from melting and evaporation were separately turned off. Results indicated that evaporative cooling had a stronger impact on the event’s down-valley flow than melting, likely because evaporation occurred within the low-level down-valley flow layer. Through these experiments, we show that evaporation helped prolong down-valley flow for several hours past the time of the event’s warm frontal passage.

    Significance Statement

    This paper analyzes the characteristics of down-valley flow over the windward Quinault Valley on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State using data from OLYMPEX, with an emphasis on regional pressure differences and blocking metrics. Results demonstrate that the location of precipitation over the Olympic Peninsula is shifted upstream during events with deep down-valley flow, consistent with blocked upstream airflow. A case study of down-valley flow highlights the role of evaporative cooling to prolong the flow reversal.

     
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  4. Abstract The Remote sensing of Electrification, Lightning, And Mesoscale/microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO) campaign produced unparalleled observations of the South American low-level jet (SALLJ) in central Argentina with high temporal observations located in the path of the jet and upstream of rapidly growing convection. The vertical and temporal structure of the jet is characterized using 3-hourly soundings launched at two fixed sites near the Sierras de Córdoba (SDC), along with high-resolution reanalysis data. Objective SALLJ identification criteria are applied to each sounding to determine the presence, timing, and vertical characteristics of the jet. The observations largely confirm prior results showing that SALLJs most frequently come from the north, occur overnight, and peak in the low levels, though SALLJs notably peaked higher near the end of longer-duration events during RELAMPAGO. This study categorizes SALLJs into shorter-duration events with jet cores peaking overnight in the low levels and longer 5–6-day events with elevated jets near the end of the period that lack a clear diurnal cycle. Evidence of both boundary layer processes and large-scale forcing were observed during shorter-duration events, whereas synoptic forcing dominated the longer 5–6-day events. The highest amounts of moisture and larger convective coverage east of the SDC occurred near the end of the 5–6-day SALLJ events. Significance Statement The South American low-level jet (SALLJ) is an area of enhanced northerly winds that likely contributes to long-lived, widespread thunderstorms in Southeastern South America (SESA). This study uses observations from a recent SESA field project to improve understanding of the variability of the SALLJ and the underlying processes. We related jet occurrence to upper-level environmental patterns and differences in the progression speed of those patterns to varying durations of the jet. Longer-duration jets were more elevated, transported moisture southward from the Amazon, and coincided with the most widespread storms. These findings enable future research to study the role of the SALLJ in the life cycle of storms in detail, leading to improved storm prediction in SESA. 
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  5. Abstract On 7 February 2020, precipitation within the comma-head region of an extratropical cyclone was sampled remotely and in situ by two research aircraft, providing a vertical cross section of microphysical observations and fine-scale radar measurements. The sampled region was stratified vertically by distinct temperature layers and horizontally into a stratiform region on the west side, and a region of elevated convection on the east side. In the stratiform region, precipitation formed near cloud top as side-plane, polycrystalline, and platelike particles. These habits occurred through cloud depth, implying that the cloud-top region was the primary source of particles. Almost no supercooled water was present. The ice water content within the stratiform region showed an overall increase with depth between the aircraft flight levels, while the total number concentration slightly decreased, consistent with growth by vapor deposition and aggregation. In the convective region, new particle habits were observed within each temperature-defined layer along with detectable amounts of supercooled water, implying that ice particle formation occurred in several layers. Total number concentration decreased from cloud top to the −8°C level, consistent with particle aggregation. At temperatures > −8°C, ice particle concentrations in some regions increased to >100 L −1 , suggesting secondary ice production occurred at lower altitudes. WSR-88D reflectivity composites during the sampling period showed a weak, loosely organized banded feature. The band, evident on earlier flight legs, was consistent with enhanced vertical motion associated with frontogenesis, and at least partial melting of ice particles near the surface. A conceptual model of precipitation growth processes within the comma head is presented. Significance Statement Snowstorms over the northeast United States have major impacts on travel, power availability, and commerce. The processes by which snow forms in winter storms over this region are complex and their snowfall totals are hard to forecast accurately because of a poor understanding of the microphysical processes within the clouds composing the storms. This paper presents a case study from the NASA IMPACTS field campaign that involved two aircraft sampling the storm simultaneously with radars, and probes that measure the microphysical properties within the storm. The paper examines how variations in stability and frontal structure influence the microphysical evolution of ice particles as they fall from cloud top to the surface within the storm. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Over mountainous terrain, windward enhancement of stratiform precipitation results from a combination of warm-rain and ice-phase processes. In this study, ice-phase precipitation processes are investigated within frontal systems during the Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX). An enhanced layer of radar reflectivity (Z H ) above the melting level bright band (i.e., a secondary Z H maximum) is observed over both the windward slopes of the Olympic Mountains and the upstream ocean, with a higher frequency of occurrence and higher Z H values over the windward slopes indicating an orographic enhancement of ice-phase precipitation processes. Aircraft-based in situ observations are evaluated for the 01-02 and 03 December 2015 orographically-enhanced precipitation events. Above the secondary Z H maximum, the hydrometeors are primarily horizontally oriented dendritic and branched crystals. Within the secondary Z H maximum, there are high concentrations of large (> ~2 mm diameter) dendrites, plates, and aggregates thereof, with a significant degree of riming. In both events, aggregation and riming appear to be enhanced within a turbulent layer near sheared flow at the top of a low-level jet impinging on the terrain and forced to rise above the melting level. Based on windward ground sites at low-, mid-, and high-elevations, secondary Z H maxima periods during all of OLYMPEX are associated with increased rain rates and larger mass-weighted mean drop diameters compared to periods without a secondary Z H maximum. This result suggests that precipitation originating from secondary Z H maxima layers may contribute to enhanced windward precipitation accumulations through the formation of large, dense particles that accelerate fallout. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    Abstract High-resolution numerical model simulations of six different cases during the 2015/16 Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) are used to examine dynamic and microphysical precipitation processes on both the full barrier-scale and smaller sub-barrier-scale ridges and valleys. The degree to which stratiform precipitation within midlatitude cyclones is modified over the coastal Olympic Mountains range was found to be strongly dependent on the synoptic environment within a cyclone’s prefrontal and warm sectors. In prefrontal sectors, barrier-scale ascent over stably stratified flow resulted in enhanced ice production aloft at the coast and generally upstream of higher terrain. At low levels, stable flow orientated transverse to sub-barrier-scale windward ridges generated small-scale mountain waves, which failed to produce enough cloud water to appreciably enhance precipitation on the scale of the windward ridges. In moist-neutral warm sectors, the upstream side of the barrier exhibited broad ascent oriented along the windward ridges with lesser regions of adjacent downward motion. Significant quantities of cloud water were produced over coastal foothills with further production of cloud water on the lower-windward slopes. Ice production above the melting layer occurred directly over the barrier where the ice particles were further advected downstream by cross-barrier winds and spilled over into the lee. The coastal foothills were found to be essential for the production and maintenance of cloud water upstream of the primary topographic barrier, allowing additional time for hydrometeors to grow to precipitation size by autoconversion and collection before falling out on the lower-windward slopes. 
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  8. null (Ed.)
    Subtropical South America (SSA) east of the Andes Mountains is a global hotspot for mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Wide convective cores (WCCs) are typically embedded within mature MCSs, contribute over 40% of SSA’s warm-season rainfall, and are often associated with severe weather. Prior analysis of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) data identified WCCs in SSA and associated synoptic conditions during austral summer. As WCCs also occur during the austral spring, this study uses the 16-yr TRMM PR and ERA5 datasets to compare anomalies in environmental conditions between austral spring (SON) and summer (DJF) for the largest and smallest WCCs in SSA. During both seasons, large WCCs are associated with an anomalous midlevel trough that slowly crosses the Andes Mountains and a northerly South American low-level jet (SALLJ) over SSA, though the SON trough and SALLJ anomalies are stronger and located farther northeastward than in DJF. A synoptic pattern evolution resembling large WCC environments is illustrated through a multiday case during the RELAMPAGO field campaign (10–13 November 2018). Unique high-temporal-resolution soundings showed strong midlevel vertical wind shear associated with this event, induced by the juxtaposition of the northerly SALLJ and southerly near-surface flow. It is hypothesized that the Andes help create a quasi-stationary trough–ridge pattern such that favorable synoptic conditions for deep convection persist for multiple days. For the smallest WCCs, anomalously weaker synoptic-scale forcing was present compared to the largest events, especially for DJF, pointing to future work exploring MCS formation under weaker synoptic conditions. 
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  9. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Subtropical South America (SSA) east of the Andes Mountains is a global hotspot for mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Wide convective cores (WCCs) are typically embedded within mature MCSs, contribute over 40% of SSA’s warm-season rainfall, and are often associated with severe weather. Prior analysis of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) data identified WCCs in SSA and associated synoptic conditions during austral summer. As WCCs also occur during the austral spring, this study uses the 16-year TRMM PR dataset and ERA5 reanalysis to compare anomalies in environmental conditions between austral spring (SON) and summer (DJF) for the largest and smallest WCCs in SSA. During both seasons, large WCCs are associated with an anomalous mid-level trough that slowly crosses the Andes Mountains and a northerly South American low-level jet (SALLJ) over SSA, though the SON trough and SALLJ anomalies are stronger and located farther northeastward than in DJF. A synoptic pattern evolution resembling large WCC environments is illustrated through a multi-day case during the RELAMPAGO field campaign (10-13 November 2018). Unique high-temporal resolution soundings showed strong mid-level vertical wind shear associated with this event, induced by the juxtaposition of the northerly SALLJ and southerly near-surface flow. It is hypothesized that the Andes help create a quasi-stationary trough/ridge pattern such that favorable synoptic conditions for deep convection persist for multiple days. For the smallest WCCs, anomalously weaker synoptic-scale forcing was present compared to the largest events, especially for DJF, pointing to future work exploring MCS formation under weaker synoptic conditions. 
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