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Schmidt, JM, Flatau PJ, Yates RD.  2014.  Convective cells in altocumulus observed with a high-resolution radar. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 71:2130-2154.   10.1175/jas-d-13-0172.1   AbstractWebsite

Very-high-resolution Doppler radar observations are used together with aircraft measurements to document the dynamic and thermodynamic structure of a dissipating altocumulus cloud system associated with a deep virga layer. The cloud layer circulation is shown to consist of shallow vertical velocity couplets near cloud top and a series of subkilometer-scale Rayleigh-Benard-like cells that extend vertically through the depth of the cloud layer. The subcloud layer was observed to contain a number of narrow virga fall streaks that developed below the more dominant Rayleigh-Benard updraft circulations in the cloud layer. These features were discovered to be associated with kilometer-scale horizontally orientated rotor circulations that formed along the lateral flanks of the streaks collocated downdraft circulation. The Doppler analysis further reveals that a layer mean descent was present throughout both the cloud and subcloud layers. This characteristic of the circulation is analyzed with regard to the diabatic and radiative forcing on horizontal length scales ranging from the Rayleigh-Benard circulations to the overall cloud layer width. In particular, linear analytical results indicate that a deep and broad mesoscale region of subsidence is quickly established in middle-level cloud layers of finite width when a layer-wide horizontal gradient in the cloud-top radiative cooling rate is present. A conceptual model summarizing the primary observed and inferred circulation features of the altocumulus layer is presented.

Schmidt, JM, Flatau PJ, Harasti PR, Yates RD, Littleton R, Pritchard MS, Fischer JM, Fischer EJ, Kohri WJ, Vetter JR, Richman S, Baranowski DB, Anderson MJ, Fletcher E, Lando DW.  2012.  Radar observations of individual rain drops in the free atmosphere. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 109:9293-9298.   10.1073/pnas.1117776109   AbstractWebsite

Atmospheric remote sensing has played a pivotal role in the increasingly sophisticated representation of clouds in the numerical models used to assess global and regional climate change. This has been accomplished because the underlying bulk cloud properties can be derived from a statistical analysis of the returned microwave signals scattered by a diverse ensemble comprised of numerous cloud hydrometeors. A new Doppler radar, previously used to track small debris particles shed from the NASA space shuttle during launch, is shown to also have the capacity to detect individual cloud hydrometeors in the free atmosphere. Similar to the traces left behind on film by subatomic particles, larger cloud particles were observed to leave a well-defined radar signature (or streak), which could be analyzed to infer the underlying particle properties. We examine the unique radar and environmental conditions leading to the formation of the radar streaks and develop a theoretical framework which reveals the regulating role of the background radar reflectivity on their observed characteristics. This main expectation from theory is examined through an analysis of the drop properties inferred from radar and in situ aircraft measurements obtained in two contrasting regions of an observed multicellular storm system. The observations are placed in context of the parent storm circulation through the use of the radar's unique high-resolution waveforms, which allow the bulk and individual hydrometeor properties to be inferred at the same time.

Schmidt, JM, Flatau PJ, Harasti PR.  2017.  Evidence for a nimbostratus uncinus in a convectively generated mixed-phase stratiform cloud shield. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 74:4093-4116.   10.1175/jas-d-17-0074.1   AbstractWebsite

The structure of a melting layer associated with a mesoconvective system is examined using a combination of in situ aircraft measurements and a unique Doppler radar operated by the U.S. Navy that has a range resolution as fine as 0.5 m. Interest in this case was motivated by ground-based all-sky camera images that captured the transient development of midlevel billow cloud structures within a precipitating trailing stratiform cloud shield associated with a passing deep convective system. A sequence of high-fidelity time-height radar measurements taken of this storm system reveal that the movement of the billow cloud structure over the radar site corresponded with abrupt transitions in the observed low-level precipitation structure. Of particular note is an observed transition from stratiform to more periodic and vertically slanted rain shaft structures that both radar and aircraft measurements indicate have the same temporal periodicity determined to arise visually between successive billow cloud bands. Doppler, balloon, and aircraft measurements reveal these transient bands are associated with a shallow circulation field that resides just above the melting level in a layer of moist neutral stability and strong negative vertical wind shear. The nature of these circulations and their impact on the evolving precipitation field are described in the context of known nimbostratus cloud types.

Stephens, GL, Tsay SC, Stackhouse PW, Flatau PJ.  1990.  The Relevance of the Microphysical and Radiative Properties of Cirrus Clouds to Climate and Climatic Feedback. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 47:1742-1753.   10.1175/1520-0469(1990)047<1742:trotma>;2   AbstractWebsite

This paper examines the effects of the relationship between cirrus cloud ice water content and cloud temperature on climate change. A simple mechanistic climate model is used to study the feedback between ice water content and temperature. The central question studied in this paper concerns the extent to which both the radiative and microphysical properties of cirrus cloud influence such a feedback. To address this question, a parameterization of the albedo and emissivity of clouds is introduced. Observations that relate the ice water content to cloud temperature are incorporated in the parameterization to introduce a temperature dependence to both albedo and emittance. The cloud properties relevant to the cloud feedback are expressed as functions of particles size re, asymmetry parameter g and cloud temperature and analyses of aircraft measurements, lidar and ground based radiometer data are used to select re and g. It was shown that scattering calculations assuming spherical particles with a distribution described by re = 16 μm reasonably matched the lidar and radiometer data. However, comparison of cloud radiation properties measured from aircraft to those parameterized in this study required values of g significantly smaller than those derived for spheres but consistent with our understanding of nonspherical particle scattering.The climate simulations revealed that the influence of cirrus cloud on climate was strongly affected by the choice of re and g: parameters that are both poorly known for cirrus. It was further shown that the effect of ice water feedback on a CO2 warming simulation could be either positive or negative depending on the value of re assumed. Based on these results, it was concluded that prediction of cirrus cloud feedback on climate is both premature and limited by our lack of understanding of the relationship between size and shape of ice crystals and the gross radiative properties of cirrus.

Stramski, D, Wozniak SB, Flatau PJ.  2004.  Optical properties of Asian mineral dust suspended in seawater. Limnology and Oceanography. 49:749-755. AbstractWebsite

The spectral optical properties of Asian mineral dust suspended in seawater exhibit significant variability associated with the origin (and, hence, the chemistry and mineralogy) and particle size distribution of the samples. The measurements of dust samples from different locations show that the mass-specific absorption coefficient of particles, a(p)*, at a wavelength of light lambda = 440 nm, varies from about 0.028 m(2) g(-1) for the soil dust from Chinese desert Pnear Dunhuang to 0.15 m(2) g(-1) for the soil dust of volcanic origin in Cheju Island (South Korea). At lambda = 400 nm, this range is 0.05-0.23 m(2) g(-1). The aerosol sample collected in the Sea of Japan during a massive dust storm in East Asia shows a(p)*(lambda) > 0.1 m(2) g(-1) for lambda < 425 nm. The mass-specific scattering coefficient, b(p)*(lambda), ranges from about 0.8 to 1.5 m(2) g(-1) at blue and green wavelengths for the samples examined. The single scattering albedo, omega(0) increases with wavelength. For lambda > 400 nm, omega(0) was > 0.78 for the sample from Cheju Island and > 0.9 for other samples. In the near-infrared region (750-850 nm), where absorption by dust particles is small or undetectable, omega(0), was close to 1.