A new three-dimensional visualization system for combining aircraft and radar data and its application to RICO observations

Dan K. Arthur, Sonia Lasher-Trapp, Ayman Abdel-Haleem, Nicholas Klosterman, David S. Ebert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The analysis of diverse datasets from meteorological field campaigns often involves the use of separate 1D or combined 2D plots from various applications, making the determination of spatial and temporal relationships and correlations among these data, and the overall synthesis of information, extremely challenging. Presented here is a new 3D visualization tool, the Aircraft and Radar Data Collocation and Analysis in 3D (ARCA3D), that can combine data collected from different sources and at different scales, utilizing advanced visualization and user interface techniques, which allows for easier comparison and synthesis of such disparate data. The 3D tool is demonstrated with aircraft-based microphysical probe data and ground-based dual-polarization radar data all collected during the Rain in Cumulus over the Ocean (RICO) field campaign. The 3D volumes of radar data can be interactively selected and quantitatively probed, while aircraftmeasured variables can be viewed along the aircraft track plotted within the 3D radar volumes or plotted as time series within regions of interest relative to the radar echoes. The greatest benefits of the new software, the 3D viewing of large radar and aircraft datasets with user-driven controls, are difficult to communicate here in a static, 2D written medium, but the application of the tool toward a research problem is presented to elucidate the impacts of these benefits. The ARCA3D software is used to investigate the possible role of giant aerosol particles in the development of precipitation in trade wind cumuli. The temporal trends in the spatial location of the maximum differential reflectivity echoes within the clouds are examined with respect to the ambient giant aerosol number concentration and the measured cloud-base droplet number concentrations on 10 days. The results indicate that in trade wind cumuli of sufficient depth, giant aerosol may determine the original location of the earliest differential reflectivity maximum echo, and thus the first raindrops when present in higher number concentrations. However, when the giant aerosol are less plentiful, the number of cloud droplets activated above the cloud base may also play a role in determining the location of the earliest maximum differential reflectivity echo, and thus the earliest raindrops, in these trade wind cumuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)811-828
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aircraft observations
  • Data processing
  • Field experiments
  • Radar observations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Atmospheric Science


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