Boundary layer and microphysical influences of natural cloud seeding on a lake-effect snowstorm

Joshua J. Schroeder, David A.R. Kristovich, Mark R. Hjelmfelt

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The first detailed observations of the interaction of a synoptic cyclone with a lake-effect convective boundary layer (CBL) were obtained on 5 December 1997 during the Lake-Induced Convection Experiment. Lake-effect precipitation and CBL growth rates were enhanced by natural seeding by snow from higher-level clouds and the modified thermodynamic structure of the air over Lake Michigan due to the cyclone. In situ aircraft observations, project and operational rawinsondes, airborne radar, and operational Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler data were utilized to document the CBL and precipitation structure for comparison with past nonenhanced lake-effect events. Despite modest surface heat fluxes of 100-200 W m-2, cross-lake CBL growth was greatly accelerated as the convection merged with an overlying reduced-stability layer. Over midlake areas, CBL growth rates averaged more than twice those previously reported for lake-effect and oceanic cold-air outbreak situations. Regions of the lake-effect CBL cloud deck were seeded by precipitation from higher-level clouds over the upwind (western) portions of Lake Michigan before the CBL merged with the overlying reduced-stability layer. In situ aircraft observations suggest that in seeded regions, the CBL was deeper than in nonseeded regions. In addition, average water-equivalent precipitation rates for all of the passes with seeded regions were more than an order of magnitude greater in seeded regions than nonseeded regions because of higher concentration of snow particles of all sizes. A maximum snowfall rate of 4.28 mm day-1 was calculated using aircraft particle observations in seeded regions, comparable to snowfall rates previously reported for lake-effect events, often with much larger surface heat fluxes, but not interacting with synoptic cyclones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1842-1858
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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