Characteristics of Generating Cells in Wintertime Orographic Clouds

Sarah A. Tessendorf, Kyoko Ikeda, Roy M. Rasmussen, Jeffrey French, Robert M. Rauber, Alexei Korolev, Lulin Xue, Derek R. Blestrud, Nicholas Dawson, Melinda Meadows, Melvin L. Kunkel, Shaun Parkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime clouds: the Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE) field campaign, cloud-top generating cells were frequently observed in the very high-resolution W-band airborne cloud radar data. This study examines multiple flight segments from three SNOWIE cases that exhibited cloud-top generating cells structures, focusing on the in situ measurements inside and outside these cells to characterize the microphysics of these cells. The observed generating cells in these three cases occurred in cloud tops of -15° to -30°C, with and without overlying cloud layers, but always with shallow layers of atmospheric instability observed at cloud top. The results also indicate that liquid water content, vertical velocity, and drizzle and ice crystal concentrations are greater inside the generating cells compared to the adjacent portions of the cloud. The generating cells were predominantly ,500 m in horizontal width and frequently exhibited drizzle drops coexisting with ice. The particle imagery indicates that ice particle habits included plates, columns, and rimed and irregular crystals, likely formed via primary ice nucleation mechanisms. Understanding the sources of natural ice formation is important to understanding precipitation formation in winter orographic clouds, and is especially relevant for clouds that may be targeted for glaciogenic cloud seeding as well as to improve model representation of these clouds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-673
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2024


  • Aircraft observations
  • Cloud microphysics
  • Clouds
  • Orographic effects
  • Radars/Radar observations
  • Subgrid-scale processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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