Multiscale structure and evolution of an Oklahoma winter precipitation event

R. J. Trapp, D. M. Schultz, A. V. Ryzhkov, R. L. Holle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A significant winter precipitation event occurred on 8-9 March 1994 in Oklahoma. Snow accumulations greater than 30 cm (12 in.) were measured within a narrow corridor in northern Oklahoma. On the synoptic scale and mesoscale, a correspondence between large snow accumulations and 600-hPa frontogenesis was revealed; the precipitation was formed above the cold frontal surface, owing to midtropospheric ascent associated with the cross-frontal circulation in a region of elevated conditional instability. The location of such a narrow corridor of large accumulations was not, however, disclosed by any patterns in the radar reflectivity data. Indeed, during this event, an elongated maximum of snow accumulation was not associated with a persistent "band" of enhanced reflectivity and vice versa. Dual-polarization and dual-Doppler radar data allowed for a novel analysis of winter precipitation processes and structures, within the context of the larger-scale diagnosis. It was possible to identify, in order of distance southward toward the surface cold front: (i) an elevated convective element, which was classified as an elevated thunderstorm and may have functioned as an ice crystal "generator" cell, embedded within a broad region of generally stratiform precipitation; (ii) a reflectivity band and associated rain-snow transition zone, the evolution and structure of which apparently were coupled to the effects of melting precipitation and strong vertical wind shear; and (iii) a mixed-phase precipitation-generating, prolific lightning-producing, nonelevated thunderstorm cell that was sustained in the postfrontal air in part by virtue of its rotational dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)486-501
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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