Radar characteristics of precipitation features in the EPIC and TEPPS regions of the East Pacific

Robert Cifelli, S. W. Nesbitt, S. A. Rutledge, W. A. Petersen, S. Yuter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ship-based radar data are used to compare the structure of precipitation features in two regions of the east Pacific where recent field campaigns were conducted: the East Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes in the Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere System (EPIC-2001; 10°N, 95°W) in September 2001 and the Tropical Eastern Pacific Process Study (TEPPS; 8°N, 125°W) in August 1997. Corresponding July-September 1998-2004 Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) precipitation radar (PR) data are also used to provide context for the field campaign data. An objective technique is developed to identify precipitation features in the ship and TRMM PR data and to develop statistics on horizontal and vertical structure and precipitation characteristics. Precipitation features were segregated into mesoscale convective system (MCS) and sub-MCS categories, based on a contiguous area threshold of 1000 km2 (these features were required to have at least one convective pixel), as well as an "other" (NC) category. Comparison of the satellite and field campaign data showed that the two datasets were in good agreement for both regions with respect to MCS features. Specifically, both the satellite and ship radar data showed that approximately 80% of the rainfall volume in both regions was contributed by MCS features, similar to results from other observational datasets. EPIC and TEPPS MCSs had similar area distributions but EPIC MCSs tended to be more vertically developed and rain heavier than their TEPPS counterparts. In contrast to MCSs, smaller features (NCs and sub-MCSs) sampled by the ship radar in both regions showed important differences compared with the PR climatology. In the EPIC field campaign, a large number of small (<100 km2), shallow (radar echo tops below the melting level) NCs and sub-MCSs were sampled. A persistent dry layer above 800 mb during undisturbed periods in EPIC may have been responsible for the high occurrence of these features. Also, during the TEPPS campaign, sub-MCSs were larger and deeper with respect to the TRMM climatology, which may have been due to the higher than average SSTs during 1997-98 when TEPPS was conducted. Despite these differences, it was found that for sizes greater than about 100 km2, EPIC precipitation features had 30-dBZ echos at higher altitudes and also had higher rain rates than similar sized TEPPS features. These results suggest that ice processes play a more important role in rainfall production in EPIC compared with TEPPS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1576-1595
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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