The relative importance of warm rain and melting processes in freezing precipitation events

R. M. Rauber, L. S. Olthoff, M. K. Ramamurthy, K. E. Kunkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The importance of warm rain and melting processes in freezing precipitation events is investigated by analyzing 972 rawinsonde soundings taken during freezing precipitation. The soundings cover regions of the United States east of the Rocky Mountain states for the period 1970-94. The warm rain process was found to be unambiguously responsible for freezing precipitation in 47% of the soundings. In these soundings, the clouds had temperatures entirely below freezing, or had top temperatures that were above freezing. Another 28% of the soundings had cloud top temperatures between 0°and -10°C. Clouds with top temperatures >-10°C also can support an active warm rain process. Considered together, the warm rain process was potentially important in about 75% of the freezing precipitation soundings. This estimate is significantly higher than the estimate of 30% in a previous study by Huffman and Norman. The temperature, moisture, and wind profiles of the soundings, their geographic distribution, and the common occurrence of freezing drizzle at the sounding sites suggest that most of these events were associated with shallow cloud decks forming over arctic cold air masses. The 'classic' freezing rain sounding, with a deep moist layer and a midlevel warm (>0°C) layer, was observed in only 25% of the sample. In these soundings, the depth of the cloud layer implies that melting processes were important to precipitation production. From the geographic distribution, the common occurrence of freezing rain, and the sounding profile, these cases appear to be associated primarily with cold air damming and overrunning along the U.S. East Coast, and with warm-frontal overrunning in the midwestern United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1185-1195
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology
Volume39
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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