Vertical motions in precipitation bands in three winter cyclones

Marcia Cronce, Robert M. Rauber, Kevin R. Knupp, Brian F. Jewett, Justin T. Walters, Dustin Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The University of Alabama in Huntsville Mobile Integrated Profiling System 915-MHz profiler was deployed in January and February of 2004 to measure vertical air velocities in finescale precipitation bands in winter cyclones. The pTofiler was placed to sample the "wraparound" quadrant of three winter cyclones in the central and southern United States, and it obtained high-resolution measurements of the vertical structure of a series of bands in each storm. The data revealed bands that were up to 6 km deep, 10-50 km wide, and spaced about 5-20 km apart. Measurements of vertical air motion w within these bands were retrieved from the Doppler spectra using the lower-bound method, adapted to account for the effects of spectral broadening caused by the horizontal wind, wind shear, and turbulence. Derived vertical air motions ranged from -4.3 to 6.7 m s-1, with an uncertainty of about ±0.6 m s-1. Approximately 29% of the 1515 total derived values were negative, 35% exceeded 1 m s-1, and 9% exceeded 2.0 m s-1. These values are consistent with studies in the Pacific Northwest, except that more extreme values were observed in one band than have been previously reported. There was a high correlation between values of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and w within each band (0.60 ≤ r ≤ 0.85), in the composite of bands from each cyclone (0.59 ≤ r ≤ 0.79), and in the overall analysis (r = 0.68). The strongest updrafts were typically between 2.0 and 4.0 m s-1 and were located near the center of each band in regions of high SNR. Regions of downdrafts within the bands had maximum values between -1.0 and -4.3 m s-1 and were typically located along the edges of the bands in regions of low SNR. These results are consistent with snow growth and sublimation processes. The magnitudes of the vertical velocities in the core of the bands were comparable to theoretical predictions for moist symmetric instability (MSI) under inviscid conditions but would appear to be some-what larger than expected for MSI when turbulent mixing is considered, suggesting that other instabilities, such as potential instability, may have contributed to the band development in these storms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1523-1543
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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