Explicit Forecasts of Winter Precipitation Using an Improved Bulk Microphysics Scheme. Part I: Description and Sensitivity Analysis

Thompson, Gregory; Rasmussen, Roy M.; Manning, Kevin
February 2004
Monthly Weather Review;Feb2004, Vol. 132 Issue 2, p519
Academic Journal
This study evaluates the sensitivity of winter precipitation to numerous aspects of a bulk, mixed-phase microphysical parameterization found in three widely used mesoscale models [the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5), the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC), and the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model]. Sensitivities of the microphysics to primary ice initiation, autoconversion, cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) spectra, treatment of graupel, and parameters controlling the snow and rain size distributions are tested. The sensitivity tests are performed by simulating various cloud depths (with different cloud-top temperatures) using flow over an idealized two-dimensional mountain. The height and width of the two-dimensional barrier are designed to reproduce an updraft pattern with extent and magnitude consistent with documented freezing-drizzle cases. By increasing the moisture profile to saturation at low temperatures, a deep, precipitating snow cloud is also simulated. Upon testing the primary sensitivities of the microphysics scheme in two dimensions as reported in the present study, the MM5 with the modified scheme will be tested in multiple case studies and the results will be compared to observations in a forthcoming companion paper, Part II. The key results of this study are 1) the choice of ice initiation schemes is relatively unimportant for deep precipitating snow clouds but more important for shallow warm clouds having cloud-top temperature greater than -13°C, 2) the assumed snow size distribution and associated snow diffusional growth along with the assumed graupel size distribution and method of transforming rimed snow into graupel have major impacts on the mass of cloud water and formation of freezing drizzle, and 3) a proper simulation of drizzle using a single-moment scheme and exponential size distribution requires an increase in the rain intercept parameter, thereby reducing rain terminal velocities to values more characteristic of drizzle.


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