Wintertime Nonbrightband Rain in California and Oregon during CALJET and PACJET: Geographic, Interannual, and Synoptic Variability

Neiman, Paul J.; Wick, Gary A.; Ralph, F. Martin; Martner, Brooks E.; White, Allen B.; Kingsmill, David E.
May 2005
Monthly Weather Review;May2005, Vol. 133 Issue 5, p1199
Academic Journal
An objective algorithm presented in White et al. was applied to vertically pointing S-band (S-PROF) radar data recorded at four sites in northern California and western Oregon during four winters to assess the geographic, interannual, and synoptic variability of stratiform nonbrightband (NBB) rain in landfalling winter storms. NBB rain typically fell in a shallow layer residing beneath the melting level (<∼3.5 km MSL), whereas rainfall possessing a brightband (BB) was usually associated with deeper echoes (>∼6 km MSL). The shallow NBB echo tops often resided beneath the coverage of the operational Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) scanning radars yet were still capable of producing flooding rains. NBB rain contributed significantly to the total winter-season rainfall at each of the four geographically distinct sites (i.e., 18%–35% of the winter-season rain totals). In addition, the rainfall observed at the coastal mountain site near Cazadero, California (CZD), during each of four winters was composed of a significant percentage of NBB rain (18%–50%); substantial NBB rainfall occurred regardless of the phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (which ranged from strong El Niño to moderate La Niña conditions). Clearly, NBB rain occurs more widely and commonly in California and Oregon than can be inferred from the single-winter, single-site study of White et al. Composite NCEP–NCAR reanalysis maps and Geostationary Operational Environment Satellite (GOES) cloud-top temperature data were examined to evaluate the synoptic conditions that characterize periods of NBB precipitation observed at CZD and how they differ from periods with bright bands. The composites indicate that both rain types were tied generally to landfalling polar-cold-frontal systems. However, synoptic conditions favoring BB rain exhibited notable distinctions from those characterizing NBB periods. This included key differences in the position of the composite 300-mb jet stream and underlying cold front with respect to CZD, as well as notable differences in the intensity of the 500-mb shortwave trough offshore of CZD. The suite of BB composites exhibited dynamically consistent synoptic-scale characteristics that yielded stronger and deeper ascent over CZD than for the typically shallower NBB rain, consistent with the GOES satellite composites that showed 20-K warmer (2.3-km shallower) cloud tops for NBB rain. Composite soundings for both rain types possessed low-level potential instability, but the NBB sounding was warmer and moister with stronger low-level upslope flow, thus implying that orographically forced rainfall is enhanced during NBB conditions.


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