Elevation-Dependent Trends in Precipitation Observed during NAME

Rowe, Angela K.; Rutledge, Steven A.; Lang, Timothy J.; Ciesielski, Paul E.; Saleeby, Stephen M.
December 2008
Monthly Weather Review;Dec2008, Vol. 136 Issue 12, p4962
Academic Journal
Radar data from the 2004 North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) enhanced observing period were used to investigate diurnal trends and vertical structure of precipitating features relative to local terrain. Two-dimensional composites of reflectivity and rain rate, created from the two Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (SMN; Mexican Weather Service) C-band Doppler radars and NCAR’s S-band polarimetric Doppler radar (S-Pol), were divided into four elevation groups: over water, 0–1000 m (MSL), 1000–2000 m, and greater than 2000 m. Analysis of precipitation frequency and average rainfall intensity using these composites reveals a strong diurnal trend in precipitation similar to that observed by the NAME Event Rain Gauge Network. Precipitation occurs most frequently during the afternoon over the Sierra Madre Occidental (SMO), with the peak frequency moving over the lower elevations by evening. Also, the precipitation events over the lower elevations are less frequent but of greater intensity (rain rate) than those over the SMO. Precipitation echoes were partitioned into convective and stratiform components to allow for examination of vertical characteristics of convection using data from S-Pol. Analyses of reflectivity profiles and echo-top heights confirm that convection over the lower terrain is more intense and vertically developed than convection over the SMO. Warm-cloud depths, estimated from the Colorado State University–NAME upper-air and surface gridded analyses are, on average, 2 times as deep over the lower terrain as compared with over the SMO. Using a simplified stochastic model for drop growth, it is shown that these differences in warm-cloud depths could possibly explain the observed elevation-dependent trends in precipitation intensity.


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