Phase-Specific Characteristics of Wintertime Clouds across a Midlatitude Mountain Range
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Phase-Specific Characteristics of Wintertime Clouds across a Midlatitude Mountain Range
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    Monthly Weather Review, 143(10), 4181-4197.
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  • Description:
    Observations from a series of frontal and postfrontal storms during the Colorado Airborne Multiphase Cloud Study (CAMPS) are combined to show transitions in cloud dynamics and microphysical statistics over a mountain range. During 10 flights in 2010 and 2011, along-wind, across-ridge transects over the Colorado Park Range are performed to statistically characterize air motion and microphysical conditions and their variability. Composite transect statistics show median vertical winds to be mostly upward windward of the ridge axis, and that cloud water concentration (CWC) and ice-particle number concentration are greatest near the ridge. Mixed-phase clouds were found throughout the study area, but increase in frequency by 70% relative to other cloud types in the vicinity of the range. Compared to ice-only clouds, mixed-phase clouds are associated with greater near-ridge increases in CWC and preferentially occur in regions with greater vertical wind variability or updrafts. Strong leeside reductions in CWC, the abundance of mixed-phase clouds, and number concentration of ice particles reflect the dominance of precipitation and particle mass loss processes, rather than cloud growth processes, downwind from the topographic barrier. On days in which the air column stability does not support lee subsidence, this spatial configuration is markedly different, with both ice- and liquid-water-bearing clouds appearing near the ridgeline and extending downwind. A case study from 9 January 2011 highlights mixed-phase regions in trapped lee waves, and in a near-ridgetop layer with evidence of low-altitude ice particle growth.
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