Examples of Research Results

Armored T-28 Research Aircraft Facility

Examples of Research Results

The T-28 accomplished more than 900 storm penetrations in a series of research projects dating back to 1970. Those projects have involved investigations of convective storm processes in Alabama, Alberta, Colorado, Florida, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Switzerland. In most cases, the emphasis was on studies of hail development, for which the T-28 with its ability to penetrate storms containing hail up to more than 5 cm in diameter, was uniquely suited. The TRIP and CaPE projects in Florida had as a major focus the relationship between precipitation development and charge separation in convective clouds. The COHMEX project in Alabama (1986) was concerned with precipitation development, cloud electrical processes and the development of downbursts. Recent work in North Dakota involved investigations of transport and dispersion in convective clouds using gaseous tracer techniques. The TEXARC project in Texas focused on seeding effects on ice-phase development in towering cumulus growing into cumulonumbus clouds.

T-28 data have been employed in various studies of thunderstorm processes. In each case, the interpretation of the T-28 observations has been greatly facilitated by the availability of good aircraft tracks, supporting radar data (conventional, Doppler, and multiparameter), and observations from other research aircraft, as well as other comprehensive meteorological surface and upper air data. Much of this research has been undertaken jointly by scientists from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T) and other organizations, including NCAR, various universities, and federal and state agencies. Important contributions have been made to the resolution of major questions about the development of hail in thunderstorms. For example, it was established that there are no accumulations of high concentrations of supercooled raindrops, like those envisioned in the Soviet model of hail development, in Colorado or Swiss thunderstorms (Musil et al, 1973, 1976b; Sand, 1976; Knight et al, 1982; Waldvogel et al, 1987). Accumulations of this sort have been found in storms in the southeastern U.S., but rapid freezing and natural "beneficial competition" appear to prevent the development of large hailstones in most cases (Musil and Smith, 1989).

Mechanisms of hail development involving recirculation of ice particles (Musil et al, 1976a) or the transfer into the main storm of ice particles developed to embryo sizes in feeder cloud regions (Heymsfield and Musil, 1982; Heymsfield, 1983; Foote, 1984) have been established as important processes in the development of hail in at least some Colorado storms. Evidence was found in Oklahoma storms of mixed-phase precipitation processes with recirculation within the main storm likely being important (Heymsfield and Hjelmfelt, 1984). Analysis of T-28 data from SESAME 1979 and CCOPE (1981) showed that shedding of drops from graupel or hail undergoing wet growth or melting may produce enough supercooled raindrops in Oklahoma and Montana storms to account for the observed incidence of frozen-drop embryos (Heymsfield and Hjelmfelt, 1984; Rasmussen and Heymsfield, 1987).

The T-28 observations of the microphysical and updraft structure of high-reflectivity regions of thunderstorms have served to characterize the types and concentrations of particles in those regions, identify the types that may serve as hail embryos, and define the growth environment for those particles. They have revealed that supercooled cloud liquid water is often depleted by ice particle growth in the primary hail growth regions around the edges of the major storm updrafts as well as by entrainment (Musil et al., 1991). Updraft cores may be relatively undiluted in large High Plains thunderstorms; a study of a supercell storm investigated during CCOPE provides one example in which a huge updraft core (maximum updraft speed about 50 m/s) was relatively free of entrainment effects (Musil et al., 1986).

In 1987, 1989, and 1993, the T-28 was employed in studies of transport, dispersion, and precipitation initiation in developing cumulus. It was equipped with an SF6 analyzer in addition to its normal suite of microphysical instruments. Seeding agents and SF6 released into the base of cumuli tagged the inflow air. Upper cloud regions were then probed by the T-28 and other aircraft for evidence of the tracer gas and developing ice (Stith et al., 1990). Useful observations of untreated clouds also yielded new insight into natural ice initiation (Detwiler et al., 1994).

In 1986, and since 1989, the aircraft has carried electric field mills during penetrations of large storms. Results from a 1989 flight discussed in Detwiler et al. (1990) and Chang et al. (1995) show the presence of horizontally extensive charge accumulation regions sloping downward and downshear of relatively narrow updraft regions in which charge separation appears to be taking place. T-28 observations in a 1991 MCS stratiform region are being combined with simultaneous observations from balloon packages to extend the study of Stolzenburg et al. (1994) into the electrical structure of these stratiform regions.

T-28 microphysical and electrical observations obtained during the 1991 Convection and Precipitation/ Electricity (CaPE) experiment have been combined with observations from multi-parameter radar and from other aircraft to show that storm electrification in Florida thunderstorms proceeds rapidly after ice appears near the 6-7 km level via the freezing of raindrops in the upper updraft regions (Bringi et al., 1996; French et al., 1996, Ramachandran et al., 1996). Yuter and Houze (1995) used T-28 observations to verify Doppler wind fields in their study of convective structures on one day during CaPE.

Interpretation of multiparameter radar signatures has been improved through comparison with co-located T-28 microphysical observations in thunderstorm environments by Aydin and Walsh (1993), Smith et al (1995), Brandes et al. (1995), and Bringi et al. (1996).

These studies provide examples of the ways in which T-28 data have been used in investigations of cloud physics processes. In addition, coupl-ing of the aircraft data with radar and other related observations in a framework incorporating numerical cloud models (e.g., Kubesh et al., 1988; Huston et al., 1991) can further enhance the scientific value of the aircraft data.



The development of the T-28 system was supported over the years by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through a series of grants and a subcontract from NCAR as part of the National Hail Research Experiment. It last operated as a national facility under Cooperative Agreement No. ATM-9618569 between the NSF and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Many persons too numerous to mention individually have contributed to the development and operation of the T-28, but the leadership of R. A. Schleusener in helping to get it all started deserves special mention.



Auer, A. H., Jr., and W. Sand, 1966: Updraft measurements beneath the base of cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds. J. Appl. Meteor., 5, 4 61-466.

Aydin, K., T. M. Walsh and D. S. Zrnic, 1993: Analysis of the dual-polarization radar and T-28 aircraft measurements during an Oklahoma hail storm. Preprints, 26th International Conf. on Radar Meteorology, Norman, OK, 24-28 May 1993. Amer. Meteor. Soc., Boston. 540-542.

Brandes, E. A., J. Vivekanandan, J. D. Tuttle, and C. J. Kessinger, 1995: A study of thunderstorm microphysics with multiparameter radar and aircraft observations. Mon. Wea. Rev., 123, 3129-3143.

Bringi, V. N., K. Knupp, A. Detwiler, L. Liu, I. J. Caylor, and R. A. Black, 1997: Evolution of a Florida thunderstorm during the Convection and Precipitation/Electrification experiment: The Case of 9 August 1991. Mon. Wea. Rev., 125, 3121-2160.

Chang, W.-Y., A. G. Detwiler, M. R. Hjelmfelt and P. L. Smith, 1995: Radar and in situ microphysical observations in a High Plains squall li ne. Preprints, 27th Conf. on Radar Meteor., Vail, CO, 9-13 October 1995. Amer. Meteor. Soc., Boston. 559-561.

Cooper, W. A., 1978: Cloud physics investigations by the University of Wyoming in HIPLEX 1977. Report No. AS119, Dept. of Atmospheric Science , University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY. 320 pp.

Detwiler, A. G., J. H. Helsdon, Jr., and D. J. Musil, 1990: Evolution of a band of severe storms. Preprints Conf. Atmos. Elec., Kanana skis Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada, Amer. Meteor. Soc., 705-709.

_____, P. L. Smith, J. L. Stith, and D. A. Burrows, 1994: Ice-producing processes in a North Dakota cumulus cloud. Atmos. Res., 31, 1 09-122.

Dye, J. E., and W. Toutenhoofd, 1973: Measurements of the vertical velocity of the air inside cumulus congestus clouds. Preprints, 8th Con f. Severe Local Storms, Amer. Meteor. Soc., Chicago, IL, 33-34.

Foote, G. B., 1984: A study of hail growth utilizing observed storm conditions. J. Climate Appl. Meteor., 23, 84-101.

French, J. R., J. H. Helsdon, A. G. Detwiler, and P. L. Smith, 1996: Microphysical and electrical evolution of a Florida thunderstorm. Part I : Observations. J. Geophys. Res., 101, No. D14, 18961-18977.

Heymsfield, A. J., 1983: Case study of a hailstorm in Colorado: Part IV. Graupel and hail growth mechanisms deduced through particle traje ctory calculations. J. Atmos. Sci., 40, 1482-1509.

_____, and M. R. Hjelmfelt, 1984: Processes of hydrometeor development in Oklahoma convective clouds. J. Atmos. Sci., 41, 2811-2835 .

_____, and D. J. Musil, 1982: Case study of a hailstorm in Colorado. Part II: Particle growth processes at mid-levels deduced from in situ measurements. J. Atmos. Sci., 39, 2847-2866.

_____, J. E. Dye and C. J. Biter, 1979: Overestimates of entrainment from wetting of aircraft temperature sensors in cloud. J. Appl. Me teor., 18, 92-95.

Huston, M. W., A. G. Detwiler, F. J. Kopp and J. L. Stith, 1990: Observations and model simulations of transport and precipitation development in a seeded cumulus congestus cloud. J. Appl. Meteor., 30, 1389-1406.

Johnson, G.N., and P. L. Smith, Jr., 1980: Meteorological instrumentation system on the T-28 thunderstorm research aircraft. Bull. Amer. M eteor. Soc., 61, 972-979.

Jones, J. J., 1990: Electric charge acquired by airplanes penetrating thunderstorms. J. Geophys. Res., 95, 16589-16600.

Knight, C. A., W. A. Cooper, D. W. Breed, I. R. Paluch, P. L. Smith and G. Vali, 1982: Microphysics. Hailstorms of the Central High Plains, Vol. 2, Part 1, Chapter 7. The National Hail Research Experiment. National Center for Atmospheric Research in association with Colorado Assoc. Univ. Press, Boulder, CO. 282 pp.

_____, N. C. Knight, W. W. Grotewold and T. W. Cannon, 1977: Interpretation of foil impactor impressions of water and ice particles. J. A ppl. Meteor., 16, 977-1002.

Kopp, F. J., 1985: Deduction of vertical motion in the atmosphere from aircraft measurements. J. Atmos. Oceanic Tech., 2, 684-688.

Kubesh, R. J., D. J. Musil, R. D. Farley and H. D. Orville, 1988: The 1 August 1981 CCOPE storm. Observations and modeling results. J. Cl imate Appl. Meteor., 27, 216-243.

Lawson, R. P., and W. A. Cooper, 1990: Performance of some airborne thermometers in clouds. J. Atmos. Oceanic Tech., 7, 480-494.

Lenschow, D. H., 1976: Estimating updraft velocity from an airplane response. Mon Wea. Rev., 104, 618-627.

Musil, D. J., and P. L. Smith, 1989: Interior characteristics at mid-levels of thunderstorms in the southeastern United States. Atmos. Res., 24, 149-167.

_____, and J. Prodan, 1980: Direct effects of lightning on an aircraft during intentional penetrations of thunderstorms. Proc. at Symposium on Lightning Technology, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, 363-370.

_____, A. J. Heymsfield and P. L. Smith, 1986: Microphysical characteristics of a well-developed weak echo region in an intense High Plains thunderstorm. J. Climate Appl. Meteor., 25, 1037-1051.

_____, S. A. Christopher, R. A. Deola, and P. L. Smith, 1991: Some interior observations of southeastern Montana hailstorms. J. Appl. Met eor., 30, 1596-1612.

_____, C. Knight, W. R. Sand, A. S. Dennis and I. Paluch, 1976a: Radar and related hydrometeor observations inside a multicell hailstorm. Preprints Intnl. Conf. Cloud Physics, Boulder, CO., Amer. Meteor. Soc., 644-649.

_____, E. L. May, P. L. Smith, Jr., and W. R. Sand, 1976b: Structure of an evolving hailstorm. Part IV: Internal structure from penetrati ng aircraft. Mon. Wea. Rev., 104, 596-602.

_____, W. R. Sand and R. A. Schleusener, 1973: Analysis of data from T-28 aircraft penetrations of a Colorado hailstorm. J. Appl. Meteo r., 12, 1364-1370.

Ramachandran, R., A. Detwiler, J. Helsdon, Jr., P. L. Smith, and V. N. Bringi, 1996: Precipitation development and electrification in Florid a thunderstorm cells during CaPE. J. Geophys. Res., 101, 1599-1619.

Rasmussen, R. M. and A. J. Heymsfield, 1987: Melting and shedding of graupel and hail, Part III. Investigation of the role of shed drops as ha il embryos in the 1 August CCOPE severe storm. J. Atmos. Sci., 44, 2783-2803.

Rodi, A. R., and P. A. Spyers-Duran, 1972: Analysis of time response of airborne temperature sensors. J. Appl. Meteor., 11, 554-556.

Sand, W. R., 1976: Observations in hailstorms using the T-28 aircraft system. J. Appl. Meteor., 15, 641-650.

_____, and R. A. Schleusener, 1974: Development of an armored T-28 aircraft for probing hailstorms. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 55, 1115-1122.

Smith, P. L., A. G. Detwiler, D. J. Musil, and R. Ramachandran, 1995: Observations of mixed-phase precipitation within a CaPE thunderstorm. Preprints, Conf. on Cloud Physics, Dallas, TX, Amer. Meteor. Soc., 8-13.

Stith, J. L., A. G. Detwiler, R. F. Reinking and P. L. Smith, 1990: Investigating transport, mixing, and the formation of ice in cumuli with gaseous tracer techniques. Atmos. Res., 25, 195-216.

Stolzenburg, M., T. C. Marshall, W. D. Rust, and B. F. Small, 1994: Horizontal distribution of electrical and meteorological conditions across the stratiform region of a mesoscale convective system. Mon. Wea. Rev., 122, 1777-1797.

Waldvogel, A., L. Klein, D. J. Musil and P. L. Smith, 1987: Characteristics of radar-identified Big Drop Zones in Swiss hailstorms. J. Climate Appl. Meteor., 26, 861-877.

Yuter, S. E. and R. A. Houze Jr., 1995: Three-dimensional kinematic and microphysical evolution of Florida cumulonumbus. Part I: Spatial distribution of updrafts, downdrafts, and precipitation. Mon. Wea. Rev., 123, 1921-1940.