June 20, 2021 to July 24, 2021
Project Location: 
Houston, TX
Project Phase: 
Funding Type: 
NSF Funded
Project Description: 

Convective clouds play an important role in the Earth’s climate system as a driver of large-scale circulations and a primary mechanism for the transport of heat, moisture, aerosols, and momentum throughout the troposphere. Despite their climatic importance, multi-scale models continue to have persistent biases produced by an inadequate representation of convective clouds. To increase our understanding of convective cloud lifecycles and aerosol-convection interactions, we propose a field experiment in the Houston area that will use high-definition radar-based observations and the NSF/NCAR C-130 to track the lifecycle of a large number of convective cells for the following purposes:

(i) Characterizing the spatial and temporal scale of convective cloud kinematic and microphysical processes using rapid-scan, polarimetric Doppler radar observations

(ii) Quantifying environmental thermodynamic and kinematic controls on convective lifecycle properties under different aerosol conditions

(iii) Increase our process-level understanding on the relative role of aerosols, meteorology and surface forcing in determining the lifecycle of convective clouds using integrated modeling-observations activities.

The Houston, TX region is an optimal location for targeted studies of aerosol-convection interactions owing to the frequently developing isolated deep convection, and the interaction of the onshore flow and sea-breeze convection with a range of aerosol conditions associated with Houston’s urban and industrial emissions. The proposed campaign will focus on the characterization of convective cloud properties, lifecycles, and their environments with an emphasis on cloud-scale dynamics and microphysics, particularly in the updraft/mixed-phase region under different aerosol loading conditions. The observational analysis will focus on the differences in these characteristics under varying environmental forcing, surface conditions, wind direction, and aerosol regimes. An integrated modeling component is also proposed and will use derived forcing datasets to simulate the deep convective cases at cloud-resolving model (CRM) scales. The main target is to identify cases with observed differences in isolated convective microphysics where there is a significant aerosol perturbation within a relatively uniform thermodynamic environment with winds from similar directions. These cases will then be used to evaluate our ability to simulate these signatures using CRMs.