RELAMPAGO (Remote sensing of Electrification, Lightning, And Mesoscale/microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations, translates to lightning flash in Spanish and Portuguese) is a project now funded by the US National Science Foundation to bring US resources to the field to observe convective storms that produce high impact weather in the lee of the Andes mountains in Argentina.  It will also involve significant contributions from NASA, NOAA, Argentina (CONICET), Brazil (CNPq and FAPESP), and Chile (CONICYT), as well as universities across the region, Argentina’s national meteorological service (Servicio Meteorológico Nacional, SMN) and Brazil’s space agency (INPE) that governs Brazil’s weather and climate prediction service (CPTEC).  RELAMPAGO Extended Observing Period will be 15 August 2018 – 30 April 2019, while the Intensive Observing Period will be 1 November – 15 December 2018.

Read more about RELAMPAGO:
Project White Paper
Scientific Program Overview
Experimental Design Overview

Project web site

2nd RELAMPAGO workshop planned; RELAMPAGO moving forward

The 2nd RELAMPAGO workshop will be held at NCAR EOL July 18-19.  This 1.5 day meeting is by invitation only, but will feature discussions of NSF PI proposals and facility requests.  This meeting is the result of NSF recommending the RELAMPAGO Science Project Overview (SPO) for funding in June.  The University of Illinois (Profs. Steve Nesbitt and Jeff Trapp) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (Rita Roberts, NCAR RAL) are leading the RELAMPAGO campaign.

To find out more about RELAMPAGO, a project proposed for late 2018 to study extreme weather and deep convective initiation over land, and its sister campaign CACTI, funded by DOE, visit

CACTI initial site survey complete

A successful initial site survey in early June 2016 located good sites for the AMF-1 facilities near Villa Yacanto, Córdoba province, Argentina.

DOW Visits Illinois

The Doppler on Wheels (DOW-6) is visiting the department for a few weeks.  We have participated in student deployments, education and outreach activities, and some measurements comparing the DOW X-Band measurements with the Ka-Band MRR.  The DOW will be here through mid-March.

OLYMPEX wraps up; what a dataset!

The NASA Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) just finished its intensive observing period (IOP) after nearly two months of data collection.  OLYMPEX was a ground validation field campaign designed to verify and validate satellite measurement of precipitation from the constellation of satellites known as the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM). The primary goal of OLYMPEX is to validate rain and snow measurements in midlatitude frontal systems moving from ocean to coast to mountains and to determine how remotely sensed measurements of precipitation by GPM can be applied to a range of hydrologic, weather forecasting and climate data. OLYMPEX will have a wide variety of ground instrumentation, and several radars and aircraft monitoring oceanic storm systems as they approach and traverse the Peninsula and the Olympic Mountains.  Prof. Nesbitt and group alumnus George Duffy participated in the execution of the campaign.

Group selected to NASA Precipitation Measurement Missions team

The Nesbitt research group was renewed as a principal investigator on the NASA Precipitation Measurement Missions science team, which is responsible for improving and using data from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission satellite, which has been in orbit since February 2014.  Our group will continue to use ground validation data collected during a series of international field campaigns to test and improve the algorithms.

CACTI field campaign in Argentina funded

The Department of Energy Cloud, Aerosol, and Complex Terrain Interactions (CACTI) field campaign was selected for funding by the US Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program for 2018-19.  This campaign will investigate the forcing, structure, and life cycle of orographic convection for a period of 8 months with the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement mobile facility 1 (AMF-1), CSAPR-2 dual polarization precipitation radar, a hydrometeorlogical network, and Mobile Aerosol Observing Facility (MAOS). A 1.5-month intensive observing period (IOP) during late 2018 will add the ARM Gulfstream-1 microphysics and aerosol sampling aircraft to study wet season convective development and upscale growth.  The project description is below, also check out the DOE ARM CACTI web site.  Our group will participate extensively in the planning and execution of this campaign.

General circulation models and downscaled regional models exhibit persistent biases in deep convective initiation location and timing, cloud top height, stratiform area and precipitation fraction, and anvil coverage. Despite important impacts on the distribution of atmospheric heating, moistening, and momentum, nearly all climate models fail to represent convective organization, while system evolution is not represented at all. Improving representation of convective systems in models requires characterization of their predictability as a function of environmental conditions, and this characterization depends on observing many cases of convective initiation, non-initiation, organization, and non-organization.

The Cloud, Aerosol, and Complex Terrain Interactions (CACTI) experiment in the Sierras de Córdoba mountain range of north-central Argentina is designed to improve understanding of cloud lifecycle and organization in relation to environmental conditions so that cumulus, microphysics, and aerosol parameterizations in multi-scale models can be improved. The Sierras de Córdoba range has a high frequency of orographic boundary layer clouds, many reaching congestus depths, many initiating into deep convection, and some organizing into mesoscale systems uniquely observable from a single fixed site. Some systems even grow upscale to become among the deepest, largest, and longest-lived in the world. These systems likely contribute to an observed regional trend of increasing extreme rainfall, and poor prediction of them likely contributes to a warm, dry bias in climate models downstream of the Sierras de Córdoba range in a key agricultural region.

Many environmental factors influence the convective lifecycle in this region including orographic, low level jet, and frontal circulations, surface fluxes, synoptic vertical motions influenced by the Andes, cloud detrainment, and aerosol properties. Local and long range transport of smoke resulting from biomass burning as well as blowing dust are common in the austral spring, while changes in land surface properties as the wet season progresses impact surface fluxes and boundary layer evolution on daily and seasonal time scales that feed back to cloud and rainfall generation. This range of environmental conditions and cloud properties coupled with a high frequency of events makes this an ideal location for improving our understanding of cloud-environment interactions.

The following primary science questions will be addressed through coordinated ARM and guest instrumentation observations:

1. How are the properties and lifecycles of orographically generated cumulus humulis, mediocris, and congestus clouds affected by environmental kinematics, thermodynamics, aerosols, and surface properties? How do these cloud types alter these environmental conditions?

2. How do environmental kinematics, thermodynamics, and aerosols impact deep convective initiation, upscale growth, and mesoscale organization? How are soil moisture, surface fluxes, and aerosol properties altered by deep convective precipitation events and seasonal accumulation of precipitation?

Group shares in NASA research award

IMG_4673As part of their role on NASA’s Precipitation Measurement Missions Science Team, Prof. Steve Nesbitt, Prof. Greg McFarquhar, researchers Dr. Brian Jewett, and Dr. Dan Harnos, and graduate students Kim Reed, Kirstin Harnos, and George Duffy were recently awarded the 2014 NASA Robert H. Goddard Award for Exceptional Achievement in Science. The award was given to the group as a member of the NASA Global Precipitation Measurement mission Ground Validation team, in recoginition of their efforts to further enhance Earth Science research.

Group shares in DOE research grant

Our group, in collaboration with Profs. Jeff Trapp and Sonia Lasher-Trapp in the department shared in a 3 year project funded by the Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ASR) Atmospheric Systems Research (ASR) program to study the parameterization of convection in climate models, using observations from the DOE site in the Southern Great Plains as observational testbed.  Data from the comprehensive Midlatitude Continental Convective Cloud Experiment (MC3E), which was a joint field program involving NASA Global Precipitation Measurement Program and ARM investigators conducted in south-central Oklahoma during the April to May 2011 period, will provide the necessary observations for this study.

precipitation • cloud dynamics • cloud microphysics • radar meteorology • satellite meteorology • high impact weather