The diurnal cycle of clouds and precipitation along the Sierra Madre Occidental observed during NAME-2004: Implications for warm season precipitation estimation in complex terrain


This study examines the spatial and temporal variability in the diurnal cycle of clouds and precipitation tied to topography within the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) tier-I domain during the 2004 NAME enhanced observing period (EOP, July-August), with a focus on the implications for high-resolution precipitation estimation within the core of the monsoon. Ground-based precipitation retrievals from the NAME Event Rain Gauge Network (NERN) and Colorado State University-National Center for Atmospheric Research (CSU-NCAR) version 2 radar composites over the southern NAME tier-I domain are compared with satellite rainfall estimates from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center Morphing technique (CMORPH) and Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Information Using Artificial Neural Networks (PERSIANN) operational and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 research satellite estimates along the western slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental (SMO). The rainfall estimates are examined alongside hourly images of high-resolution Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) 11-μm brightness temperatures. An abrupt shallow to deep convective transition is found over the SMO, with the development of shallow convective systems just before noon on average over the SMO high peaks, with deep convection not developing until after 1500 local time on the SMO western slopes. This transition is shown to be contemporaneous with a relative underestimation (overestimation) of precipitation during the period of shallow (deep) convection from both IR and microwave precipitation algorithms due to changes in the depth and vigor of shallow clouds and mixed-phase cloud depths. This characteristic life cycle in cloud structure and microphysics has important implications for ice-scattering microwave and infrared precipitation estimates, and thus hydrological applications using high-resolution precipitation data, as well as the study of the dynamics of convective systems in complex terrain.

Journal of Hydrometeorology