College of Engineering | Apply to CSU | Disclaimer | Equal Opportunity Statement | Privacy | Search CSU

A Triple-Moment Bulk Hail Microphysics Scheme to Investigate the Sensitivities of Hail to Aerosols

You must be on the CSU network—either physically or using VPN—to watch this or any of the videos on this site.

March 7, 2012
Adrian Loftus
Hosted by Bill Cotton (advisor), Steve Rutledge, Sue van den Heever, Viswanathan Bringi (Electrical and Computer Engineering)


Hail is a frequent occurrence in warm season deep convection in many mid-latitude regions and causes significant damage to property and agricultural interests every year. Hail can also have a substantial impact on the precipitation characteristics of deep convection as well as on the dynamic and thermodynamic properties of convective downdrafts and cold-pools, which in turn can affect storm evolution and propagation. In addition, large and often destructive hail commonly occurs in severe convection, yet most one- (1M) and two-moment (2M) bulk microphysics schemes in cloud-resolving numerical models are incapable of producing large hail (diameter D 2 cm). The limits imposed by fixing one or two of the distribution parameters in these schemes often lead to particularly poor representations of particles within the tails of size distribution spectra; an especially important consideration for hail, which covers a broad range of sizes in nature. In order to improve the representation of hail distributions in simulations of deep moist convection in a cloud-resolving numerical model, a new triple-moment bulk hail microphysics scheme (3MHAIL) is presented and evaluated. The 3MHAIL scheme predicts the relative dispersion parameter for a gamma distribution function via the prediction of the sixth moment (related to the reflectivity factor) of the distribution in addition to the mass mixing ratio and number concentration (third and zeroeth moments, respectively) thereby allowing for a fully prognostic distribution function. Initial testing of this scheme reveals significant improvement in the representation of sedimentation, melting, and formation processes of hail compared to lower-order moment schemes.

The 3MHAIL scheme is verified in simulations of a well-observed supercell storm that occurred over northwest Kansas on 29 June 2000 during the Severe Thunderstorm and Electrification and Precipitation Study (STEPS). Comparisons of the simulation results with the observations for this case, as well as with results of simulations using two different 2M microphysics schemes, suggest a significant improvement of the simulated storm structure and evolution is achieved with the 3MHAIL scheme. The generation of large hail and subsequent fallout in the simulation using 3MHAIL microphysics show particularly good agreement with surface hail reports for this storm as well as with previous studies of hail in supercell storms. On the other hand, the simulation with 2M microphysics produces only small hail aloft and virtually no hail at the surface, whereas a two-moment version of the 3MHAIL scheme (with a fixed relative dispersion parameter) produces unrealistically high amounts of large hail at low levels as a result of artificial shifts in the hail size spectra towards larger diameter hail during the melting process.

The 3MHAIL scheme is also used to investigate the impact of changing the concentrations of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) on hail for the 29 June 2000 supercell case. For the simulated supercells in the particular environment examined, an increase in CCN from 100 to 3000 cm-3 leads to an increase in the numbers and a decrease in the sizes of cloud droplets, as expected, yet the overall storm dynamics and evolution are largely unaffected. Increases in CCN lead to non-monotonic responses in the bulk characteristics of nearly all hydrometeor fields, surface precipitation, and cold-pool strength. However, higher concentrations of CCN also result in larger hail sizes and greater amounts of large diameter (≥ 2 cm) hail both aloft as well as at the surface. Analyses of the hail formation and growth mechanisms for these simulations suggest that the combination of increased sizes of new hail particles and localized reductions in numbers of new hailstones forming near maximum growth regions with increasing CCN tends to promote conditions that lead to increased hail sizes and amounts of large hail.