Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility US Department of Energy

Midlatitude Continental Convective Clouds Experiment (MC3E)

22 April 2011 - 6 June 2011

Lead Scientist: Michael Jensen

Observatory: SGP

Convective processes play a critical role in the Earth's energy balance through the redistribution of heat and moisture in the atmosphere and their link to the hydrological cycle. Accurate representation of convective processes in numerical models is vital towards improving current and future simulations of Earth’s climate system. Despite improvements in computing power, current operational weather and global climate models are unable to resolve the natural temporal and spatial scales important to convective processes and therefore must turn to parameterization schemes to represent these processes. In turn, parameterization schemes in cloud-resolving models need to be evaluated for their generality and application to a variety of atmospheric conditions. Data from field campaigns with appropriate forcing descriptors have been traditionally used by modelers for evaluating and improving parameterization schemes. To this end, the Midlatitude Continental Convective Cloud Experiment (MC3E), a joint field program involving NASA Global Precipitation Measurement Program and ARM investigators, was conducted in south-central Oklahoma during the April to May 2011 period. The experiment leveraged from the unprecedented observing infrastructure available in the central United States, combined with an extensive sounding array. Our goal was to provide the most complete characterization of convective cloud systems and their environment that had ever been obtained, providing constraints for model cumulus parameterizations that had never before been available. Several different components of convective processes tangible to the convective parameterization problem were targeted, such as pre-convective environment and convective initiation, updraft/downdraft dynamics, condensate transport and detrainment, precipitation and cloud microphysics, influence on the environment and radiation, and a detailed description of the large-scale forcing. This intensive observation period used a new multi-scale observing strategy with the participation of a network of distributed sensors (both passive and active). The approach was to document in 3D not only precipitation, but also clouds, winds, and moisture in an attempt to provide a holistic view of convective clouds and their feedback with the environment. A goal was to measure cloud and precipitation transitions and environmental quantities that are important for convective parameterization in large-scale models and cloud-resolving model simulations. With unprecedented observing capabilities comes a greater responsibility to develop synthesis data products suitable for model studies and evaluation. Thus, special emphasis was given to the development of a systematic dialogue with the ASR modeling group for the development of such 3D data products.


Anthony Del Genio
Scott Giangrande
Pavlos Kollias

Related Publications


Van Weverberg K, IA Boutle, CJ Morcrette, and RK Newsom. 2016. "Towards retrieving critical relative humidity from ground-based remote-sensing observations." Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 142(700), 10.1002/qj.2874. ONLINE.

Wang J, X Dong, B Xi, and H Andrew. 2016. "Investigation of liquid cloud microphysical properties of deep convective systems: 1. Parameterization of rain drop size distribution and its application for stratiform rain estimate." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 121, 10.1002/2016jd024941.

Tian J, X Dong, B Xi, J Wang, CR Homeyer, GM McFarquhar, and J Fan. 2016. "Retrievals of ice cloud microphysical properties of deep convective systems using radar measurements." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 121(18), 10.1002/2015jd024686.

Saleeby SM, SC van den Heever, PJ Marinescu, SM Kreidenweis, and PJ DeMott. 2016. "Aerosol effects on the anvil characteristics of mesoscale convective systems." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 121(18), 10.1002/2016jd025082. ONLINE.

Giangrande SE, T Toto, A Bansemer, MR Kumjian, S Mishra, and A Ryzkhov. 2016. "Insights into riming and aggregation processes as revealed by aircraft, radar, and disdrometer observations for a 27 April 2011 widespread precipitation event." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 121(10), 10.1002/2015jd024537. ONLINE.

McFarquhar GM and W Wu. 2016. "On the impacts of different definitions of maximum dimension for nonspherical particles recorded by 2D imaging probes." Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 33, 10.1175/jtech-d-15-0177.1.

Olson WS, L Tian, M Grecu, K Kuo, BT Johnson, AJ Heymsfield, A Bansemer, GM Heymsfield, JR Wang, and R Meneghini. 2016. "The Microwave Radiative Properties of Falling Snow Derived from Nonspherical Ice Particle Models. Part II: Initial Testing Using Radar, Radiometer and In Situ Observations." Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 55(3), 10.1175/jamc-d-15-0131.1.

Ryzhkov A, P Zhang, H Reeves, M Kumjian, T Tschallener, S Trömel, and C Simmer. 2016. "Quasi-Vertical Profiles—A New Way to Look at Polarimetric Radar Data." Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 33(3), 10.1175/jtech-d-15-0020.1.

Tao W, D Wu, S Lang, J Chern, C Peters-Lidard, A Fridlind, and T Matsui. 2016. "High-resolution NU-WRF simulations of a deep convective-precipitation system during MC3E: Further improvements and comparisons between Goddard microphysics schemes and observations." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 121(3), 10.1002/2015jd023986.


Short DA, R Meneghini, AE Emory, and MR Schwaller. 2015. "Reduction of Nonuniform Beamfilling Effects by Multiple Constraints: A Simulation Study." Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 32(11), 10.1175/jtech-d-15-0021.1.

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Campaign Data Sets

IOP Participant Data Source Name Final Data
Mary Jane Bartholomew Video Disdrometer Order Data
Jennifer Comstock High Volume Precip Spectrometer Order Data
Jennifer Comstock High Volume Precip Spectrometer Order Data
Michael Jensen Balloon Sonde Order Data
Michael Jensen Balloon Sonde Adjust Order Data
Michael Jensen Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) Order Data
Michael Jensen Microwave Radiometer Profiler Order Data
Alyssa Matthews S-band Radar Order Data
Mathew Schwaller GPM Ground Validation Autonomous Parsivel Unit (APU) MC3E Order Data
Mathew Schwaller GPM Ground Validation Two-Dimensional Video Disdrometer (2DVD) MC3E Order Data
Jason Tomlinson Ultra High Sensitivity Aerosol Spectrometer Order Data
Jason Tomlinson Ultra High Sensitivity Aerosol Spectrometer Order Data
David Turner AERI Retrieved Thermodynamic Profiles and Cloud Properties Order Data
Christopher Williams 449 MHz Profiler Order Data
Christopher Williams Parcivel Disdrometer Order Data
Christopher Williams S-band Radar Order Data
Christopher Williams Surface Meteorology Order Data
Christopher Williams Vertical Air Motion Order Data
Shaocheng Xie Single Column Model Forcing Order Data